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Choosing Freebirth

By Lisa Morgan

There are many diverse reasons women choose freebirth - see 101 Reasons Women Freebirth for more. This page is about positive approaches to choosing freebirth.

Sky Cartwright's freebirth by
Melissa Gray of She Heals Herself

Contrary to public opinion, there are women who see freebirth as a valid birthing option. Not everyone freebirths because their situation forces them to do so. There are freebirthers who have other birthing options available to them, yet still choose freebirth. Why?

Birth as a Normal Body Function

This is most easily discussed by considering other normal functions of the human body. My favourite example is pooping!

Sometimes pooping is fraught with risks and complications, however we don't all poop within specialised pooping institutions, where the act of pooping is carefully monitored and controlled as a matter of routine. One only has to imagine this to see how it would be inhibiting, embarrassing, humilitating and cause complications such as psychological constipation.

For some women, birth just is, in the same way pooping just is. One doesn't typically make a fuss about pooping, they just go and do it... unless of course there is a problem, in which case, most people either work out on their own, or seek outside assistance.

This approach involves the same level of trust one would typically have in their other normal body functions such as pooping, eating, breathing and so on.

Women's Agency & Autonomy

Women who value autonomy and ownership of their own bodies are drawn to freebirth for those reasons.

In freebirth, there is no one in a position to challenge women's agency, control, restrict or dictate how she is to use her body. If she feels like eating, she eats. If she feels like not getting out of the bathtub, then she doesn't get out. If she feels like staying on the toilet, then that is what she does. If she feels like birthing in the shower, on the kitchen floor, in a doorway, in the yard, or in a tipi in the middle of the bush then by goddess she does exactly that, and in whatever position she damn well pleases!

And best of all, she doesn't have to argue, beg, plead, cajole, demand, fight, or explain for any of those things. She can just go ahead and do it with no stress to her in labour. This is freedom, and people who cannot exercise freedom, are oppressed. See here for more on the politics of childbirth.

Intimacy & Privacy

Birth is seen as an intensely intimate and private affair, much like how the process began in the first place via sex. Using sex in place of the pooping analogy used previously, it is also easy to see how sex would be difficult to enjoy if it was being observed and monitored by others. As with animals, humans find that privacy, quiet and a lack of disturbance is necessary to birth optimally.

Safety and Optimal Birthing

This may seem a strange reason given the official positions of medical groups, which deem freebirth as risky and dangerous. However, homebirth is also labelled the same way despite studies showing homebirth is just as safe, if not safer than hospital birth for most women (de Jonge et al., 2009; Johnson & Daviss, 2005;). Also see The Research: Homebirth.

There are no studies done on freebirth which offer statistics to compare with other births. There are some unofficial statistics here. I am also interested in collecting data so if you would like to participate see here: Survey of Freebirths.

The reasoning of safety comes about from an understanding of how the process of physiological birth works, and seeing how restricting said process results in problems. As women cannot give birth in hospital or with certain homebirth midwives without being subject to the medical paradigm, some women see freebirth as the safer option.

There is also usually an interest in how factors outside the usual medical focus can impact the birth experience. For example emotional factors such as fear (Dick-Read, 2005), or environmental factors such as bacteria present (Odent, 2007).

Research & Informed Choice

After researching extensively into childbirth, some women build a sound understanding of the normal process of physiological birth, as well as the complications of birth and evidence based practice. These women compare this knowledge over the different paradigms and choices available for childbirth, to decide freebirth best suits them.

This is not something typically supported by medical professionals as there are strong views that such knowledge obtained outside legitimate processes is invalid and dangerous to the layperson. This insinuates women are stupid. They are not, and funnily enough a lot of the information they can access is the same body of information available to medical professions in this day and age.

There is also the interesting fact that only 10% of professional practice was found to be supported by actual scientific evidence, making the advice and practice of medical caregivers questionable (Fraser, 1983). Another study backed this up by finding there were still great variations between practice and evidence throughout the world (Bergsjo, Schmidt & Pusch, 1983). An example of this evidence-practice gap is Australia's 30.9% (as of 2007), and rising caesarean rate (Laws & Sullivan, 2009), where evidence only supports a 10-15% caesarean rate (WHO, 1985). See here for more on the evidence-practice gap.

Women's Knowledge

Back in history, traditionally women were revered and celebrated for their ability to bring forth life. In those times, there was a strong dependence on, and acceptance of women's knowlege systems.

As the world moved into the Age of Enlightment, where technocractic knowlege gained legitimacy and ascendendcy, other knowledge systems were phased out. This did not happen because they were any less true or valid, but because of the powerbase and weight behind technocractic knowledge. More in depth can be read here.

In contemporary Australia, much of this knowing that was once easily accessible and utilsed by women is now lost. A part of our psyches has been damaged. Jeannine Parvati Barker recognised this damage in her vision for a freebirth community (Barker, n.d.), where this damage was healed. Jungian psychologist, Clarissa Pinkola Estes also recognises the need to heal women's psyches in her book "Women Who Run With The Wolves" (Estes, 1992).

Essentially, women who choose to freebirth because of this reason feel connected with their inner psyches and are used to utilising information gained via this knowledge system in everyday life. Intuition and instinct are heeded, and fed by acting on the knowlege as if it were true. Most women find they are rewarded thrice over in heeding their innate knowing and recognise this as a formidable power for women to have.

In childbirth, if the woman allows it, the innate self is able to take over on a primal level and deal with the process of birthing in an optimal way. It just works. Birth works best like this. Women can sense this deep knowing or truth once other things are stripped out of the picture and birth becomes more about primal need rather than social custom.

References

Barker, J.P. (n.d.) Vision of a freebirth community. Retrieved from Susun Weed's website. Source

BergsjØ, P., Schmidt, E., & Pusch, D. (1983), Differences in the reported frequencies of some obstetrical interventions in Europe. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 90, pp. 628–632. Source | Discussion

de Jonge, A., B. Y. van der Goes, et al. (2009). Perinatal mortality and morbidity in a nationwide cohort of 529 688 low-risk planned home and hospital births. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 116(9), pp. 1177-1184. Source

Dick-Read, G. (2005). Childbirth without fear. London, England: Pinter & Martin.

Estes, C.P. (1992). Women who run with the wolves: Contacting the power of the wild woman. Sydney, Australia: Random House.

Fraser C. (1983). Selected perinatal procedures. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 117. Source

Johnson, K. C., & Daviss, B. (2005). Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: Large prospective study in North America. British Medical Journal, 330(7505), pp. 1416-1419. Source

Laws P., & Sullivan, E.A. (2009). Australia’s Mothers and Babies 2007. Perinatal statistics series no. 23. Cat. no. PER 48. Sydney: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit. Source

Odent, M. (2007). Primal health: Understanding the critical period between conception and the first birthday. East Sussez, UK: Clairview Books.

World Health Organization. (1985).Appropriate technology for birth. Lancet, 2, pp. 436-7.

 

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