Proponents argue a freebirth is more relaxed and pleasurable, and a mother's own intuition trumps hospitals, drugs and medical experts. Opponents argue it is dangerous.
Information about how to give birth alone has proliferated in books like Primal Mothering in a Modern World and online on websites like Bornfree!, maintained by Colorado-based Laura Shanley, a five-time freebirther. "If you want to do something right, do it yourself!" declares the site.In the U.S., where freebirth is believed to be the most common of any developed nation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has handed out bumper stickers bearing the message "Home delivery is for pizza" and released a position paper opposed to home births.
Dr. Guylaine Lefebvre, incoming president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, believes freebirthers are a small but vocal group.
She has never heard of a mother or child injured in unassisted childbirth. Still, she is concerned about the safety of both freebirthing mothers and their babies.
"The concept that you would choose to deliver unassisted goes against everything we have worked so hard for in this country," she said Thursday during a break at a conference of the society, which has attracted more than 1,000 specialists in women's health to Ottawa this week.
On recent trip to Uganda, Lefebvre learned that 550 out of every 100,000 women die giving birth, and less than a third have a skilled attendant to assist. In Canada only six in 100,000 women die giving birth.
"Our great-grandmothers gave birth at home. And many of them died. And their babies died," she said. "In obstetrics, dramatic emergencies can happen very quickly to women who have no warning signs." Unassisted birth isn't illegal, but the question of whether a baby injured during a botched freebirth might sue his own mother has been raised.
Dr. Don Davis, the outgoing president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, said the society has no difficulties with women who want to give birth at home with the help of a midwife, as long as emergency back-up is available and the mother knows the risks. Around the world, about 500,000 women a year die in childbirth, said Davis.
"That's a reflection that freebirth may not be the best way to go," he said.
This is the craziest thing I have ever heard. As a mom, your job is to do everything in your power to keep your newborn safe. This is not about you...it's about your baby having every option available in case something goes awry.
You have no way of knowing if the umbilical cord is around the baby's neck or if they are sitting in there breech. What do you do if you start to hemorrhage?
I have no issues with home births supervised by a experienced midwife or a mom delivering in the hospital and then going home 2 or 3 hours later. The important thing is that the baby is properly checked over by a medical professional for any problems.