Disclaimer: The contents on our website are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition, replace the advice of a healthcare professional, or provide any medical device, diagnosis, or treatment.
Across my 5 babies, I’ve had 2 unassisted births, 3 homebirths, and 2 quick hospital births. By far, my most enjoyable and satisfying births have been the freebirths! (See the full stories of my births on these podcast episodes: Episode 16: My Birth Story: An Almost Unassisted Birth – this one’s a good one, on the blog: My Unassisted Birth, and Episode 50: The unassisted waterbirth of our 5th baby: Full Birth Story.)
For my 5th and final baby, I’d hired a midwife because my husband and I were separated at the time. It was rocky and I wanted support.
But she ended up quitting, via text, because she “didn’t want to drive an hour to an appointment” where I didn’t really see her as the one in charge...5 days before my duedate.
You see, we’d agreed that she would help me have an undisturbed birth, one where she sat quietly somewhere in the house and would be there in case I needed something, because I didn’t know whether my husband would be at the birth or not.
She agreed on the surface, but perhaps deep down it really didn’t resonate.
But bigger than that, once I worked through a lot of anger, resentment, and feelings of sisterly betrayal, I realized something huge:
The Universe wants me to have this baby unassisted.
Then I remembered, “Hey! I’ve already written the how-to-have-a-freebirth manual, for goodness’ sake! I’m gonna study up.”
And I pulled out the manuscript for Brave New Birth, which I’d been working on for the past 5 years, and began to refresh myself.
I also refreshed my husband (who was now back in the picture) with the “cliffs notes” version over the next few days - like, these are the red flags, these are reasons to transfer, otherwise don’t let me convince you to take me to the hospital like I did with #2 and #4, and so on.
I mostly absorbed these nuggets I found written in the “How To” section of my book:
- Practice focused relaxation during contractions.
- Do not hyper-focus on every little new sensation.
- Detach your mind from what your body is doing to get out of its way.
- If your body feels better when you do x, do x.
- If your body feels worse when you do y, stop doing y.
- Ensure that your physical environment and people environment provide privacy,
- freedom, and support when/if needed. Plan ahead and protect the space.
- Do not hurry - let nature take her course.
So in today’s show I’d like to tell you about unassisted childbirth, and also introduce my brand new book, which is finally available at bravenewbirth.com.
We will also cover the 9 core principles of an unassisted birth, so we’re all on the same page.
First, what is the definition of unassisted birth, freebirth, undisturbed birth? (from my book:)
Any birth where the mother and baby are free to birth by instinct and are given the privacy and safety necessary for the body and baby to birth themselves, without interference, intervention, or being watched/measured/observed.
(This privacy can be as simple as a towel over one’s face to tune out the room, or it can mean being completely alone.)
This definition allows so many wonderful interpretations. It allows us to retain the option of having someone present our birth and to still proceed with it in an undisturbed, unassisted, and self-directed manner – like having a midwife over who simply knits in the corner, or giving birth at a natural birth center where everyone has agreed to provide full privacy to the mother during labor.
In my research, I haven’t found that unassisted birth is exclusive to being “without a caregiver, at home” – although it often happens this way. For me, it was the lack of a hands-on, hired birth professional (an OB or a midwife) managing my labor that identified my births as “unassisted” – one birth included my husband and my friend, and one included just my husband.
Now that we know what freebirth is, let’s next talk about whether you’re cut out for this type of birth, to DIY labor and childbirth.
Generally, if you don’t have a preexisting health condition, or a pregnancy-related health condition, and you are interested in having this type of birth, great! Your body was made to do this.
From my book:
A woman, “aged twenty-two, who had had three deliveries, previously, had an accident which caused complete paraplegia below the level of the sixth dorsal vertebra. She had fallen fifteen feet through a trap door, holding a baby in her arms. She was one hundred and ninety-six days pregnant. The accident resulted in complete…motor paralysis. (Absolute paralysis, both motor and sensory.) Sixty-four days later she came into labour and had a child weighing 5lb 12.5oz. During the first stage the patient was quite unaware of what was going on, feeling no pain whatever.
