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What is freebirth?

5-minute read

Freebirth is the practice of women birthing their baby without without medical or midwifery assistance. Generally, the baby is born at home, although some women choose to have their baby at a place or site which has special significance to them.

Currently in Australia, around 97% of births occur in hospital. The remainder are either born before the mother can arrive at hospital, or they are home births with a midwife, or freebirths, where the birth is not attended by any health professional.

How is freebirth different from a usual home birth?

The major difference between home birth and freebirth is that with home birth, a trained health professional, generally a midwife, is present. With freebirth, only the woman and perhaps her partner and other family members are present.

Why do some women choose to have a free birth?

Women who choose to freebirth are generally keen to make up their own minds about how and where they birth their baby. They may also have clear ideas about whom they want with them during their baby’s birth and about the support they receive.

Some women strongly believe they are safer at home than in a hospital. They may have had a previous traumatic or negative birth experience and want to be more independent with their next birth. They may also want to be the one in control, making their own choices, and find it too difficult to manage possible opposition to their views from a hospital or healthcare provider. This might include what they see as potentially unnecessary birth intervention.

Other women have a strong belief in their body’s ability to birth without any assistance and want to minimise disruption so they can fully focus during labour and birth. They may also have a strong belief that birth leaves life-long impressions and needs to be managed in the most sensitive way possible, with minimal intervention.

Having a connection to a place, usually home, might also be why a woman chooses a freebirth. For her, feeling a strong sense of connection to her home environment and perhaps wanting her children and other family members to be present and to witness the new baby’s birth can make freebirth an attractive option.

Why do some women choose freebirth over a midwife-supported homebirth?

One of the most common reasons women choose freebirth is the challenge in finding midwives who will support homebirths. The cost of professional liability insurance is very high for independent maternity care providers, especially those who attend homebirths.

Another reason — assuming you can find one — is the cost of having a homebirth midwife. This cost is not covered by Medicare or private health insurers.

Are there any dangers with a free birth?

Health professionals generally agree that freebirth increases a range of risk factors for both a mother and her baby. In hospital, if something goes wrong, there are resources and healthcare professionals who are trained to provide immediate support and interventions.

What risks come with a free birth?

Many of the risks of freebirth relate to conditions being undetected or undiagnosed without a midwife, obstetrician or health professional present. It’s not uncommon for obstetric emergencies to happen even in the absence of risk factors. This is why birthing with a trained maternity care provider present is considered the safer option.

Some risks to the mother include:

Some risks to the baby include:

If you do decide to have a free birth, what can you do to make it as safe as possible?

Do as much reading and research as you can. Speak with maternity care providers about your individual risk factors and weigh up what is right for you and your baby.

It's important you have an emergency management plan to follow in case you or your baby need immediate support and transfer to hospital.

Take birthing or antenatal classes to help you prepare for having your baby, which will allow you to ask questions.

Be organised in the preparation and set-up for where you will have your baby. A clean, soft place to lie or stand on, wraps to keep the baby warm, sterilised scissors to cut the baby’s cord and clamp to secure the cord are essential.

Consider hiring a doula to help you during labour. Doulas don’t have medical qualifications, although most have undergone some training in birth support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2021


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Need more information?

About doulas | Raising Children Network

Doulas support women with information and practical and emotional care during pregnancy and birth. Doulas work in homebirth and hospital settings.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Homebirth: pregnancy care and birth | Raising Children Network

Homebirth is an option for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies who can transfer to hospital. Private midwives care for homebirthing women in pregnancy.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Homebirthing in the NT - NT.GOV.AU

Homebirths in Alice Springs, Darwin and remote areas of the NT.

Read more on NT Health website

Choosing where to give birth

Advice on choosing where to give birth, including a midwifery unit or birth centre, hospital or at home, and what to expect from private and public care.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Midwives: guide for women & families | Raising Children Network

Midwife means being ‘with woman’. Midwives care for women during pregnancy, labour and birth. They work in hospitals, birth centres and homebirths.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Health professionals involved in your pregnancy

Information on the health professionals involved in your pregnancy, such as midwives, doctors and obstetricians.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Maternity services in rural Western Australia

Find out what maternity services are available in rural or remote Western Australia

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Home birth

Healthy women who have been assessed to be at 'low risk' may be offered a choice of where they wish to give birth. If you choose a home birth, speak to your midwife or doctor first.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Maternity services in remote Northern Territory

Find out what maternity services are available in remote Northern Territory

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy care & birth: public hospitals | Raising Children Network

Public hospitals are safe options for pregnancy care and birth. Midwives usually look after women having public hospital births. Medicare covers most costs.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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