28 May 2007

Freebirth Nonsense

I saw an msnbc story the other day on a growing trend called Freebirthing. Freebirthing is where a soon to be mother chooses to give birth by herself at home, without drugs, doctors, or midwives. If it sounds dangerous and insane, well, that's because it is.

Freebirth proponents in the article insist that having a baby is as intimate an experience as having sex, thus should not be witnessed by anyone except the parents. They claim the current culture of requiring medical assistance is a product of fearmongering by the medical establishment.

The article does interview concerned doctors and other parents who think the freebirthers are nuts. Dr. Crippen from British National Health Service says “giving birth is the most dangerous thing that most woman will do during their life.”

What do the freebirthers think?

"It didn’t make sense to me that something that ensures the continuation of the race would be a dangerous and scary event.”

“We’ve been giving birth for thousands of years and we’re still in this world. If it was that dangerous we wouldn’t be here.”

Morons. You're expelling a living organism with a head the size of a cantaloupe out a small opening in your body; of course it's dangerous and scary! And it doesn't need to be safe to continue the species; all the species needs is more births than deaths, so as long as lots of women are having babies, it doesn't matter to the species if many women and babies die. According to the Wikipedia article, a good estimate of the rate of maternal deaths during childbirth without medical help is 1.5%. With modern medical help, the rate is 0.03%. I don't know about you, but giving birth without medical help looks like a damn foolish idea just from the mother's perspective. I haven't even bothered looking at what happens to the babies. The above mentioned Dr. Crippen wants all freebirth babies with problems to sue their mothers when they grow up.

The piece ends with Mary Siever, an Albertan, saying:
“I can’t claim to know why they feel this way, but my belief is that the majority of them — doctors and health authorities — truly do not think women are intellectually capable of making their own decisions when it comes to birth.”
I'm going to go out on a limb here and speak for the health authorities:

Mary, we don't think women aren't intellectually capable, we think that you aren't intellectually capable.

First off, many, many doctors these days are women - self-sufficient and fully feminist at that - and if this was just an oppression of women thing it would have been eliminated by now. Second, and much more importantly, women can make all the intellectual decisions about their births they want, but you can't just decide not to have complications. You'll get complications whether you want to or not.

You say, "I'll decide to have a nice home freebirth with no help and no complications, and everything will be great." That's nice. Then when the baby starts coming out the wrong way, or you find you can't dilate enough and what looked to be a 8 hour delivery starts to stretch to 20 hours, what then?

Labels: ,


At May 29, 2007 11:59 a.m., Blogger Necator said...


That does sound scary indeed. Interstingly, Jared Diamond in his book Why Sex Is Fun argues that the high mortality rate is one reason why menopause evolved in humans, namely that as a woman's fertility and ability to deliver safley goes down with age, her reproductive potential is sacrificed in favour of ensuring the survival of her offspring and grand-offspring. He cites some studies of hunter gatherer societies where the grand-moms are the primary gatheres in the family ans share all their food with their offspring and grandkids.

...now in modern societies, yes, birthing may be a private and special thing, but I was under the impresion that the recent resurgency of midwifery would allow most women who choose to do so, to undertake birth at hme, in private with medical supervision.

Aardvark, as an aside, is there a wacko fundy component to this? I reckon women havng been birthing for longer than thousands of years.

At May 29, 2007 12:40 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

I was wondering that too about the possible fundie link re: thousands of years. Then again, Genesis says that the childbirthing thing is a punishment and it's supposed to be painful, so either the fundie stuff isn't part of their thinking or they believe they deserve all the pain and risk that God originally intended for them after the fall.

So speaking of that, I wonder if women who want to have natural births are typical fundies. They may also be hippies. I just heard of a sister of a friend of mine who had a baby naturally for her first child. Baby #2 was delivered gladly with the help of drugs.

I just did some more looking around, and this is a typical example of the freebirthers. There is definitely some mystical new-age woo component to it. I have seen one page that is biblical about it though.

