Friday, June 25, 2010

Freebirth (Unassisted Childbirth)

"Just as a woman's heart knows how and when to pump, her lungs to inhale, and her hand to pull back from fire, so she knows when and how to give birth." - Virginia di Orio

Remember Kasie's story of her unassisted home birth?

That birth story was huge for me. When I first read it, I was 7 months pregnant and planning my own first home birth. Her story gave me great encouragement. I saw a lot of similarities between Kasie and myself, with the exception that I was planning a midwife assisted birth and she had an unassisted birth.

Unassisted birth - or "freebirth", as it's sometimes called - is intriguing to me. I sometimes wonder how my own home birth experience would have been different without the support of my midwives. With a surprise breech, I'm really glad the midwives were there, and everything went smoothly. I like to believe that if I'd given birth without the midwives it all would have gone smoothly, but I suppose I'll never know.

What I do know for myself is this: If I prayed about planning an unassisted birth and felt the overwhelming peace that I felt after praying about home birth, I would definitely do it.

I'm in a good position for excellent home birth support. Through the process of my doula training and ongoing midwifery training I'm developing a fantastic network of amazing doulas and midwives. Many of them are dear friends. I feel that as long as I live here I will not want for better birth support at home. I may never have a reason to consider freebirth.

But what about the women who live in areas where, for whatever reason, cannot get the support they want for a home birth? While home birth is legal throughout the United States, in many states it's against the law to have a trained midwife attend your baby's birth at home. This means that women wanting a home birth in those areas have two options: go "underground" and try to find a midwife to support them illegally at home, or plan an unassisted birth.

The reasons for choosing freebirth are varied. Some women choose it because of limited options, as I described above. Others choose it because they prefer to give birth to their child without any interference whatsoever, surrounded by loved ones, often just their partner and other children.

We don't really know how many women are giving birth at home without midwives because there are no reliable statistics. Nationwide, 90 percent of births still take place in hospitals with doctors attending. Another 8 to 10 percent are with midwives in hospitals or birthing centers. And 1 to 2 percent are at home.

Regardless of the reasons and circumstances surrounding a planned unassisted birth, the choice should not be taken lightly. If you're interested in or considering a freebirth you should do your homework and educate yourself as much as possible. Check out documentaries (such as The Business of Being Born), find support groups in your area, read up on the natural birth process as much as possible and take classes on it. It's best to avoid classes that are taught at the local hospital or health clinic, because they mostly likely wouldn't give you the information you need for a birth outside of the hospital. The Bradley Method is one class I think would be really informative. Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies are good as well. Find online groups and other women who have done freebirth. Find out how best to prepare yourself and your home for an unassisted birth.

A word of caution: I personally would not recommend freebirth for a first-time mom, because to her labor and birth are completely uncharted territory. I would suggest having a midwife-supported birth at home or in a good birth center. Then you may consider an unassisted birth with your next baby. You don't always know how your labor will play out and how you will react in certain situations until you've been through it.


  1. I know that I am lucky to have a care provider that I trust and can have a positive VBAC experience with.

    I have thought about if we moved and had another baby. If I couldn't find a supportive care provider and my only options were an elective cesarean or an unassisted birth, I would go the unassisted route. If I prayed about it and felt good about it.

  2. I am planning an unassisted birth at home due to the fact that I am GBS+ and cannot find a midwife willing to "take the risk" do deliver a baby of a known GBS+ mum at home. My husband serves in the British Forces and we were posted to Germany almost 3 months ago, with only a short time to consider birthing options. I have received absolutely NO support or help from either the British Health system (under which we receive care here due to the fact that we are British Forces) OR the German health system - in fact, every single medical professional have strongly advised us to go into hospital for the birth. I have done so much research about GBS positive births and the different treatment for it, have chosen what best suits our wishes, and educated ourselves as much as possible about delivering the baby unassisted. I have received numerous warnings and even threats from the medical professionals that "giving birth without a medical professional present is against the law - I will be prosecuted and am sure to be sent to jail if something goes wrong" etc - all scare tactics in my opinion. Just SO sad that there is SO much "red tape" surrounding this and mums are forced to go unassisted rather than receive the care they deserve and long for. But at the same time completely trusting my body to birth (as it has done so quickly and complication-free 3 years ago to my darling daughter). That is, after all, what God designed my body for, and as long as I trust in Him and follow my maternal instincts, I believe all will go well!

  3. Thank you for the kind words, Cherylyn. I believe unassisted birth is valid and safe choice. A choice that requires a lot of careful thought and planning, to be sure, but with the right mindset and preparation, it can be a beautiful thing. I knew from the instant I "found" UC, that is was right for me.

    It does bother me that in a lot of cases, women are faced with either the option of UC, or a hospital birth, either due to lack of an available midwife, or laws making midwife-assisted home birth illegal in their area. That absolutely needs to change. Women should not be forced into anything they are not comfortable with.

