“Is Freebirth legal?” This is one of the most common questions asked on VBAC or birth trauma pages. And to answer honestly, technically it is, yes. You can’t really arrest women for giving birth to babies without an attendant because it happens accidentally all the time. Babies are born by the side of the road as their parents were making their way to hospital, a woman in China had a baby on a bus, a friend had her baby in a shopping centre. Birth is unpredictable, we can’t just arrest every woman who doesn’t make it to hospital on time …. well we could, but at this point we don’t.
So in the same vain, but somewhat left of field, let’s take it one step further and look at the ways government not only support, but ENCOURAGE women to freebirth.
1) They close birth centres: Women love birth centres, many would much prefer the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of a birth centre, than a creaky hospital bed and lighting like the Bates Motel. You can always tell when a government prefers women to freebirth, because they close the local birth centres!
2) They ban or restrict VBAC: “Wait one minute here” I hear you say “surely governments don’t want women giving birth unassisted after a caesarean or five?!” Oh but they must! Women aren’t stupid. They know their odds of VBAC in a hospital are really slim, and they know that accessing genuinely supportive care, and evidence based practice, is incredibly difficult so they freebirth …. and clearly the government supports that or they’d step in and and tackle the aggressive, overzealous practices of hospitals and surgeons. They would demand a reduction in caesarean rates, and a significant increase in VBAC for the health and wellbeing of everyone. Governments wouldn’t permit hospitals to ban VBAC if they didn’t support freebirth!
3) They stamp out independent midwifery: Lots of women love homebirth with the support of a midwife, but lots of governments prefer women to freebirth. When it’s illegal to practice midwifery outside of a hospital, the government is clearly instructing women to freebirth,They might not write it quite like that in their policy, but we all know governments are slippery like that. We all know governments like to waffle, right?
4) Where midwifery is available they regulate it to within an inch of its life: They insist that midwives practice obstetric nursing rather than midwifery, they demand unattainable levels of insurance or surgical back up from surgeons who won’t play ball. They allow insurance companies to refuse to provide indemnity insurance to midwives. This is arguably not so much a freebirth policy as a policy that supports underground midwifery. Of course it does result in many midwives handing in their registration though, so it does, unquestioningly, albeit in a thinly veiled manner, support freebirth. Yay governments!
So if your government has introduced any of the above policies, we implore you to send them an email thanking them for encouraging freebirth. Freebirthers everywhere describe their freebirths as the most liberating, empowering experiences they ever have. This is especially true for women who have previously sought standardised hospital maternity care and found it traumatic or substandard.
Another subject you could email them about is their refusal to provide genuine support or choice to the women who are bringing the next generation into the world. With a one in three caesarean rate, higher in many places, and terrifying stories of obstetric violence spilling out everywhere, perhaps it’s time that governments acted. Maybe it’s time they reined in obstetric practice and rolled out midwifery for any woman who wants it, and any midwife who wants to provide it.
Of course some women will still opt for freebirth, and that is perfectly ok too. The point is that it should be a genuine CHOICE, and not a government policy.
FOR FURTHER READING