Social Question

RedPowerLady's avatar

What do you think of women making the choice to have an unassisted birth?

Asked by RedPowerLady (12576points) December 4th, 2009

I was just online at a pregnancy forum. Someone was discussing how they plan on having a UBAC.

What do you think of women having births unassisted by a midwife or medical professional??

Is it a matter of personal choice or does possible endangerment of baby] overcome that?

Is it completely natural?

More Information
I can’t find any reliable stats on unassisted births and rates of complications

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52 Answers

rangerr's avatar

It’s personal choice, but I think it’s completely bananas.
I’m also super protective of the younger crowd. I’d be paranoid.

tyrantxseries's avatar

isn’t that what they did in the “olden days”?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@tyrantxseries Well depends on how you look at it. Some did but many cultures had midwives. Do you think that if they did it in the olden days it should be allowed now?

@rangerr So you wouldn’t enact legislation that makes it illegal (as an example), just tell people that is bananas?

rangerr's avatar

@RedPowerLady Well.. You asked my opinion, not what I’d do. But I think it’s personal choice.. if people want to do it, then so be it. I’d just be paranoid that something would go wrong. So no, I wouldn’t make it illegal.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@rangerr Your right. Just trying to further the discussion a bit. Thanx for answering :)

DominicX's avatar

I can’t find any reliable stats on unassisted births and rates of complications.

I was just about to ask about that. Unless there’s any real proof that unassisted births result in more deaths of the baby, then I would say it’s completely up to them what they want to do and it should definitely not be illegal.

Women have the choice to abort their baby after all, so why shouldn’t they have the choice to do this?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@DominicX Would you support a friend who wanted to do it? Say a sister or someone close to you where you had a stake in it.

DominicX's avatar


I think I would. If something went wrong, they could always request assistance. I’m assuming they’re not going to go up to an isolated cabin in Trinity County, CA by themselves to have their baby…in that case, I don’t know if I would approve so much just because there’s no chance of emergency care in a situation like that just in case something does go wrong.

RareDenver's avatar

I may be biased here as my step-mother was a midwife and such a good midwife that her job title now is too long to remember (Director of this and that and the other, she even got asked by the Chinese Government to come and fix their maternity healthcare issues) I think that if you refuse the knowledge of the rest of your species, you do it at your own risk. There is a reason that infant/mother deaths were so much higher in the past.

I’m not saying you can’t have your baby at home, I’m just saying that if you choose to you need to have a great staff with you. Any birth can go wrong at any time. In a hospital they have everything on hand to deal with it. At home you want to hope you have the best people to deal with it.

MagsRags's avatar

There is an infamous aphorism among obstetricians that attending birth can best be described as hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

When I was still practicing midwifery, I was never bored but I can personally attest to the moments of terror. I would guesstimate about 80% of labors presuming full term will go smoothly with or without assistance, in terms of healthy mother and healthy baby at the end. The rest benefit from some expert assistance. That can range from simple, like dealing with a cord around the baby’s neck or massaging the uterus to slow down bleeding after the delivery of the placenta – to needing medication or equipment like meds to stop bleeding, sutures to repair major lacerations, oxygen to help a baby get started. And then there are the major crises, like shoulder dystocia, severe hemorrhage, a baby who is unexpectedly limp and blue at birth and doesn’t want to start breathing.

Part of the problem with DIY birth is that you don’t know what you don’t know – it takes a trained eye to anticipate emergencies, and even with the best care, sometimes bad things happen. And then you thank god for having emergency equipment and someone who knows how to use it.

SuperMouse's avatar

I believe this is your choice. It is not a choice any parent should take lightly. I have a friend who had a wonderful birth experience at home with her baby born in the tub with the help of a midwife. I know of several other women who would never dream of going to a hospital to give birth. I made the choice to have all of my boys in the hospital and it is a choice I have not regretted, with the youngest it was a life saving choice.

Unfortunately, I think it might be difficult to find unbiased information on the subject – especially on the internet – as both sides of the issue have an agenda and very strong emotions about it. Maybe you could search some professional journal articles for a more objective point of view.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Having had two children with relatively easy labors, I would never consider it. My first child was born with a hole in her heart, and the second, while a fast labor, was a huge baby, and had the cord wrapped around her neck. Dead babies or permanent damage were distinct possibilities both times.

