Freebirthing, or giving birth without the assistance of a doctor or midwife, is currently back in headline news as the trend rises in the US and the UK. In 2009, The National Center for Health Statistics reported that unassisted births in America jumped from 7,607 unassisted births to 8,347 births between 2004 and 2006. That’s a DIY birth increase of 10%, however, not all DIY births are reported because families fear legal or personal persecution, so in reality many more DIY births may be occurring. Laura Shanley of Unassisted Childbirth recently told The Guardian, “[Freebirthing has] become much more of a topic than it used to be… And in the US there are states where assisted homebirth isn’t allowed, so women have no choice but to freebirth if they want a home delivery.” In some cases emergency unassisted births do occur, but for the purpose of this post, we will be discussing planned DIY births as you read on.
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Are DIY births even legal?
Unassisted childbirth is almost completely legal in the United States. According to Bornfree, laws surrounding DIY births vary from country to country and even from state to state. Bornfree goes on to point out that Nebraska is the one and only state where there is actual legislation in place – it’s illegal in Nebraska for a partner to catch a baby. That said, although some state health organizations, and Nebraska may say that DIY birth is not okay, it’s practically impossible to prove that a birth was intentionally unassisted and thus, very few DIY births are contested.
Why have a DIY birth?
Most births are not complicated. The American Pregnancy Association points out that a full 60% to 80% of all pregnancies are low risk. Often what makes birth complicated are hospital interventions. Women who give birth in hospitals, in spite of their health before hand, are more likely to receive labor and birth interventions that ultimately negatively impact their labor and birth experience. In fact, a recent study by Childbirth Connections shows just 2% of women giving birth in a hospital experienced care practices that promote normal and healthy birth. Another extensive report shows that women who head to hospitals to give birth have far too many useless and potentially harmful interventions. On the flip-side, women who have home births attended by midwives experience reduced mortality and morbidity related to cesarean and other birth interventions, much lower labor and birth intervention rates and have fewer birth recovery complications. To sum up, if you’re healthy and have zero complications, a DIY birth may result in fewer complications and be healthier all around.
Women who have experienced a successful unassisted birth claim the experience was powerful, intimate, empowering and more special.
DIY births are inexpensive. While it’s no secret that hospital births are outlandishly expensive, attempting a home birth with a midwife can eat away your savings as well. Especially if you live in an anti-midwife or anti-home birth state.
Cons of DIY Births
- Birth is safer than women in the U.S. are led to believe, but when labor and birth complications happen, they can happen very fast. I had a healthy pregnancy, right up until the end. I even wanted a home birth. I didn’t get one though. I had complications that no one saw coming. I ended up in the hospital and my midwife had to hand me over to a doctor. Had I not given birth in a hospital it would have been unsafe for both my son and me. The experience did not change my birth perspectives. I still feel birth is ultimately safe, and given the choice I’d plan a natural home birth with a midwife if I was pregnant again. But, you can’t deny that complications do occur.
- You need to be healthy. Only women with uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies should attempt a DIY birth. This means you need to take extra special care during your pregnancy to eat well, exercise, get plenty of rest and avoid harmful substances. This isn’t really a con, as all women should try to have a healthy pregnancy, but if you’re planning a DIY birth, it can take time and planning to be extra vigilant.
- You’ll need to be prepared. You and your partner will need to research labor, birth and common complications so you’re prepared. This can be a big undertaking. Having a copy of The Birth Partner on hand can’t hurt.
- You need a back-up plan. Of course, you should always get prenatal care, but just in case, it’s wise to speak with a midwife or doctor about your unassisted birth plan. Not that you’ll get a green light, but honesty may help you avoid dangerous problems. Secondly, be sure you’ve got the nearest hospital’s number on speed dial. In case of an emergency, you may need to call.
- Women who attempt DIY births are very likely to hear opposition from family, friend, health care providers and even at times, partners. You’ll have to deal with it, or keep quiet about your choice.
Would I have a DIY birth? Nope. If pregnant again, I’d want a midwife and a doula by my side. I’m a pain wuss and like support. Also, I know my own body and limits. Having had complications last time, I’d err on the side of a well-planned, but cautious home birth. My second choice would be a birth center. What about you? Would you like to have a DIY birth? Let us know in the comments.
Lead Photo © Flickr user theogeo