At May 29, 2007 12:45 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Just to clear things up, in the second paragraph of my above comment, by "natural births" I meant still with medical supervision but without painkillers. And by "hippies" I meant people who don't wear deodorant and who only take drugs for recreational (not medical) reasons ;-)

At May 29, 2007 7:23 p.m., Blogger TheBrummell said...

...so either the fundie stuff isn't part of their thinking or they believe they deserve all the pain and risk that God originally intended for them after the fall.

Third possibility: they don't think that hard about such things. Everybody knows the bible is literally true, so of course the Earth is 6000 years old. And we'll stop reading there. What's that, women are punished? No, God is all about love, sinner! Don't try to trick me with your satanic "critical thinking" and "reasoning"!

At May 29, 2007 7:25 p.m., Blogger TheBrummell said...

I just heard of a sister of a friend of mine who had a baby naturally for her first child. Baby #2 was delivered gladly with the help of drugs.

I wonder how common that kind of thing is - are the majority of these "freebirth" proponents currently without children? How many of them have already given birth at least once? How many of them have already given birth without benefit of modern medicine at least once?

At May 29, 2007 9:51 p.m., Blogger Necator said...

There is some evidence to suggest that epidurals (sp?) and labour inducing drugs have associated risks to the fetus, so in that regard I don't think that all women who desire natural birth are neccessarily new age hippies. My mother birthed both my sister and me drug free, not because she was insistent about it, but just because she didn't feel she needed them and it didn't come up (she was tough though...beleive me).

The other thing I find disturbing is the opposite of this, women who are too 'posh to push' and get caesarians just for the heck of it.

At May 30, 2007 2:49 a.m., Blogger Stew said...

Freebirthers and their ilk are often concerned with doing things "natural".
I would counter that tooth decay and toothache is natural and they should consider removing their own teeth without anaesthetic in the intimacy of their own homes. And don't go inervening or meddling with painkillers or doctors when your appendix "naturally" goes on the fritz.
When my wife gave birth to our 2 kids it was "I want drugs, I want all the drugs you can give me!"

At May 31, 2007 5:20 p.m., Blogger Carlo said...

"Play Freebirth!!!"

But seriously, WTF? When I was at SFU, there was an interesting article by an MD in the university news about the growing apprehension of people (many women actually) towards the medical establishment. It seems that a lot of people seem to think that because something is 2000 years old, it must have the weight of tradition and... er majesty? behind it.

The argument that the MD put forward was simply that modern medicine is as old as anything else, except for the fact that it actually changes with new information and evidence. Chinese Traditional Medcine is still rubbing bean paste on your cancer...

The final conclusion in that article was that all of this stuff is just the fact that people are really looking for emotional rather than physical solace. The weird mystic crap the Freebirther's hear makes them feel good, and that's what all of this is really about.

At May 31, 2007 6:29 p.m., Blogger Necator said...

Here we go...I found the article. It's crazy how supersitious some of us scientists can be, especially when it comes to certain techniques that are more 'art' than science. Here's an article about how grad students have little rituals before doing science:



At June 01, 2007 4:11 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Not trying to be sexist, but maybe it's a female thing. They do seem to require and receive more emotional rather than physical help than men do. It's certainly possible that for most instances of freebirth the mother will actually do a good job and feel better than if she were attended to by a full medical staff. The problem is just with the significant chance of something going horribly wrong that she can't deal with herself.

Many of the proponents I read about already had gone through it at least once, at least one of them four times.

Some women are tough enough to handle birth without drugs. My wife's mom gave birth to all her kids drug free. Partially it was due to a language barrier (she couldn't understand her doctors so she didn't know drugs were an option), but she's crazy tough and resistant to pain.

I just know that if were in women's shoes and I had to give birth, I'd be like Stew's wife: all the drugs they'd give me.

At June 04, 2007 6:59 p.m., Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

necator: there's a massive difference between "drug-free" and nobody around but dad.