Frankie's avatar

I’m absolutely in support of unassisted home birth, provided it’s a low-risk pregnancy and you are in a safe, clean, supportive environment. I actually just wrote a research paper about home birth (assisted and unassisted) and how much better an experience it tends to be for women. Modern pregnancy is seen as such a pathological state and as a result, the whole process of pregnancy and childbirth has become incredibly medicalized to an almost unreal extent, and I really disagree with that notion. As @SuperMouse said, it’s hard to find unbiased information. But I can say that women who have home births have much less chance of having an unnecessary c-section and therefore at less risk for infection and death resulting from c-section.

Unassisted birth definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s a personal choice and as long as the woman is being realistic and smart about it, I really don’t see a problem. And I wish the US could be more open to alternative ways of giving birth.

faye's avatar

I am incredibly glad that people got trained to help me have my babies!!! I don’t think my oldest or youngest would have lived had I been at home. It was a knowledgable nurse that knew they were in trouble. My 3rd baby almost fell out so I could easily have had her at home but she would have died 4–5 hours later.

jaytkay's avatar

I would not recommend it. But a dear friend had 4 healthy kids at home.
As a man with no kids, I guess her experience trumps mine.

MagsRags's avatar

@SuperMouseyou’re right that it’s difficult to find unbiased information but I’m not aware of any official statistical research on unattended home birth. It’s pretty much an under the radar movement. Most of mainstream western obstetrical medicine has a very hard time with out of hospital birth in general, even when attended by well trained midwives with emergency equipment available. There is statistical data gathered by every state from filed birth certificates, including how many babies born in and out of hospital, along with the type of delivery attendant – for unattended home birth, it would be lsited as “nonmedical”. But there’s no way to tell how many of those were intended and how many were the result of a labor that went too fast.

The biggest and best done study investigating the safety of out-of-hospital birth came out in 1989. The National Birth Center Study followed more than 11,000 women through pregnancy and birth and found that low risk women who delivered in birth centers attended by CNMs had outcomes just as good as similarly healthy women delivering in hospitals but with a mush lower C-section rate. That’s with the safety net of a qualified attendant who can recognise trouble and get you to the hospital if there’s time or have the training and equipment to deal with unforseeable emergencies.

MagsRags's avatar

@Frankie how does the woman know she is low risk? Are you assuming she will have received prenatal care somewhere? And in labor, how do she and her family know that the baby continues to be low risk? Take a look at the abstract of the National Birth Center Study – 7.9% of those low risk women had serious emergency complications during labor or birth or immediately after such as thick meconium, shoulder dystocia or hemorrhage. As a midwife, I know how to recognise those problems and have training and experience to help resolve them. We always had oxygen, intubation equipment, and medications with us. 2.9% of those women needed emergency transfer, because the midwife attendant could not adequately deal with the problem in the birth center setting. We had transfer protocols t make it go as smoothly as possible. We could call the hospital to tell them what we were bringing in and to have everything ready. The midwife would keep giving hands-on care during the transfer, so precious time wasn’t lost.

Please understand that I believe in normal birth – I had a home birth myself and have attended over 2 thousand births in my career, hundreds of those at home or at a free-standing birthcenter.

avvooooooo's avatar

I think that when it comes to having a child that it is only smart to take as many precautions as possible to protect yourself and your child. For myself, I would never consider a home birth, much less an unassisted birth, if I had a choice. Sometimes you don’t and then its a whole different ball game. :)

Then again, I would also probably seek out a midwife in a medical setting. Its a more woman-centered deal than dealing with a doctor with who knows how many other patients in labor at the same time while still being in a place where help is readily available if needed. At the very least, I think that doulas who can help advocate for the mother are a good idea. There are ways to make the experience of giving birth less stressful and more of what you want, but you would have to do the legwork to find out what’s available in your area and what your options are.

