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11 Disturbing Things I’ve Learned About the ‘Freebirth’ Movement

What drives women who choose to give birth alone in their bathtubs?

by
Bethany Mandel

Bio

August 14, 2014 - 9:40 am
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Being an enthusiastic natural birth proponent, I’m a member of a good number of Facebook groups for moms interested in natural birth. In one of the home birth groups I’m a member of, women began to discuss having an “unassisted birth” also known as a “freebirth.” My interest piqued by craziness on the Internet, I did a quick Google search (don’t look at the Wikipedia page if you’re at work or around wandering eyes). An unassisted birth is just what it sounds like: a birth, usually at home, alone or with one’s partner, not attended by a professional midwife or doctor. If you’re thinking “Boy, that sounds dangerous!” you’re right. A leading blogger of the “Freebirth” movement in Australia, Janet Fraser, buried her stillborn baby girl in 2009. The baby in all likelihood would have been born totally healthy had she had a home birth attended by a licensed midwife or in a hospital with a doctor and nurses present. The death spurred an inquest in which the coroner concluded “the child had died because the only people she had elected to be present at the birth – her partner and her best friend – could not deal with the complications of a cord entanglement.” That birth story, which happened in March 2009, has never appeared on the Joyous Birth website, still run by Fraser.

This case is an extreme example of members of this movement of women who, for any number of reasons, plan to have their children without the assistance of medical professionals. Being an super professional journalist absolute voyeur, I joined every Facebook group I could find on Unassisted Birth to give you insight into these women and their motivations. Here are some things I learned, in list form, of course:

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1. Money is a factor.

Not surprisingly, many women in the group explain that they are having an unassisted birth because they cannot afford to have a midwife attendant at their home birth. Most home birth midwives’ services aren’t covered by insurance and none are covered by Medicaid, leaving women with the choice of a hospital birth or an unattended one. Others state that they have no medical insurance, which would make an out -of-pocket hospital birth astronomically expensive for even a middle class family. The United States is the most costly place to give place in the world, with the average vaginal birth clocking in at $30,000 and the average c-section costing $50,000.

All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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A friend had her 1st baby in the hospital and it was a text book case baby read the book and everything was just as written. Labor a-b hrs, transition c-d etc. when the 2nd baby came around she ( who is a dentist) was seriously considering a home delivery. I told her every pregnancy & delivery are different & just because the first baby read the book didn't mean the second one would. She decided to have the baby in the hospital & it was the best decision she ever made. Things were progressing but not as easily as the first and then something went wrong. Suddenly dozens are in the room , the baby is stuck, the heart rate is going down. & it's too late for a c-section. Her description was there were more than 1 paid of hands trying to pull him out and many more sets pushing on her stomach to inch him down. In the end both mom & baby were fine but if had happened at home he would not be here. Yes we've made having a baby a medical procedure for many (it's not an illness) but we've lowered infant & new mom mortality You never know when something will turn on a dime & require immediate life saving treatment. Another friend had a relatively easy birth but started hemorrhaging if she wasn't in the hospital she would have bled to death.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The United States is the most costly place to give place in the world, with the average vaginal birth clocking in at $30,000 and the average c-section costing $50,000." Actually, maternity care and childbirth is entirely free in America... if you are an illegal alien. It's only citizens who can't afford to obtain medical care for their childbirth. Everyone else in the world is welcome to come to the US and get free childbirth and citizenship for their baby. Welcome, welcome, welcome!
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Its so costly because they have until the child is 21 to sue the dr for any problem. About 3% of births will wind up with problems that can be attributed to dr screw ups even if it's not the case like some of the palsys.this long wait until 21 jacks up the malpractice ins. In NJ many new gyns are not doing OB because they can't afford the ins
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Most of these anti-western-science movements have serious minded men and women who had desired to acheive academically but couldn't. Wilfull ignorance and obdurate pride is what makes them do it. Let 'em go, its a free country. Though do compel politically that they get their survivors vaccinated. That goes beyond the bounds of tolerance into the realm of physical danger to others. Lotus Birth anyone?
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Also the WHO retracted those numbers in 2007 with a statement saying we don't know the best c-section rate just that the data says it should never be below 5% countrywide.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm all for people having choices honestly whether that's a homebirth (if a women is an appropriate candidate) to cesarean done on maternal request(same applies to this). I've even strongly considered becoming a CPM but as a c-section mom who never expected to have my first baby get stuck,all 6lb 9oz of him who needed oxygen for quite awhile I know that things happen that you never thought would.
Freebirth is a bad idea because you don't have someone to work on both parties if they both need help.
I've seen freebirth used too often for women having preemies or who have placenta previa or who've had 3+ c-sections. Sometimes you should not even be trying to have a vaginal birth in a hospital let alone trying to do things at home by yourself the without the equipment and training of anyone.
Also just FYI 50,000 is the upper upper end of the price of a c-section. Both of mine cost 8,000 total plus 2,000 for the extra days and care for me and the baby. Vaginal birth at the same hospital tends to run about 4,000. I don't know much about other states but Utah actually has the average prices for both maternity care and several other common procedures listed online. Maybe if they were actually competing prices would go down?
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
First comment. RE the cord birth that killed the baby in Australia. We had two close friends that had still born births from the same cause. They happened two months apart and in a Hospital with all the bells and whistles. Stuff happens.

Second comment: My DIL does home births and has had all her children at home. She is a certified midwife that works with a local OB-GYN. She has more business that she can keep up with.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Neither of our children would have been good candidates for free-birthing. They had largish heads and sweetheart has a smallish pelvis. I think people should make their own choices -- and I think choosing medical help of the kind you find comfortable is a wise decision. When the ax falls in childbirth, it falls hard and fast. That's why it became a bit over-medical in the first place.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just use a freaking hospital people! They have a cable. And room service. Oh - and highly trained doctors and nurses who can keep mommy and baby from dying.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a doctor you see all sorts of stuff. Just saw a 15 year old who is no taller than a normal 9 year old. Gonadal dysgenesis. Totally undiagnosed since the mom was taking the kid to a naturopath.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the good old days before Obamacare, the State of Texas had insurance for all and a separate insurance specifically for child delivery.

If you could not afford child delivery, the State picked up the tab.
If you could not afford the very inexpensive child delivery insurance, the State picked up the tab.

The State encouraged midwives and birthing centers, contrary to the regional prejudice the progressives always paint of the south. In Texas, midwives are vital in an area the size of Texas and have a long history and cultural tradition.

The big change? State insurance is now gone thanks to Oblundercare... because the child delivery insurance was carried separately from regular insurance and was basically free.

Medicaid now covers birthing centers (which was covered already).... BUT, Zero care has demolished the state paying for delivery. Now you have to pay for it under Oblundercare.

I agree, you will see more child deaths by "do it yourself" healthcare programs.

BTW, based on your experience and insight, what is the rationale and benefit of sitting in a very uncomfortable bath tub and delivering a baby and having it takes its first breaths of poo laden bath water? A few second of "floating free"? I don't get it. Its appear to be more a trendy social bragging thing rather than based on need, comfort, and outcome.


4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
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