At June 30, 2007 7:15 p.m., Blogger J Hatch said...

"I wonder how common that kind of thing is - are the majority of these "freebirth" proponents currently without children? How many of them have already given birth at least once? How many of them have already given birth without benefit of modern medicine at least once?"

I am a freebirth promoter and have five children. Three were born in the hospital, one was a c-section, and my last two have been born at home with only my husband assisting.

I know it may seem a little nuts to reject the birth machine, but it is a profession that has gone nuts and some of us don't want to be a part of it anymore.

Giving birth to my last baby in the sanctity of my own home was one of the most joyful experiences of my life.

Jenny Hatch

At January 09, 2008 9:58 p.m., Anonymous Katt said...

Ok. I have noticed that most of the negative coments about freebirth and unassisted birth. I have had 3 children at home my first was with a midwife and she was born vaginally frank breech. She is a very healthy happy 4 year old that is smarter than most children 2 years older than her. My other two children were born unassisted the most recent is 15 months old was 3 weeks premature and born in a hotel on our way to a family wedding he is very healthy and happy and has no problems or "damage" as this idiot doctor seems to think happens so commonly. They are experiences that I am proud of. Women especially pregnant who have chosen to take control of their births are very in tune with their bodies and their babies we 'KNOW' when something is wrong. The thing is that this is becoming more common.
I just think it's really funny that men that don't have to go through the pain themselves have so many opinions on what we should do with our bodies. I'd really like to know how many of these men are pro choice. It's ok if I want to on purpose kill my baby but not if I do the research and want to birth them safely and lovingly into this world the best way I think possible. Real pro choice guys.

At January 14, 2008 4:45 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Katt: what happens when the child is born vaginally frank breech without a midwife or doctor around?

You can play the odds yourself and have everything turn out just fine, but if all pregnant women had their babies freebirthed, the trend would be for much increased bad shit to happen. The data I linked showed this quite solidly, I believe.

At October 08, 2008 3:07 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

King Aaardvark,

What many people don't seem to understand is how abusive the medical establishment is toward women who are simply seeking to pass safely through one of the most important rites of womanhood. You would not believe how many women have been "birthraped" in the hospital. Seriously, why do I have to risk humiliation and gang-raping in the hospital by selfish, uncaring staff who only want to make money and avoid lawsuits - all for a fraction of a percentage safer birth???

I know plenty of women who suffer from PTSD due to a humiliating, frightening and abusive birth environment.

Add to that, birth is safer and women (and their babies) experience MUCH less non-lethal bodily damage during freebirth.

I am a mother of 5 beautiful healthy children. My three youngest were freeborn, and my two older children were peacefully born at home with a midwife.

I don't knock women who choose to birth in the hospital with all the medical interventions, but I have a low opinion of those women who believe that freebirthers are nuts without actually talking at length to the women they accuse of being so "irrisponsible."

I hope you will forgive my anger, but I have read and studied more about birth than even some birth specialists, and I have seen the spectrum of lies and misrepresentations about birth. I can't stand to see these lies being perpetuated and innocent people being smeared in an age of supposed "enlightenment." I'm just sick of the bull, already.

If you want to learn more, check out my website at;



At October 12, 2008 4:06 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading things like this!
Gives me a good laugh that ppl are so far removed from the natural life and can only trust in modern ways.

So scary and risky to fall pregnant! How on Earth did the human race survive?

Yes I had a freebirth with my husband just 3 weeks ago. The best experience for us both. He was actually involved this time! I birthed my 4th baby as I did my other 3 but this time baby was only touched by those who truly cared for him.

Of course I can't expect many ppl to understand. But that wasn't why I fb. It was a personal experience.

btw - 20 hr labour isn't very long. A natural labour can go longer. (though mine were very short)
Hosps have policies to intervene which can be harmful. But when you truly understand how natural birth works its a wonnderful thing.