When I get to that point in my life, I hope I have access to a nurse midwife who is associated with a hospital where I can deliver with relative safety while it can still be more mother-friendly. If that fails, a hospital birth with a doctor and a doula would be second, without a doula third, and so on with unassisted home birth being last right after delivering in an ambulance with an EMT with the doors open and 50 people watching in freezing temperatures. :)

skfinkel's avatar

When people are talking about unassisted, are they talking about “alone”? If ever there is a time to have someone give your some help—be it a hand squeeze or an encouraging word, it is during the birth of a child.

Do you think this is connected at all to the idea that the new family also have no assistance in the first few weeks after birth so they can bond ?

Frankie's avatar

@MagsRags Maybe the woman had prenatal care from a midwife or GP or OB/GYN or what have you, who determined that she was low risk, and just preferred to go through the actual birth alone. I don’t know, as I’m not that woman and I’m not in anyone’s head here. Furthermore, that’s not really what the original question asked. My deal is that, essentially, it is up to the woman. If she wants to give birth alone, go at it. I seriously doubt that any woman who willingly gives birth alone in her home does so without doing any research into the risks, so if she is willing to take those risks, that is her choice. I know that personally I would want an experienced midwife to help me, but just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that that’s how everyone should give birth.

Frankie's avatar

@skfinkel Unassisted generally means without medical help (doctor, midwife, etc.). Family and friends are usually there to encourage and support, but sometimes women really do want to be completely alone and family members wait in another room while she does her thing, but I think that is much less common.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Frankie my third pregnancy was low risk and followed on the heels of two perfectly normal comparatively easy child birth experiences, yet if not for the c-section my third baby would not have survived or at the very least had severe brain damage. That is what concerns me about the idea of “low risk” pregnancies. @MagsRags even with the expert care you describe my baby would not have made it without being taken in a matter of minutes. He was delivered within 10 minutes of going into distress, but he was still not breathing and had to be intubated. As it was no one could tell me whether he was brain damaged or not, all the doctors would say was that he seemed ok but only time would tell. FYI, he is now a happy, healthy, bright, incredibly goofy and smart mouthed 7 year-old.

I guess the way I look at this issue is that while it would be ridiculous to attempt to pass legislation about this type of thing (can you say “nanny state”), I think it is a decision best made with lots and lots and lots of thought, research, and deliberation. In my opinion if the risk of death or brain damage is there, no matter how small, it is not worth it.

@RedPowerLady I am sorry if I gave too much information, I was kind of trying to avoid that because I remember being pregnant and everyone wanting to share their pregnancy/birth horror stories with me. It was something I dreaded, but in the end I decided it was important to put the other side out there.

casheroo's avatar

@RedPowerLady Ohhh, have you seen the debates of women not receiving ANY prenatal care, and doing UA childbirth? Those are a hoot!

I can completely understand why a woman who has received a c-section or given birth in a hospital would want to give birth at home. Hell, I’d give birth at home if I knew I could have an epidural lol.
Usually, after giving birth, you learn the truth of what goes on. How it’s treated like a medical procedure and not just a natural act like it should be. I’m all for interventions, and I’m glad we have them..but they are much overused. And the fact that they do c-sections in such a way that you are strapped down? It’s scary. I think it’s the UK, I forget exactly where…oh, here’s an article on natural c-section
I know I read another that included multiple pictures, and the mother gets to hold the baby right away and see the baby come out (not everything, but the baby) it’s more like a vaginal delivery and they try to personalize it..which if I needed a c-section, I would want..but I know in my case, if I need one, it’d only be for an emergency.

I think a big issue is how scared they make the delivery out to be. Yes, there are so many things that can go wrong, but there are also plenty of normal births.
I personally would never choose an unassisted birth. I’d want at least a midwife present.

SuperMouse's avatar

@casheroo I was totally there on that article expect for the part about lowering the curtain! Eww! I so do not ever want to see my innards, even if there is a baby coming out of them!

Frankie's avatar

@SuperMouse I’m certainly not saying that everyone who is classified low-risk should give birth at home, assisted or unassisted. As I said in a previous post, women who choose that route tend to have done a lot of research on it and accept the risks that may come with home birth. If they accept those risks and have a safe environment, then I believe the way they give birth is their choice. I don’t think it should be made illegal, but I also never said that every woman with a low-risk pregnancy should birth at home…it’s about what she is comfortable with.

