If you are extremely unlucky, you may give birth in the car on the way to the maternity ward. Nobody would purposely give birth at home without the assistance of trained medical professionals or would they?
What is unassisted childbirth?
Unassisted childbirth is a term coined by Laura Shanley, a woman who gave birth alone without a doctor, midwife, or anyone else several times. The basic meaning of the term unassisted childbirth is apparent labor and birth without the assistance or attendance of medical professionals. This can happen if the birth went really quickly, and you didn't make it to the hospital in time, but a small minority of women within the homebirth community makes the conscious decision to delivery their baby without the attendance of a doctor or midwife. Read around on message boards for attachment parenting proponents, and you may find whole discussions on what is and is not unassisted childbirth. Is it still a "UC" if you have a midwife in the other room, just in case? What if your husband catches the baby? What if you have a group of 20 friends chanting birth music to help you along? If you are feeling pulled in to a discussion, you are probably familiar with unassisted childbirth. Otherwise, you would typically be thinking any woman who decides to have a baby without a doctor or a midwife is crazy and irresponsible. Why on earth would anyone choose to go back to the Middle Ages when you have a hospital down the road?
Who would choose you give birth alone?
Families who make the unconventional choice to stay away from medical facilities and even any medical professionals at all during their labor and delivery are in a very small minority. Around one percent of mothers giving birth in the United States have a homebirth. Within that group, you will find a much smaller number of women who delivered a baby without medical help, and an even smaller percentage who actually did it on purpose. Their reasons vary from woman to woman, but most often include one or more of the following:
- Seeing pregnancy, labor and birth as natural processes that only require medical intervention when something is wrong. In other words, believing the reproductive process to be inherently safe as safe and automatic and breathing, or having a bowel movement.
- Believing that mothers and father can, with some research, be just as well-equipped as any midwife to handle a normal birth.
- Believing that the medical interventions that are so common in hospitals today cause the need for further interventions. One example commonly used among natural birth advocates is that induction of labor leads to a more painful labor, leading to an epidural, leading to fetal distress and/or failure to progress, leading to a cesarean section.
- Not being able to find an adequate healthcare provider and opting to give birth alone instead.
- Seeing birth as a natural event that needs to be celebrated by the whole family, and sometimes many friends.
- Seeing birth as something best carried out in solitude, without the looking eyes and touching hands of many doctors, nurses and students.
- Having a history of very short labors.
- Having had a traumatic experience in the past sexual abuse, rape, or previous birth trauma.
- Feeling that fear, caused by the hospital environment, can stall labor.
Is unassisted birth safe? Very few professionals would argue so. Those who choose unassisted birth certainly see it as a viable choice, and often indeed as the safest choice available to them. Is it legal, then? Certainly, it would be rather pointless to prohibit a woman from giving birth. It can and does just happen, after all. Should you attempt to do it yourself, by choice? Well, that is definitely not advisable unless you are willing to be responsible for everything that could possibly go wrong, and to live with the consequences the rest of your life.
Why every pregnant woman should prepare for a DIY birth
Nobody is going to argue that planning to give birth without the attendance of qualified medical professionals is a safe option for most women. There is something we can all learn from the small group of women who does give birth solo, however. Looking at online forums and blogs written by women who have made this choice, you can see that they put an enormous amount of effort into gathering all possible information about pregnancy, labor, birth, and how to handle possible complications. Most women would rely on someone who went to medical school to tell them everything they need to know. Reading a few midwifery manuals or having a book about emergency childbirth on hand, and getting some basic birth supplies, is a great idea for any woman. You never know if you are going to give birth much faster and perhaps much earlier than you planned to, after all. Having some idea about how to deliver your own baby will help you keep your head cool while you wait for the ambulance to arrive. And you won't have to rely on a bunch of flight attendants, a cab driver, or a shop assistant to figure it out.