This woman had a free birth, but what even is that and is it safe?

Marie Claire Dorking
Lacey Haynes had a free birth, which meant delivering her baby at home without medical assistance [Photo: Instagram/verylacey]
Lacey Haynes had a free birth, which meant delivering her baby at home without medical assistance [Photo: Instagram/verylacey]

Home birth, water birth, natural birth, caesarean section birth…there are many different ways to deliver a baby into the world, but one mum recently shared her experience of having free birth.

It might not be something you’ve read about in your NCT notes, but that’s likely because a free birth is when you have a baby without medical existence.

“For us, that meant no scans, no doctors and 58 hours of labour in our lounge: just me, my husband, Flynn, and our friend Claire,” Lacey Haynes told The Guardian.

The 32-year-old, new mum went on to explain that though she began her pregnancy by attending her midwife appointments, but after finding herself in tears after one midwife appointment she made the decision she wanted a free birth.

“We never extricated ourselves from the system; we just didn’t go for check-ups or scans,” she explains. “I recognised that things could go wrong and I might have changed my mind. I wasn’t foolish.”

After continuing to refuse scans or appointments, Lacey eventually went into labour at 7pm on Friday 17th February with her baby girl Fox arriving on Monday 20th February.

“I used yoga, meditation, chanting and watched hypnobirthing tutorials on YouTube on the Saturday night,” she tells The Guardian. “By Sunday, I was weak. That’s the only time we called the midwife. She came over twice, checked me, and both times said, “Keep going”, and left.”

And afterwards the new mum took to Instagram to share an image of her in labour and describe her free birth experience.

“With love, devotion, belief and the greatest joy, we free birthed our baby girl Fox into the world at 1am on Monday!” she wrote.

“Seeing (and feeling) this new human life move from my womb to our world was the most mind-heart-blowing experience of my life!”

“I can’t wait to tell you all about the at-home birthing experience where Flynn and I delivered our own baby and where my dreams for this birth, this journey of new life, came to fruition!” she continued.

But though Lacey clearly had an amazing birth experience, some experts, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have raised some concerns about the concept of free birth.

“Every woman should have the right to give birth in an environment in which she feels comfortable, and should be supported in her birth choice. However, we believe that the safety and wellbeing of the mother and baby are paramount,” explains Dr Patrick O’Brien, spokesperson for the RCOG.

“While most women give birth safely and without any problems, some women have a higher risk of complications and childbirth can be unpredictable even among women at low-risk of complications,” Dr O’Brien continues.

“Women must be made aware of the risks and benefits of giving birth in different settings in order to make an informed decision. Access to consultant-led maternity care in a timely manner, should any problems occur, is also crucial.”

So what are the risks of giving birth without a midwife or doctor? And do these apply to healthy, low-risk women who’ve had previously straightforward vaginal births?

“If women choose to give birth without a midwife or doctor present, it is important they understand the risks,” explains Dr O’Brien. “If they would like an epidural or a complication occurs during labour, help will be further away and they may need to be transferred to hospital.”

“Any woman could experience complications which may require emergency intervention, including if the baby becomes distressed during labour, the baby’s shoulders get stuck during birth, or the woman bleeds heavily after the birth.”

Some women are opting for free births to try and avoid medical intervention [Photo: Getty]
Some women are opting for free births to try and avoid medical intervention [Photo: Getty]

Dr O’Brien says there are some alternatives to freebirth available for women who are anxious about giving birth in hospital, have had previously traumatic births or want to have as little intervention as possible.

“A home birth, in which the woman is supported by a midwife, may be suitable for healthy, low-risk women who are having a second or subsequent child and have had a straightforward pregnancy,” he explains.

“Women who have a homebirth are also less likely to have an intervention, such as forceps or ventouse, than those giving birth in hospital. However, for women having their first baby, evidence shows a home birth slightly increases the risk of a poor outcome for the baby,” he continues.

Dr O’Brien believes that some degree of anxiety about giving birth is common in expectant mothers. “Those women who have had a previous traumatic experience or a morbid fear of childbirth should be offered counselling to help them address their fears, and be given the opportunity to talk through their concerns with their midwife and doctor.”

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