Jeruba's avatar

I would expect everybody who’s against abortion to also be against taking this kind of risk in childbirth. I would also expect many who support a woman’s right of choice to be against taking such a risk with a full-term baby. If there are laws about child endangerment, laws requiring vaccination, etc., it seems logical that there should be laws requiring a minimal standard of care at the time of delivery.

tinyfaery's avatar

Personal choice. I don’t even see how I have a right to make a judgment.

Do we really need more laws? sigh

Facade's avatar

It’s their right to choose, but I feel it is completely unwise. Why not have all the resources and assistance you can when attempting to bring another human life into the world? It’s way too risky. I guess I just feel that people should take full advantage of the medical advances that have been achieved.

Frankie's avatar

@Jeruba I don’t know if that would truly be logical—if there were laws like that then, theoretically, women who accidentally give birth in cars on the way to hospitals, or in their house when there’s a blizzard outside and they can’t drive to the hospital, could potentially be charged under those laws. I think if laws like that are enacted it can get pretty scary pretty fast, like someone else said about the “nanny state.” I’m pro-choice because I’m against the state telling me what to do with my body, and in the same vein, I’m against the state telling me how and where to give birth.

Frankie's avatar

I’m completely with you @tinyfaery . Lurve!

rooeytoo's avatar

I never had a baby but I have had a lot of litters of pups and I would never have allowed the bitch to just “do it herself.” I was always there to assist for a breach, or a dead pup, or any of the numerous other problems that could arise. The vet was always on alert in case we needed them and the car was fueled and ready to go.

I can’t imagine anyone having an unassisted birth at home. Even if it goes wrong only 1 time out of 20, I wouldn’t want to take the chance of being that 1.

I do like the idea of a midwife because it is a woman’s thing but I think I would search for a hospital that allows mid wife assisted birth so all of modern medicine is just a few footsteps away if I need it.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

My youngest was saved because we had him in a hospital.. with doctors… and medical professionals.. and their equipment… without them present he would have died.

If having a baby unassisted is so important to you that you are willing to risk them dying… than by all means.. prevent the overflow of your gene pool… i’m just sayin… lol

casheroo's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater Babies die in hospitals. Mothers die in hospitals. People catch nasty infections from just being in a hospital. I’m sure they could argue how unsafe being there while giving birth is.

master_mind413's avatar

in my opinion i think it is a personal choice that should not be mandated by the government seriously think about that for a second the government telling you were you have to go to get medical help without any choice at all ? thats like signing up for obama care its just plain idiotic

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@casheroo That seems a bit far stretched to imply that it’s just as likely for a baby or a mother to die in a hospital as it does out of a hospital. Are you arguing this? Or are you just playing devil’s advocate?

casheroo's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater Not arguing that specifically. I’m just saying, the risks of a hospital birth are much different than the risks of a homebirth (more chance of infection in hospital, more unnecessary intervention which can traumatize the mother…like episiotomy, use of vacuum or forceps, forced c-sections)

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@casheroo I’ll be honest.. what you’re saying seems ridiculous to me. But that’s ok. To each his/her own right?

casheroo's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater… I’m not sure whats so ridiculous about it. I never stated that homebirth came with no risks. Of course there are some, and all I am saying is that having hospital birth has risks as well. Are you trying to say there is absolutely no risk at all in a hospital??? That seems ridiculous to me.

master_mind413's avatar

I think you both need to agree to disagree you both have good points there is no right or wrong no matter how right you think you are some one else has an opinion it is what makes this world great

DrBill's avatar

Women have been doing it for several thousand years, and the human race has prospered. I think with the medical help available, she should at least have someone “in the wings” just in case complications were to happen.

faye's avatar

Episiotomies are gifts from the gods!!

augustlan's avatar

I was at high-risk for complications, so this wasn’t an option for me. I couldn’t even give birth at a birthing center right near the hospital. But my kids weren’t considered ‘at risk’... they were all perfectly fine throughout all 3 pregnancies. When my third ‘perfectly fine’ child was born, she needed oxygen right away to get her breathing going. She also had to be in a warming bed for several hours after the birth to get her temp regulated. If we’d been at home, who knows what might have happened? After having that experience, I was very grateful that I hadn’t been ‘allowed’ to give birth elsewhere.

