How Do I Have An Unassisted Home Birth & Is It Safe?

When it comes to choosing how you want to deliver your child, there are several options. You can go the traditional route, and deliver in a hospital or birthing center of your choice. You can choose your doctor, or forgo a doctor in favor of using a midwife for your prenatal and delivery care. Some people hire doulas to support them through the labor and delivery process. Others choose to deliver at home, with a team of midwives or doulas to oversee their care. But some people opt for a more radical approach. Unassisted home birth, or freebirth, is giving birth away from any medical intervention or support, even a midwife or doula. It's not for everyone, but if you're curious about it or considering an unassisted home birth, here's what you need to know.

What Is An Unassisted Home Birth & Benefits?

An unassisted home birth, also known as freebirth, is when you intentionally choose to give birth away from a hospital, medical center, or birthing center, and without the use of doctors, nurses, midwives, or birth doulas. This is different from an unassisted birth due to medical emergency (you went into labor at home and couldn't safely transport to the hospital in time), or an unintentional unassisted birth due to lack of access to a skilled birth attendant.

People who choose to have an unassisted home birth do so for a variety of reasons - some had bad experiences with the medical community in previous pregnancies or childbirths, some want an intimate labor and delivery experience without intrusion, others live too far from a hospital or may have religious convictions that lead them to this decision.

The benefit of having an unassisted home birth will depend on your reasons for choosing one; under ideal circumstances, it can be an incredible experience that makes your labor and delivery everything you wanted it to be.

newborn in the maternity ward
Credit: iStock

What Are The Risks Of An Unassisted Home Birth?

However, there are substantial risks involved with having an unassisted home birth. Yes, childbirth is natural and people have been doing it for millennia. But prior to the advancement of modern medicine, the maternal and neonatal death rate was substantial. Even in a completely healthy and uneventful pregnancy, things can go wrong during labor and delivery. There can be complications with the baby, such as an unexpected breech position, prolapsed cord, compressed cord, or shoulder dystocia. A newborn can also experiences breathing problems upon delivery, which can be incredibly stressful and scary to deal with if you don't have medical training and don't have medically trained support on standby.

There's also the risk of complications for the mother, which can quickly spiral out of control and become serious and life-threatening without proper medical intervention. Hemorrhage, breathing or cardiac problems, a placenta that won't detach after delivery, failure to progress during labor, or not being able to cope with the physical and mental demands of childbirth can take an uneventful childbirth to a complicated delivery very quickly.

Who Should Not Have An Unassisted Home Birth?

If you're considering an unassisted home birth, keep in mind that there are some scenarios where this can be an incredibly risky endeavor and it is not advised to attempt labor and delivery without medical support. Women who have experienced pregnancy complications such as preterm labor and placental issues should not attempt an unassisted home birth.

If you have a medical condition such as a bleeding disorder, high blood pressure, lupus, diabetes, HIV, hepatitis, or you have tested positive for Group B strep, it's not advisable to delivery without medical support. Women who are pregnant with multiples, have had a previous c-section or preterm delivery, or those who live more than 15 minutes away from a hospital are also advised not to attempt an unassisted home birth.

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