At the end of the first stage, the contractions were strong and prolonged, with small weak ones in between them; there was no pain or discomfort.
Second Stage. Contractions every two minutes lasting forty-five seconds approximately; strong and useful; head descended well. She then stated she was conscious of a tight feeling, not painful, but which restricted her breathing.
About one and a half hours later contractions were strong, and there were more signs of distress in the patient. She complained of no pain and only experienced a feeling of tightness at the epigastrium. She held her breath involuntarily and cried out on expiration. The crying out was especially evident as the occiput emerged from under the pubic arch.
These reactions to the late second-stage contractions occurred in the absence of any pain or discomfort. Can it be correct, therefore, to assume that such reactions…indicate pain or discomfort?”
-Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear
Third: if you’re not interested in having an unassisted birth, no worries - you can strive for an “undisturbed,” autonomous birth by setting up the right caregiver, environment, and state of mind.
You can request that your midwife, doula, nurses, OB/GYN not disturb the process, not monitor or check you unless you request, and limit the number of people in the room at any given time. You can have the lights turned down, music on, safety and privacy in any way you feel most inclined.
Just like having a bowel movement, it is HARD and UNNATURAL to give birth in front of a room full of people, or even a single person at all. The sphincters simply operate better the less people in the room.
Fourth, how do we manage our own prenatal care? What do we outsource and what do we do ourselves?
My new book outlines all of this and explains the testing, the options, the full menu of prenatal care, including how to do a self-check at home.
The fifth, and most important, thing is to learn about basic birth biology and the flow of birth. Knowledge is power, and with this knowledge comes freedom.
For ANY type of natural birth, you’ll want to learn about the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle (in other words, relaxing in order to avoid pain in the first place), what certain sensations mean is going on in your labor, the flow of the birth process (and how not to disturb it), what the muscles and hormones are doing and when, and how the birth canal works.
Trust me, all this biology information is ESSENTIAL and is not taught in schools...this knowledge can FREE you from unnecessary pain, transfer, and self-doubt. Knowing your body and this natural process happen with or without you, and what this or that sensation means, is KEY to an autonomous, fulfilling birth - again, with or without a caregiver!
Sixth, here are the 9 core principles I mentioned earlier that will be helpful to internalize:
WE ARE MAMMALS
BIRTH SHOULDN’T HURT
PRIVACY IS EVERYTHING
EVERY BODY SENSATION HAS A PURPOSE
EVERY LABOR IS UNIQUE
EDUCATION IS YOUR ALLY
MOST LABORS ARE NORMAL, MOST EMERGENCIES ARE CLEAR
THE CAREGIVING NETWORK CAN BE YOUR ALLY
7th, did you know there are only 4 reasons to transfer to the hospital during labor? Each needs attention within 15 minutes, so if you live near a hospital, that might ease your mind, just in case.
You can download my handout “The 4 Red Flags of Labor” below:
And there are a handful of what we call “variations from normal” that, if given some time and space, changing positions, etc, will typically normalize on their own - these are not emergencies. A chart outlining all of these variations comes with my book as well.
Last, I just want to remind you that you can apply any of these unassisted birth aspects to your unique labor, at home or in hospital, planned or emergency, with or without a caregiver.
Privacy, a true knowledge of what certain bodily sensations mean, and making sure no one disturbs the process are ALL possible in any environment, you just need to use discernment ahead of time, know your medical rights, and assert yourself.
If you’d like to learn more, please pick up my new book, Brave New Birth, at bravenewbirth.com. There’s also an audiobook version, an immersion course, one-on-one support, Birth Pods around the world and online, and a podcast forthcoming!
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Are you considering a freebirth? Will you perhaps apply some of what’s in the new book to your upcoming birth?
I look forward to speaking with you in the comments below!
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)