I used a midwife in the hospital for the last two, and loved that experience. Midwives are great at reducing unnecessary interventions, and seem more willing to go along with your wishes as long as possible. I had no epidurals and with the last two, no episiotomies, either. I much preferred that. The good news about hospital birth settings is that most modern labor & delivery areas are designed to be ‘like home’. You labor and deliver in the same room, complete with rocking chairs and other seating. In some places, this is also the room you and your baby will stay in the entire time you’re at the hospital.

Given all of that, I would never recommend an unassisted birth… or even a home birth. I know women have been doing it that way forever, but why not take advantage of the medical safeguards that are available today? I honestly don’t know how I feel about enacting laws about it… I’m always of two minds when it comes to this sort of thing.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I would never consider an at home birth. I wouldn’t want to take the risk of having any sort of complications during or after the pregnancy without having a readily available team of doctors by my side. Even with the woman that had no prior complications during her pregnancy…things happen all the time during childbirth that nobody could have predicted. In my eyes, the safest bet would be having your baby delivered in a hospital. I see very little pros to an at home or unassisted deliver.

MissAnthrope's avatar

More power to ‘em, but for myself, hells to the no.

wildpotato's avatar

Personal choice thing, all the way.

Me, I’m told that I won’t be able to have children without doing c-sections because my hips are too narrow. So though I’d rather never enter a hospital again, and I think I could deal with the lack of epidural, it’s not really an option.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m all for it—we need fewer stupid people in this world and this will certainly help with that.

rangerr's avatar

This thread can be summarized with having a baby is dangerous anywhere, so lets just stop having babies. ~

MagsRags's avatar

Had somewhere to be last evening so am just coming back to this.
@Frankie I agree that this should not be legislated.

I did a bit of googling on this topic this morning, and I found this blog post – it’s written by a homebirth midwife, an open letter to an Australian woman who has been a very vocal proponent of “Free Birth”. The Australian woman’s baby died after a very long labor and UBAC. It speaks very eloquently and respectfully to the issues.

casheroo's avatar

@MagsRags Interesting blog. I feel like I read about the death of that baby. I’m on a community of mothers, and some of the natural birthers have such a disdain for any help. One lost her baby at a homebirth, with a midwife present and completely blames the midwife.
I know people on here may think I absolutely hate doctors or all interventions, but my disgust is only in the unnecessary interventions. They wanted to use a vacuum to get my son out, I refused. There was absolutely no need for it .He was slow to come out (about 3 hours of pushing), but I would have definitely accepted the vacuum if the baby had decels, or if I was in trouble…but none of that was the case..the birth was just taking too long for the OB. So to me, those are my issues with how birth is done.

I also know of a mother from that community who was a “unassisted birth” supporter, having never had a child, planning for it at home. She ended up going to the ER, and her baby had to be hospitalized for GBS. With proper prenatal care, that could have been prevented. It’s scary to think women think they can treat such infections at home.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

It is her choice and I respect it. In many native American cultures such was the rule, the woman not allowed to rejoin the band until the newborn was trained to silence, a matter of survival for the whole band. I would in no way ever attempt to tell a woman how to deliver her baby, nor should the state have any say in the matter. Just be aware that some ways are more hazardous than others.

Ron_C's avatar

My connection to maternity care is through my wife who has been a maternity nurse for 40 years. There are too many things that can go wrong during the birth process. Assistants like mid-wives can provide the best insurance for a live, healthy baby. Women that choose to do things for themselves stand a good chance of killing themselves and their baby.

It is a woman’s choice but the husband should also have a say in it. If they choose to go without competent assistance, so be it. I guess that is Darwinism in effect. The woman and her child will no longer breed additional stupidity into the race. Maybe it’s a good thing.

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