Freebirthers Dismiss Fear & Bring Babies Home

  1. By Kate Kelland Reuters -

    LONDON (Reuters) - They insist they're no superwomen, they have no special powers, and are certainly not pain or adrenaline junkies.
    But 'freebirthers' choose to go through what some call the most painful and potentially frightening experience of a woman's life with no drugs, no midwife and no medical help.

    Delivering their own babies at home, often alone, they dismiss what they say is "fearmongering" by doctors and midwives and confidently catch their offspring as they leave the womb.
    "Birthing uses the same hormones as lovemaking -- so why would you want anyone poking and prodding you, observing you and putting you under a spotlight?," said Veronika Robinson, an Australian based in Britain who sees growing interest in freebirth among readers of international magazine, "The Mother".
    Her comment is echoed by many in online discussion groups about freebirth, where women insist having a baby is as intimate an experience as having sex.
    "We were the only people there when she was conceived, and it felt absolutely 100 percent right that we were the only people there when she was born," writes Laura Fields from the United States.
    Robinson says medical establishments in Britain and across other westernised nations have for years been "taking something that's natural and making it into a disease", and now, with freebirthing, "women are taking their power back".

    Free- or unassisted birth means having a baby with no medical or professional help. In Britain, as in North America, where its popularity is growing, it is legal as long as delivery is not "assisted" by an unqualified partner, friend or husband.
    To some, like new mum Janet Sears, the idea of giving birth alone, with no-one around to help if things go wrong, is little short of madness: "It's my idea of hell," she told Reuters.

    But one of its most prominent supporters, Laura Shanley, an author on childbirth, is now mother to four children -- all of whom were born at home without the help of doctors or midwives.
    Shanley, who lives in Colorado in the United States, says that in essence birth is only problematic because of three main factors -- poverty, intervention and fear.
    As long as clean water and reasonable living standards are available -- as they are to many women in the west -- then the task is to eliminate the other two factors and a natural birth will be as safe as it can be.
    "As I began to understand how fear affects the body, and that birth is not inherently dangerous provided we don't trigger the fight-flight response and shut down labour, then to me it was natural to want to just trust myself," she told Reuters.
    "It didn't make sense to me that something that ensures the continuation of the race would be a dangerous and scary event."
    Diana Drescher, a Dutch freebirthing enthusiast who lives in Britain and wants a fourth baby with her German partner, agrees.
    "We've been giving birth for thousands of years and we're still in this world. If it was that dangerous we wouldn't be here," she told Reuters.
    Coming from the Netherlands, where there is a more relaxed attitude to birth, Diana finds British medical authorities far too quick to intervene and is determined to have her next baby here with no professional presence.
    She says she will also avoid being in her partner's native Germany where she says freebirth is virtually impossible without fear of the authorities finding out and intervening.

    "I do know some people who have had unassisted births in Germany, but they will not talk about it. It's a very close community that does it and they have to be very careful."

    The Department of Health frowns on the practice of freebirthing and says every woman should have a midwife.

    "The safety of mothers and their babies is our top priority," a spokesman told Reuters. "Midwives are the experts in normal pregnancy and birth and have the skills to refer to and coordinate between specialist services. Every woman needs the care of a midwife in labour and birth and those women with more complex pregnancies may need a doctor too."
    And some doctors, as well as some friends and relatives of those who chose to go it alone when they go into labour, are fiercely critical of what they see as a selfish, reckless, even irresponsible approach to childbirth.

    "Dr Crippen", an NHS doctor who writes an award-winning blog on the Internet, has reacted angrily to growing interest in freebirth, saying babies born this way should have a right to legal recourse later in life.
    He says "giving birth is the most dangerous thing that most woman will do during their life", and argues:

    "Does a mother not owe a duty of care to her baby? Should a mother not take reasonable care to protect the baby when she gives birth? And if she does not take reasonable care -- and the standard should be objective not subjective -- why should a baby who has sustained avoidable brain damage due to the mother's negligence not take action against his mother?"
    If a baby were to die during a freebirth, Dr Crippen argues the mother should be prosecuted for manslaughter.
    Mary Siever, a mother of three who lives in Alberta, Canada, said she has experienced the wrath of those around her when they learned she had a baby on her own.

    "There are people who are horrified when they find out that an unassisted birth has taken place," she told Reuters.
    "I can't claim to know why they feel this way, but my belief is that the majority of them -- doctors and health authorities -- truly do not think women are intellectually capable of making their own decisions when it comes to birth."
  2. Interesting.

    I don't think I would do something like this. There are so many things that can go wrong during childbirth that you simply would be unable to deal with if you were alone at home delivering a baby yourself.

    While I agree that women have been delivering babies without doctors/midwives for centuries....there is a reason why there was a higher mortality rate among babies and mothers during childbirth in those days.
  3. Well, if I had tried it, I would have died w/my first.

    My MIL did it in the UK, she's a nurse and a midwife, had a midwife and she almost died (happened so fast).

    I think having it in a center/hospital with what you MAY need there but being able to do it your way, is the best of both worlds.
  4. I respect women who are courageous enough to do the unassisted / homebirth. It is not for everybody, but for some people it may be the right decision.

    I gave birth to Julia completely natural - no drugs at all. I think I would have been able to do it at home - but then again I had a waterbirth and our bathtub isn't that big, lol
  5. I had both my children in the hospital w/o epidurals and I would not want to do it at home alone. It's not for me. Yes childbirth is natural but even in the past where women had babies at home they usually had a helper, an experienced woman assisting in the birthing process.
  6. My Friend gave birth to her son under water, he came out literally swimming for a second or two. Thank God it was a healthy birth with no complications.
  7. wow, that is a really interesting post! Thanks Pradas!

