- Freebirth is when you choose to have your baby with no help from a healthcare provider.
- There are many reasons why you may choose to have a freebirth.
- It’s important to be aware of the risks of free birth, and plan well before you choose to have one.
What is a freebirth?
Freebirth is when you choose to birth your baby without medical or midwifery assistance. It’s also known as an unassisted birth. Usually, the baby is born at home. Although some people choose to have their baby at a location with special significance to them.
Currently in Australia, around 97% of births occur in hospital. The remainder are either:
- born before the pregnant woman can get to hospital
- born at home with a midwife
- freebirths, where the birth isn’t attended by a health professional
How is freebirth different from a usual home birth?
Freebirth is not a home birth.
For a home birth, a trained health professional is present — generally 2 midwives.
With freebirth, only the pregnant woman is present. They may invite their partner or other family members to also attend.
Why would someone choose to have a free birth?
There are many reasons why you may choose to have a freebirth.
Pregnant people may want to be in control of their baby’s birth. You may choose to have a freebirth if you have clear ideas about:
- how you want to birth your baby
- who you want with you during your baby’s birth
- whose support you want during your baby’s birth
- what birth intervention you want
You may consider it important to:
- feel a strong sense of connection to where your child is born
- have the freedom to include your children and other family members in your baby’s birth
You may find it too difficult to discuss opposing views at a hospital or with a healthcare provider.
Some pregnant people may strongly believe they are safer at home than in a hospital. There are different reasons for this.
You may have had a previous traumatic or negative birth experience. These experiences can make you want to be more independent with your next birth.
Other people may believe in their body’s ability to give birth without any help. They might not want to be interrupted, so that they can focus during labour and birth.
What are the benefits of freebirth over a homebirth?
It can be difficult to find and afford midwives who will support homebirths.
This is because, outside of a health care centre, midwives must pay for their Professional Indemnity Insurance. This cost is not currently covered by Medicare . If you have private health insurance, speak to your provider to see if this cost is covered.
While there are publicly funded homebirth programs in Australia, they’re only open to those who meet certain criteria.
Research has shown that planned homebirths can be safe for low-risk pregnancies, with:
- less complications during birth
- a higher chance of a normal vaginal birth
- a lower chance of postnatal depression
If you don’t meet the criteria for a homebirth, you may choose to have a freebirth. However, there are still risks that come with freebirth.
What are the risks of freebirth?
Freebirth can increases the risks of childbirth for both you and your baby. This is because of a few factors.
During a homebirth, or a birth in hospital, complications can be diagnosed by a:
- a midwife
- an obstetrician
- another health professional
If something goes wrong in hospital, there are:
- resources available
- healthcare professionals who are trained to provide support
If you have a freebirth, any complications may go undetected. Even if your pregnancy is low risk, problems can still occur.
This is why birthing with a trained maternity care provider present is considered the safer option.
Risks to the birthing parent
Some risks to the pregnant woman that may go unnoticed in a freebirth are:
- abnormal or excessive bleeding, either before, during or after birth
- undiagnosed health problems, such as high blood pressure
- delayed or limited progress in labour
- retained placenta
- significant damage to your perineum or your pelvic floor
- infection in you or your baby
Risks to your baby
Some risks to your baby that may go unnoticed in a freebirth are:
- abnormal presentation, such as when the baby is in a breech position
- prematurity or low birth weight
- cord prolapse or cord compression
- abnormal changes in the baby’s heart rate
How can I make my freebirth as safe as possible?
If you want to have a freebirth, do as much research as you can. Speak with maternity care providers about your individual risk factors. Then, weigh up what is right for you and your baby.
You should prepare an emergency management plan, especially if you live remotely or regionally. This is very important in case you or your baby need immediate support and transfer to hospital. You can:
- make sure you have safe transport available — such as a car
- contact a hospital before the birth
Read more here about maternity services in rural Australia.
Take birthing or antenatal classes. These classes help you prepare for having your baby. They also give you the chance to ask questions.
Be organised in the preparation and set-up for where you will have your baby. Your birthing place should be sterile and safe. You can ask a healthcare professional for advice on what you will need, such as:
- sterilised scissors to cut your baby’s cord
- clamp to secure the cord
- a clean, soft place to lie or stand
- wraps to keep your baby warm
Consider hiring a doula to help you during labour. Doulas don’t have medical qualifications, although most have undergone some training in birth support.
Resources and support
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2023