The trend towards “Freebirth” grows as a rising number of pregnant individuals are opting for a delivery without any medical assistance of any type. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this choice and why this trend can be harmful to both mother and baby.
The rate of non-hospital births has consistently increased during the past decade. Birth, a medical magazine, reports a 77% increase in home births between 2004 and 2017. Pictures and videos of pregnant women giving birth in their living rooms, often with the assistance of midwives and doulas, are all over social media. Yet, freebirth is gaining popularity, and it is not as well-known or documented as home birth.
Freebirth, often known as natural birth, is a method of giving birth without medical intervention. In a freebirth, there is no medical staff present during labor and delivery. This is different from standard home birth, where a midwife is there to make sure everything is going well and notice any changes that could put the mother or child in danger.
The question is why the increase. Many pregnant women worry a lot about giving birth in a hospital because of things like past birth trauma, systemic racism, the Black maternal health crisis, or the possibility of problems from having more than one child. Yet, some expectant mothers who would want to give birth outside of a hospital do not have the financial means to pay for a medical practitioner to be there.
Planned unassisted birth is chosen by “largely well-researched and educated women” who are “frustrated by not being seen and heard by their care providers but do not have the financial resources to hire an out-of-network care provider who can spend proper time with them or support the type of birth they desire,” says Talitha Phillips, labor and postpartum doula and CEO of Claris Health.
When the terror of giving birth in a hospital during a global pandemic like COVID-19 is added to the mix, it’s easy to see why the number of births that do not require medical assistance would continue to climb. Still, it’s important to know about the risks and take steps to protect the health of both the mother and the child.
Here is the information that doctors and other experts want all expectant parents to know about the freebirth movement.
Unassisted Childbirth Risks
Given the higher risks to both mother and child, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse home deliveries of any kind, assisted or unassisted. It’s crucial to be aware of the fact that even in healthy, straightforward pregnancies, difficulties might occur in the midst of labor and delivery. However, in May 2020, it revised its rules to reflect the reality that some women will still choose to give birth at home despite the advice they receive.
“We acknowledge that women have varied reasons for planning a home delivery, such as cultural or religious views,” stated Kristi L. Watterberg, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the AAP policy statement announcing the amended recommendations. Specifically, “We are offering information for physicians to communicate with expectant parents to help them understand the factors that raise the hazards of home birth and establish guidelines for newborn care.”
Medical supervision is lacking during an unassisted birth, which might be dangerous if complications emerge and relief isn’t immediately available. Hemorrhage, breech position, shoulder dystocia, umbilical cord complications, and a baby who doesn’t start breathing immediately after birth are all potential complications during labor and delivery. Not very common, but potentially fatal if encountered.
Keep in mind that due to the potential dangers to the mother and child, many doulas will not assist with a planned freebirth. Certified birth attendants, or “doulas,” are there to support and advocate for the laboring woman in both hospital and home birth settings.
In a natural childbirth setting, when no medical personnel or certified birth attendants are present to provide assistance, it is likely that warning signs of potential problems or risk factors could be missed.
A surge in home births has been linked to a two- to threefold increase in infant mortality in the United States, according to studies cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Board-certified pediatrician Dan Brennan of Santa Barbara, California, says that even though the epidemic has caused some families to rethink their plans for hospital delivery, safety must always come first.
Dr. Brennan emphasizes that even with the prevalence of coronavirus, hospitals, and accredited birth centers remain the safest settings for births in the United States. “Many expectant mothers are thinking about their birthing options when coronavirus outbreaks hit their areas. Remember that there is the possibility that medical facilities in some locations will be overwhelmed. It’s important to think about how long it might take before help arrives if a baby is born at home and needs medical attention immediately.”
To rephrase, if you or your baby are in trouble during labor, and you aren’t at a hospital or birthing center, it’s possible that help won’t arrive in time.
Is Freebirthing Allowed by Law In The USA?
In the United States, expectant mothers are not obligated to give birth in a medical facility. Unassisted delivery is a choice, but many birth specialists believe the hazards outweigh the advantages.
Mothers who have delivered stillborn babies at home have also faced prosecution, sometimes for murder. Although these incidents are typically viewed as extreme examples of government overreach and the policing of pregnant people’s bodies, they are nevertheless relevant when choosing a birthplace.
Tips for a Healthy and Safe Home Birth
Notwithstanding the potential dangers, expecting mothers can and should take measures to make their home birth as secure as possible for their child. Even though neither the AAP nor the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) support planned home birth, Dr. Brennan defends it. “They understand that some pregnant women prefer to give birth in their own homes. The AAP and the ACOG both advocate for midwives to be certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and to follow the International Confederation of Midwives’ Global Guidelines for Midwifery Education.”
Instead of trying to give birth an hour away from the nearest medical facility, it’s a good idea to schedule your delivery close to a hospital so that help is nearby if issues emerge. An important part of being ready for a natural birth is learning newborn resuscitation techniques ahead of time.
It’s also important to know what each stage of labor looks like and how it feels. To successfully prepare for a natural birth, one must fully grasp how the body functions and what to anticipate throughout labor. Important and useful information can be found online, making studying and training a priority. In addition, if you choose an unassisted birth, you can still get prenatal care from a nurse-midwife or OB. Visiting a doctor regularly during pregnancy is essential for the health of the mother and unborn child.