Everything You Need To Know About 'Free Birthing' – The Rapidly Rising Birth Plan

During the pandemic, more and more people decided to give birth at home alone. This was partly because of the temporary closure of midwife-led units, but also because of the worry of catching infections, according to the Health Service Journal. 

Though the pandemic and lockdown has ended, individuals are still choosing free births and home births, however there are no official figures available because most births that take place outside a hospital without a midwife are recorded as “born before arrival”, reports iNews.

The spike in free births has even led to doctors issuing warnings, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that ‘safety is paramount’ and families should be aware of the risks.

So, what is a ‘free birth’?

Free birth means to give birth without any medical help or doctors, often at home. But why do people choose to take this route, knowing the the risks associated with it?

HuffPost UK spoke to holistic birth coach Charlotte Mindel about the decision and its impact.

She said that free birth is very much a choice that is down to the individual, as all birth choices should be encouraged to be.

“As in many areas of life (religion, politics, the car you drive), there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to birth. Just because your mate did it, does not mean it is right for you. Typically, those who choose to give birth without medical assistance (free birth) are willing to assume the responsibility of birth and the associated risks.

“Of course there are risks, as with anything we do in life, and parents-to-be are capable of assessing risk and choosing a path to birth that feels right for them. I would suggest that if a woman has had a traumatic prior experience under medical care that it would be useful for her to debrief and process that, rather than allow it to be the drive to future decisions for her birth,” commented Charlotte.

She went on to clarify that this does not mean that parent who have experienced trauma are not capable of choosing free birth as a loving choice that feels right for them and their family, they are.

In fact, Charlotte says the decision of choosing free birth is often something that feels right for a parent, which needs no further explanation.

Why do parents choose free birth?

“While much of the world would love to hear of the drama, and disaster of free birth, there are an abundance of stories citing how normal and simple it felt to birth without assistance and interference,” explains Charlotte.

On the main reason of why people choose to go down this route, Charlotte says that parents may feel a deep sense of peace and intuition they are able to connect to following the experience of free birth.

“As is the case wherever you give birth, there will be stories of baby’s who are born still, or sleeping, and babies who require urgent medical care, which can then be sought. Unlike what is often depicted, free birth is not usually wholly in defiance of the system, but in support of a deeply trusting and connected experience of birth,” she adds.

This means a lot of expecting parents are choosing to have birth without medical help to feel connected to the experience of birth.

What do you need to know to free birth?

Charlotte went on to explain that sometimes the more you ‘know’, the more disconnected you are from your intuitive sense of how things are going.

She says that for any woman preparing for birth there are some basics that are useful to know, like the physiology of birth and how it works, the environment in which birth flourishes (dark, private, undisturbed, and with people we trust), and the effect of fear on birth.

“There may be additional considerations for those choosing free birth, for example, a woman may want to know how to check her placenta, how to notify her birth (usually done by a midwife), how to support a haemorrhage, and what would be considered an obstetric emergency.

“We hear of more and more stories of individuals birthing unassisted by accident due to lack of resources in maternity services, so I would argue that this information is useful to any parent planning to give birth spontaneously.”

Basically, if you’re looking to opt for a free birth — it’s best to do as much research as possible.

Dangers of free birthing

When giving advice on free and home birthing, the NHS says: “If you’re having your first baby, home birth slightly increases the risk of serious problems for the baby – including death or issues that might affect the baby’s quality of life – from 5 in 1,000 for a hospital birth to 9 in 1,000 for a home birth.

“If you’re having your second baby, a planned home birth is as safe as having your baby in hospital or a midwife-led unit.

“It’s rare but, if something goes seriously wrong during your labour at home, it could be worse for you or your baby than if you were in hospital with access to specialised care. If you give birth at home, you’ll be supported by a midwife who will be with you while you’re in labour. If you need any help or your labour is not progressing as well as it should, your midwife will make arrangements for you to go to hospital.”

You can check the NHS website for more information on your options.