Even though about 1% of women give birth at home, and therefore far less women actually choose to give birth 'unassisted', it is important to hear from these women. We should know about their birth experiences, their reasons for choosing to birth without 'professional' assistance, and the statistics that come from their births.
For one, because freebirth may actually be our evolutionary 'norm' - the conditions in which our bodies evolved to give birth.
"Ideally the newborn needs to interact with a mother who has given birth by herself and is therefore in a specific physiological state... to give birth a woman needs to feel secure, without feeling observed, and be in a warm enough place... the birth process needs to be protected against all stimulants of the neocortex."
~Dr. Michel Odent, Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens
Considering that hospitals and doctors are relatively new in relation to the grand scale of human history - unassisted childbirth really wasn't so 'uncommon' just a few hundred years ago and especially a few thousand years ago.
It is more than reasonable to assume that for the greater length of our existence, we gave birth in a primal, uncontrollable way, many times, unassisted in any 'professional' way.
Birth is not a rational, new process... it is the domain of our lower brain, our animal brain.
Yet, many people are looking at doctor attended hospital births as the "control" and are basing practices and averages on births that take place in a location (the hospital) which has to force (that may be a little strong... assist?) physiological birth because it's very nature (buzzing activity, interruptions) stimulates the rational brain.
So, what is the "norm" for women giving birth without the interference of others??
Well, according to the shared experiences of many women, there are quite large differences between births that occur with a doctor attending and births that occur at home, on your own.
A few interesting trends in the data so far:
- Women giving birth on their own tend to deliver on their hands and knees and in the water.
- Dads catch about half of freebirth babies and one third of midwife attended babies!
- 88% of doctor attended births took place 'on their back' (lithotomy)
- Almost half of freebirths and midwife attended births experienced prodromal labor... only 35% of doctor attended births.
- It would be reasonable to consider prodromal labor as normal in about half of women. It is likely that women attended by doctors are being given medical interventions to try and make prodromal labor into active labor, which isn't best for healthy moms and babies!
- Freebirths were shorter!
- Length of time from rhythmic contractions to birth was an average of 12.8 hours for freebirth, 14 hours for a midwife, and 16 hours for doctor!
- Pushing was almost 1/3 the length in freebirths than doctor attended births!
- Average pushing time was half hour for freebirth, one hour for midwife, and 1.5 hours for doctor!
- The max freebirth pushing time was 2 hours... the max doctor pushing time reported was 4.5 hours!
- Women who freebirthed reported less severe experiences with postpartum depression and baby blues than women who delivered with doctors, even when comparing vaginal births only.
- Women who delivered with doctors rated their experience with postpartum hormones as a 5 out of 10 on a scale of 1(low)-10(severe)
- Women who delivered unassisted rated their experience a low 2.5; births attended by a midwife were also low, at 2.57.
- Compared to doctor attended (vaginal) births, midwife attended births reported feeling "physically recovered" in half the time! Freebirths in almost 1/3 the time!
...impressive, huh! No wonder some intelligent, independent women are choosing to give birth at home, on their own.
Birth can now be safer than ever before. We can benefit from shared knowledge and easy access to information. Today, women who freebirth provide an opportunity to glimpse what conditions promote optimal physiologic birth. Unassisted childbirth is certainly worthy of our respect and attention, there is much we can learn from these natural, undisturbed, well informed birth experiences!
I'm not implying, whatsoever, that all women should freebirth ~ but only that some will, and we can look to their experiences as a way to know more about the ideal conditions for women giving birth. In fact, many reported experiences in the survey were similar for freebirth and midwife attended birth and a wealth of data demonstrates the safety of births attended by midwives and improved outcomes for healthy women who give birth with a midwife.
Healthy birth isn't a medical event, protect yourself and your baby with knowledge!
~Wisdom and Birth
(n) and survey info: This data was prepared from 78 births - 27 freebirths, 25 midwife attended births, and 26 with doctors. The survey is still active and I will periodically develop reports when more survey responses have come in. Women serve as their own controls in that most women who freebirth have had more than one birth experience in different locations with various providers - so participants fill out the survey once for each of their birth experiences, in order to compare them. If you have had a freebirth and would like to complete the survey, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the link!