Freebirthing endangers mother and baby unnecessarily. Picture: iStock
Freebirthing endangers mother and baby unnecessarily. Picture: iStock

Dangerous freebirthing ‘is just plain arrogant’

OPINION

A WOMAN in the US made headlines this week when she delivered a stillborn baby girl after a "freebirth" which went tragically wrong.

The California woman regularly posted to Facebook followers throughout the gruelling, six-day labour as she attempted to give birth at home without medical support or even a midwife.

Eventually the woman, who goes by the name "Lisa", went to hospital, only to be given the devastating news that her little girl, who she called Journey Moon, didn't have a heartbeat.

She has had all kinds of vicious online backlash for her decision to freebirth, but despite the experience has said she is determined to still freebirth in the future.

But here's the thing.

While my heart goes out to her, while I can imagine little in this world that could be more terrible than losing your child and while my heart breaks in sympathy with hers, the whole concept of freebirthing is just plain arrogant.

 

Giving birth is actually about raising a family, not necessarily how the baby comes into the world. Picture: iStock
Giving birth is actually about raising a family, not necessarily how the baby comes into the world. Picture: iStock

Freebirth is essentially giving birth at home without any medical support, but it goes further than that, with freebirthing websites encouraging women to have little to no contact with doctors and to not have other tests or scans throughout their pregnancies.

When you look at freebirth websites, there's one word missing. Medical. (Unless they are talking about what you don't need.) Which is kind of weird, cause pregnancy is something that is intrinsically to do with your body - and with the body of that other little human growing inside you.

Instead there are words like "natural", "intimate", "autonomy" and "ownership".

The Freebirth Australia website says childbirth is a "natural bodily function", likening it to doing a poo or having sex. It talks about "informed choices" and women's "inner psyches". On freebirthing, it says: "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."

Since when was seeing a doctor "social custom"? If these women were hit by a bus, would they refuse to go to a hospital because doctors were merely "social custom"?

 

Doctors and midwives actually want what’s best for you and your baby. Picture: iStock
Doctors and midwives actually want what’s best for you and your baby. Picture: iStock

I'm pregnant at the moment with my second child. With my first, I had placenta praevia, where the placenta is positioned low in the uterus, covering the cervix. To give birth naturally with this condition is highly dangerous, possibly leading to the death of the mother, or the child, or both.

Fortunately, as I had had scans and picked up the problem, my obstetrician could guide my husband and I in making an "informed choice" about our birth plan. We decided to follow the medical advice and have a caesarean section as we didn't particularly want me or the baby to die. I know, crazy right?

The thing is, if asked how the birth went, I'd have to say emphatically that it was a positive experience. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, I had skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, and was breastfeeding within an hour.

Now with my current pregnancy, I've recently discovered I have the same condition again. So I'm already set for another C-section. I have no problems with that - I know and trust my doctor, and I'm just excited to meet my child and more importantly, would like to be around for many years to come to see my two children grow into adulthood.

My story highlights one major thing - the potentially life-threatening condition wouldn't have been picked up if I hadn't been regularly attending medical appointments and having scans.

Perhaps if you had never had many medical issues in your life, it would make sense that you would be arrogant enough to think that you'd sail through pregnancy and childbirth with no problems.

But it's not just about you.

Whether you realise it or not, how you give birth to your baby is your first parenting decision. And it's a big one. (There will be lots more to follow.)

 

Ultrasounds and other tests are very important in giving you early warnings of potential complications.
Ultrasounds and other tests are very important in giving you early warnings of potential complications.

How can you make an informed choice if you haven't had a scan or been to a doctor? How do you know that your baby is OK? In a time where there is so much help out there, such amazing technology and science around checking on a baby in utero, why would you reject it?

Childbirth isn't an experience that's just about women. It's an experience that's also quite a lot about the baby you're giving birth to.

I'm not saying everyone has to give birth in a hospital. But I am saying that doctors are actually there to help you and your baby get the best outcome that's possible. They're not trying to rob you of a "natural" experience. They're mainly just trying to give the two of you the best chance of living.

And at the end of the day that's what a lot of women forget or don't realise. See, the main thing about giving birth is it really doesn't matter all that much how your child comes into the world.

What matters is that you love it - and that the two of you are around for a long time to come to grow with each other and love each other.

Because, actually, the most special part of having a baby is that incredible, amazing, joyous, indescribable bond between parent and child, which only gets stronger with time.

- Continue the conversation with Marion Langford on Twitter @mazlangford


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