    I don't actively promote UC the way I do home birth in general, not because I question the safety, but because I believe it is a deeply personal decision that the woman must come to on her own. I cannot lead you there, but I am happy to help you, should you choose that path.

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for sharing your situation with us. I understand how you feel, and I imagine I might feel the same way and make the same choices if I were in your shoes.

    You've done your homework, so I'm sure you've considered all the possibilities. When did you test positive for GBS? As I'm sure you know, GBS comes and goes from the vaginal area, and there is a possibility that when you actually give birth there will be no GBS present. Unfortunately, unless you screen for it at the time you're in labor or giving birth you may not be able to know for sure, and there is a possibility the baby could contract it in the birth canal.

    I discussed the possibility of GBS positive with my home birth midwife last year because I was screened for it 3 weeks before the baby was born. Even though I'd always had negative screenings, she offered to spray my baby down with colloidal silver immediately after birth to remove any possible traces. I felt it was a simple and easy remedy for a potentially dangerous situation, and I trusted her judgement. Ultimately I didn't feel the silver was needed, and my baby was fine.

    I think it's important to follow your instinct and do what you feel is best. My suggestion would be to prepare yourself for the possibility of GBS so that you can deal with it if it's a problem. I would suggest being screened again as close to the birth as possible, if you're able to. Take preventive measures once the baby is out if you suspect GBS (another positive screen). Also know what to watch for in your baby in case medical attention would be needed.

    I'm not familiar with German laws or the state of maternity care there, so I don't know how your hospital experience would likely play out there. I think it's really sad that you're being denied a home birth for something as simple as GBS.

    I wish the best for you and your family. I hope all goes smoothly and that you have a beautiful birth.

  5. I agree with your post, and appreciate the support for unassisted birth. I do have to disagree with your last paragraph however about not encouraging women who are pregnant with their first child to consider unassisted birth as an option. Each labour is different, from one child to the next, just because a woman may not know what to expect from labour, does not mean she's not equipt to deal with it, or work her way through it in her own way. I don't feel that being a first birth makes it a valid enough reason to cross out the option of having a birth unassisted. I am a bit biased in that I chose unassisted for my first, and do not regret it. All birth, whether unassisted, midwife assisted, or doctor assisted all come with their own share of risks, and responsibility. I think if a woman chooses to educate herself enough, and plans for an unassisted birth, then whether it is her first or her fifth, she is as qualified a caretaker of herself as anyone else would be, and still is taking responsibility for her birth experience. After all, midwives have not always been around for births throughout the ages, women have had to labour with their partners, or alone, and have gone through that experience, as they were meant to for their own growth.

    You can view my birth video here if you'd like!/video/video.php?v=122223605847&subj=503195847

    - I was having reservations about my midwifery care, and was unsure whether I would call them the day of, so planned for an unassisted birth, then when I went into labour, my midwife happened to be away on vacation. When I was in labour it felt like the most natural thing to just be there with my partner and myself, neither of us thought during that time that we wanted to call someone.

    Thank you for speaking out about unassisted birth! I really love your blog, and I'm a fan on facebook as well :)

  6. Thank you so much for your input. I think my own reservations about unassisted birth for first time moms is based on my own inadequacies with my first pregnancy. I personally would not have been prepared for home birth, let alone freebirth. You make some really good points, and I thin if a couple are truly informed and prepared then I support them in their decision to plan an unassisted birth.

  7. Your blog about UC was posted on my FB wall by a friend, and it was JUST what I needed to read! My midwife is a friend, but I have been feeling uncomfortable with her care lately - she's too medicalized for me - and something inside has recoiled from her. Also, she lives out-of-state, and the options here are less than appealing. I have been seriously considering UC for this birth (Due Dec 15th), and have been voraciously researching it for several weeks now. My hubby is 100% supportive. I've been praying as well, and though my prayers always felt peaceful, I really felt that I got my "answer" today. I was discussing UC with my mom, and she said, "Oh, yeah, I'm sure you can do it." Without blinking an eye, without a concern in the world, as if UC was something I did everyday! She was just so calm, so sure, that it felt to me like God Himself was speaking to me, thru her, and I knew a UC was what I definitely wanted to do. My FB friend sending me your blog, and being so supportive herself, was just what I needed. Here come the tears again. They are tears of joy! I feel supported in my decision, finally! Thank you, Cherylyn, thank you!

  8. Hello, just wanted to say hi. My last birth was UC when I called the midwife too late...on purpose. This baby will be UC as well, although my prenatal care will come from a regular OB. I am currently pregnant with baby #8. During pregnancy with #6 I tested positive for group B strep. I had the baby in the hospital with IV antibiotics....yuk! My next baby I did not have the test, but just assumed I may be positive again. My cure for this problem was simple.....a water birth! There is SOOO much water in the pool that it HAS to dilute the bacteria to the point of nonexistance. I even read somewhere (can't remember where), that waterbirth is recommended for HIV positive moms because it dilutes the virus and protects their babies.