• Amy Fairbrother

A lack of freebirth data doesn’t mean that it is a dangerous decision

In this article, Freebirth data 'should be collected across UK', there is a video where Eleanor Horrigan describes her perfectly safe unassisted home birth. So firstly, thank you, Eleanor, for sharing your amazing story and for telling us why you chose to do that - not that you should have to explain yourself to anyone! We really appreciate you standing up for the right to choose where to give birth, and the right to decline medical intervention.

Yes, girl!

Despite Eleanor’s words and her positivity around her birth experience, the article is not a happy one. All that can be said about it is that it’s dangerous and should be discouraged. The whole article is saying that we have very little data on free births because they are not within the system, so what evidence do they have to make the claims that it is dangerous? I have no doubt that if women and babies were dying as a result of women choosing to freebirth, we would have data on it.

There is such a misconception that women who choose to birth unassisted would do so under any circumstances, no matter what - an all or nothing situation - but this is not the case. Here are a few more freebirth stories and examples of women freebirthing and accessing medical care when necessary, if you fancy a read;

The problem is that there are potential risks with anything to do with anything. In birth, for example, having a chemical induction of labour carries the risk of increased pain, further intervention, instrumental delivery or an emergency caesarean section. Having a sweep carried the risk of infection, as does having your waters broken artificially. Yet 1 in 5 labours are still induced in the UK, suggested by medical professionals despite the risks. I use the word “suggested” loosely because for a lot of women it is not presented as a choice, it is booked in without giving the woman all of her options, and often without their consent.

So midwives and consultants are happy to encourage induction despite the fact that, for a lot of women, the risks that come with having an induction are more than the risks that come with waiting for labour to begin naturally. This is because we live in a world of defensive practise. They can only be sued for doing too little, which means if they do everything they can think of to make sure there are a live woman and baby at the end, they will do it no matter what that means for the physical and mental health of the mother. This is a scary prospect, because where does it end?

Disrupting the natural birth process of a healthy mum and a healthy baby is a risk in itself. We know that birth relies on oxytocin, and the best way to keep that flow of oxytocin is for the woman to feel safe, loved, supported and comfortable. So anything that causes a spike in adrenaline is a risk to the oxytocin levels in a mother's body. Being poked and prodded, having the lights switched on or being asked questions when you’re trying to feel calm and connected to your body, is risky.

"The human species is no more unsuited to give birth than any other of the 5,000 or so species of mammals on the planet. We are merely the most confused." ~ Ina May Gaskin (some of her other thoughts whilst we're at it)

What worries me is that the people who decide that free birth is dangerous, have probably never seen an uninterrupted birth. They don’t have the data on how many women give birth unassisted with no problem, and how many choose to access medical assistance at some point before, during or after their birth.

They don’t have these numbers, they can’t control it so instead of considering this and reaching out to women to tell their stories and collecting data, they fear it.

The more information people have about freebirth, the better. Women who choose to birth unassisted have most likely weighed up the risks and the benefits and they have decided that they would be safer without any interference. If women don’t have access to the risks and the benefits, but they don’t feel supported, then they might choose to free birth just to stay the fuck out of the system - and you can’t blame them for that - but it’s important to have the information to make that decision.

We all know that sometimes there are complications, and nobody is denying that. Sometimes medical professionals forget that nobody cares more about that baby than the mother. So if a woman feels she needs medical help, she needs to be able to trust the system to support her. Women who free birth need to know that they can call for help if something isn’t right during birth, or if their placenta still hasn’t come away yet, without being judged or shunned by midwives or consultants because of their choices. The judgement that comes with choosing a free birth, that’s putting women at risk, not the choice itself. If we spent more time educating women on what a true emergency is in childbirth, instead of scaremongering them with every variation of normal, then they would feel confident in when to call for help.

Maureen Treadwell, co-founder of The Birth Trauma Association - "If you freebirth you have to factor in you might die.”

This is the last sentence of that article.

What the fuck!

You might as well say “If you live, you have to factor in that you might die”.


And trust me, women DO factor these risks in.

You could switch out the word ‘freebirth’ in this quote to any of the following;

‘have a caesarean’, ‘have an induction’, ‘have a vaginal birth’, ‘have a home birth’, ‘go on a plane’, ‘eat a kebab’, ‘go swimming’ and basically anything you do ever.

Rant over, doula out.


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