Unassisted childbirth, also called freebirth, is when a woman gives birth at home with no midwife present. Often the woman’s partner or another family member is present, but no medical personnel.
The stories of unassisted birth are not the scenario we typically envision where the birth takes place in the car on the way to the hospital or after a very short labor at home. These women are giving birth at home, without any medical assistance on purpose.
This movement is growing in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 7,000 babies were born unassisted in 2004.
Predictably, every medical organization advises against this practice. The reason is that birth is unpredictable. Things can go wrong and this can happen very quickly. Without a doctor or midwife present, the results can be tragic. By the time the mother realizes that medical attention is needed, the baby can be lost.
It isn’t just doctors that warn against birthing at home and alone. The American College of Nurse Midwives also has issued statements against unassisted child birth. Midwives generally support birthing in the comfort of the home, but not without a professional midwife present to monitor the condition of the mother and the baby.
People who advocate for unassisted birth counter this argument by saying that babies can die in the hospital as well. While this is true, the presence of a midwife or doctor can reduce the risk that is inherent with any birth. A problem is more likely to be discovered when there is still time to save the baby. Even in a home birth situation, the midwife can arrange for a hospital transfer at the first sign of a serious problem.
Many babies born at home without a midwife present are born healthy and without lasting problems. This may encourage others to try it when they read about it online or in newspapers. In a normal birth with no problems, the mother and baby may indeed be fine. But is it worth the risk? For me the answer would be a definite NO.