    I can totally see where the women are coming from. Being in the end stages of my first pregnancy I so feel that sooo much of it has been taken out of my hands. And I completely agree that hospitals are far too quick to intervene. I'm not talking about where the baby or mother is at severe risk, but for example, I am 38 weeks, & at 36 weeks I had my last appointment with my consultant. At 36 weeks, with a relatively healthy, no major issues pregnancy, he told me I should consider my induction options!! WTH??? Surely that shouldn't even become an issue until waaaaaaaay past my due date? Also the alarming rate of c sections & epidurals in the UK is growing. I'm just not at all comfortable with what for me is excessive medical intervenetion/interferance. Not that I'm saying that I want to do this freebirthing lark, but I do feel that way too much fuss is being made of my labour. I have made it quite clear from the very start of my pregnancy that I want to deliver on my own, with no 'birthing partner', a concept which for me personally I feel is a load of old nonsense. But now, the nearer we get to my due date, I am getting almost gestapo-like questioning by medical professionals as to why I am not allowing any friend/husband etc in the room with me.

    When I explained to my consultant that I was not prepared to have an epidural, under any circumstances,(I have long standing spinal problems & the last operation I had, it got infected & I was hospitalized & nearly died, hence why I'm none too keen to have more stuff stuck in my spine) his response was 'We'll see'. What sort of thing to say is that? Had I gone in there & the first words out of my mouth been 'I'm having an epidural!' would have still have said 'We'll see'? By his dismissing my wishes like that it was like hm saying 'you're far too inexperienced to have any idea of what its going to be like' Well, yes, its true that I have never had children, but that doesn't mean that I have no basic idea of what I want to happen to my body.
    Its a simialr matter with my iron levels, I wsa very low & they wanted to give me a blood transfusion, I refused & insisted I be allowed to try iron suppliments. Within 4 weeks I had returned to an acceptable iron level, just with the pills & no harm to either me or the baby. It just seems to me, as a species, we are so obsessed with what we can do, we hardly ever stop to think if its what we should do. I am a great believer that anything nature creates, nature can and will solve, given time.

    And with regard to higher infant mortality rates in history, that has an awful lot to do with hygiene as opposed to the actual process of labour. What the women in the article are saying, as I perceive it, is that things have changed, we know what to expect, we know what will happen during the birth process. We are prepared for it & we also have the intelligence to make the decisions regarding our care as we wish. I don't think any one of those women would refuse medical help if the baby or themsleves was in danger.
  8. I think women have the right to choose how they want to give birth. Certainly women have been giving birth at home for centuries, and I definitely think it's ridiculous how much hospital charge for L&D, but I can't imagine how much guilt I personally would feel should something go wrong that easily could have been prevented in a hospital setting.
  9. I suppose it is their choice. Personally, I want to be on the safe side and I would really feel awful if anything went wrong. But these women are opting for a totally natural experience (a tad scary with the way many births go, but their choice)
  10. Ha....alone? I needed ALL the help I could get!

    Okay, it may be logical that mothers have been giving birth for thousands of years and so on and so forth, but no-one ever discusses the infant mortality rates at birth then and now.

    My personal opinion is that I owe it to my kid to give him the safest possible journey into this world. And if that meant that the staff of the whole hospital were watching me as I gave birth - no problem!!

    As a mother who had a completly normal pregnancy and planned for natural labor who had to have an emergency C-section because the baby's heart rate was slowing down alarmingly I would not care one whit about what makes me 'emotionally comfortable' during childbirth.

    Choosing a OB-GYN who is receptive to one's needs etc can be done quite a while before the baby is born, and having a bossy doctor is not a reason to choose birthing alone.

    Considering the risks involved, I think it's sheer stupidity to try to give birth alone. If a parent is planning to keep their child safe and healthy right from birth, why not reduce the risk of harm at birth itself?
  11. ^Well said Merika~

    Yes, if I would have chosen this path, all of my babies would have died. My first had to be delivered with forceps vaginally. My 2nd was breech & his shoulder was stuck in my ribcage. I went into labor so fast, by the time they got me in the OR for the C-section, his heart rate was dropping. Both times needed split second decisions~

    Sorry but putting any risk on my newborn just isn't worth it. Yes, the majority of births are normal & uncomplicated but things can & do go wrong. And the complications that do occur are often life & death. These women don't have time to decide on medical help if something goes wrong. If they want to give birth at home, fine, but have someone there to step in if needed.

    This isn't a homebirth vs. hospital issue, it's having medical help available during birth vs. not having any.

    Frankly, I think these women are trying to "make a statement" & are putting their babies at risk unnecessarily.
  12. Your welcome P.A.P :heart:

    Thank you for your great response.
  13. I agree. I have never given birth nor am I pregnant, but I would have to be in a hospital. I would not want to put my babys life at risk because I think that I am a strong independant woman and I can do it myself; Sometimes you can but sometimes you can't. It should be the mothers choice but I personally would never do it.
  14. Interesting but no thanks for me!

    My baby arrives in September and I'm already requesting for the best medical help available, epidural etc.
  15. interesting article. my aunt did it totaly natural for her first child but then had everything she could when she had her second. my mother was a midwife and now teaches and she worked at a private clinic where all of the staff were female and had children themselves. i think that would be so reasuring to know you were in good company and everyone has been there and done it and has the experience to help you, especially if it is your first child.