At October 21, 2008 12:50 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freebirthing means giving birth at home, without a midwife or other professional present, intending not to seek medical care unless or until it's necessary. That doesn't mean one will not have access to or seek emergency care if it does become necessary. Most freebirths involve friends or family who are quite capable of calling 911, and in this day and age in countries like America, it does not take long for paramedics to arrive and to transport a laboring woman to the nearest hospital where emergency care is available. Let's also remember that, besides technology and access to medical care, there are many more differences between NOW and a hundred years ago and betwen America and third world countries. Women are more educated, healthier overall, better nourished--not overworked and malnourished. They have access to clean water and adequate shelter, which makes a huge difference in limiting infection.

At December 16, 2008 12:44 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally think it's hilarious that this thread was started, and continued for a long while, by MEN, lol. It really is a shame that there are people in this world that are so closed minded. I am a homebirth midwife in training, planning to give birth freely to my 4th baby in March. I have my own opinions about what is acceptable and what isn't when it comes to birth, but those are just that, my opinions. And I would never call anyone nuts or stupid...or assume that every woman choosing consciously where she births is a hippy who doesn't wear deoderant (and really, that was said in a rather demeaning way on your part...as if hippies should somehow be excused of opinions b/c of their "dumb" ideals). On the other side of that, I am supportive of how ever a woman chooses to birth her baby. This is the 21st century, and with technology comes choices. But don't for a minute believe that you could understand where we freebirthers are coming from, if you don't keep your minds open to the reasoning, and passion that most of us make our decisions with. It can feel SO incredibly offensive to us to read things like this, b/c we are accused of making bad decisions, when really we believe the exact and true opposite...that we are going against the grain to make what we feel is the right and most important decision we will ever be put in charge of. Birth is not inherently dangerous. Why would our bodies be made specifically to birth babies...and why would it be the sole reason we humans are even on this earth, if it were so dangerous?? It has only really been in the last 60 years that birth has been an experience where woman feel need to be controlled in a sterile hospital environment. Before that, men weren't allowed to be a part of it at all...and maybe for good reason, as we can see now what can happen when "women's business" is taken over by egocentric males. It was the ignorance of the male species that over time was successful in convincing us women that birth is dangerous. Men who couldn't possibly "understand" birth (b/c it's not in the natural animalistic nature of a man to understand such things they cannot experience themselves)chose to intervene and take control because it was the only way they could be involved and deemed necessary in the birth process. Did you know that one in three mothers are giving birth in the hospital by C-section? You can't possibly believe that major abdominal surgery in a vast number of women in our society is safer than giving birth the way nature intended. Most of us who give birth outside of the hospital believe that we are protecting ourselves and our babies from un-needed intervention. I would encourage you to educate yourself, and try to understand both sides of the spectrum before you go making assumptions and accusations.

At April 17, 2009 7:36 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had twin boys via C-section only to learn after the fact that I could have had an induction just as safely. My doctor wanted to deliver me before she went out of town. As a result of the c-section, I suffered PTSD, and a life threatening infection. I then also had PPD. My next pregnancy I do plan to freebirth. Solo, actually. I have and am continuing to do lots of research on everything. My main point is women should birth however they feel most comfortable with hospital/doctor, midwife or freebirth. To each her own.

At April 19, 2009 3:14 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...


At April 19, 2009 6:41 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Anonymous number 5, truly sorry about your experience with the selfish doctor. That is truly a problem, regardless of freebirth or no. It's an unnecessary surgery, and that's just risky.

But freebirth itself is more about comfort and selfishness than child safety. It probably is 'nicer' but on the odd chance there is a problem, you'd better believe it's better to have medical experts standing by. It just might save your child's life.

Anon #6, I think I read that article when it was published. Nothing new.

Since all you anonymous commentors love to tell me to 'educate' myself, I tihnk you all might want to educate yourselves on medical statistics about birth problems, say in the developing world where they don't have doctors available.


Post a Comment

<< Home