Sunday, November 2, 2008

Unassisted Birth... A Good Thing?

Unassisted Childbirth (sometimes called UC for short) seems to be growing by leaps and bounds in popularity. Is it a trend that we want to encourage and "sell" people on?

Did any of you watch the Discovery Health Feature about it a couple of weeks ago?

I've been thinking about commenting on the trend, but have 'til this point, decided to leave that controversial topic alone. I know that both sides of the debate have equally strong feelings... and to even venture to state my opinion on the whole matter is risky.

What shapes my opinion on the matter?
A lot of things.

~I was born unassisted, with only my dad and grandma there, in the early '80's.

~The first birth I ever witnessed was my little sister's unassisted birth.

~I'm now a hospital doula and a homebirth midwifery student.

~I'm friends with mothers who choose completely unassisted birth, non-professional (i.e. a crowd of friends and family) attended births, midwife attended home birth, midwife attended birth center births, midwife attended hospital birth, physician attended homebirth, physician attended birth center births, and physician attended hospital birth.

~I've spent more than my share of time dealing with birth-related policy issues through my work on midwifery and birth-related legislation.

Yes, I have a lot to say about unassisted birthing. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm not.
I'll tell you what I think in a future post, as soon as I get my thoughts formatted.

In the mean time, though, why don't you tell me what YOU think about unassisted childbirth?

Check out the poll I just put up!


Sheridan said...

I am a VBAC mom and if I couldn't find a supportive care provider (midwife or OB) and my only "option" was a repeat cesarean, then I would have an unassisted birth over a repeat un-necesary cesarean.

BUT, I would first really try to find a supportive care provider, including moving to my moms house if necessary. Because I feel more comfortable having a care provider.

I can understand why some women would choose an unassisted birth and I think they should have that right.

Stacey said...

I had an accidental UC. I wanted a homebirth, and my husband was not comfortable. I respected his opinion and chose not to fight tooth and nail with him. I *need* his support while in labor, not have him detached, mad and resentful. We compromised on what hopsital and when to leave. I had a pretty short labor, with no good contraction pattern, and ended up having my 3rd child in the front seat of my van while he raced down the highway. It was AWESOME!

Although I don't think I would ever *choose* to UC, I think it is a good option for some women. Being educated is key.

Kathy said...

My 2nd birth was unintentionally unassisted, and I have to say that I missed not having a midwife there (and my husband ended up not making it either -- long story!). In the majority of cases, UC will turn out just fine -- just like in the majority of the cases, every birth will turn out just fine for mother and baby -- even in Sierra Leone which has the worst rates of maternal and neonatal mortality, most mothers and babies make it. Still, I'm not comfortable with planning a UC; and I would want to do a neonatal respiratory course or whatever it's called, in case I ended up accidentally having another one. It would be wise to have the basics down, in case the birth was abnormal.

Michele said...

I think it's a woman's right to choose. I would not feel comfortable with UC for myself, but I totally respect and support any woman who chooses to do so.

Corin said...

I completely think that it's a woman's right to birth her baby alone if she wishes to.

Carbon said...

I wish we had foreknowledge of how each birth will turn out so women could plan the appropriate level of intervention for every situation. From none, for the many uncomplicated births... to full intervention and state-of-the-art NICU for the rare but serious problems.

Without that foreknowledge, each woman must consider the odds, weigh the outcomes, and make her own decision.

Working in Special Education and reading long files on preschool students with disabilities has clouded my view. In addition, I have had a few hospital stays under my belt. I found myself feeling safe and reassured in that environment. So, I will likely go to a birthing center attached to a hospital... But, I have to get pregnant first!

All of the above said, I cannot prescribe my path for anyone but myself.

Rachel said...

In a nutshell-I think UB is a great choice for some but not all! I have witnessed some UB's that went very well. In very low risk situations, with informed and educated parents, I don't have a problem with it. However, I would never do it myself!

Buscando la Luz said...

Hey there... first time at your bog.

(I have my own birth blog over at

I can't see myself choosing UC, but I think it's between mothers/fathers and God. It should never be illegal.

Dee said...

I think its GREAT!!! I however, will be having a CPM at my birth whenever I get pregnant again.

Dan said...

I would never do an UC. I think part of the magic would be to have women around you that are seasoned with births. I would also be worried in case anything happened.

Lindsey said...

I have a handful of friends that have UCed (on a forum). I think it depends on the person. The women that I know took it very seriously, did their own prenatal care, researched an insane amount, and in the end I believe that they had enough knowledge and intuition for it to be safe. But there are other women that might choose this direction that wouldn't show enough respect to the process and therefor it might be "more dangerous" if something came up.

Interestingly, I've heard that the transfer rate for UCs are much higher then midwife attended homebirths. I believe that is because some that choose to go unassisted need someone there that they respect to remind them during transition that they are "suppose" to feel like they "can't" do it. Where as if your surrounded my mom or husband, they freak when you yell "I can't do it!" And call the paramedics thinking something must be wrong.

I don't believe that i would ever UC. Just because I'm a social butterfly and enjoy being catered to by my a midwife. Takes more pressure off of me. Also, I believe that I would need to grow more in my intuition and listening to my body before I would rely on myself that much.

CandlebyNight said...

Hi M! Its Dana W.
We originally started UC'ing because we had no medical insurance and my husband decided we would not ask our neighbors to foot the bill by getting medicade, the state insurance. It was my husbands decision.
As the years and births have went by (7 UC's now)our thoughts and reasons for UC have evolved.

First off we know that a womans body is designed to give birth. Pregnancy is not an illness. Birth is not something to fear (meaning all the "what ifs")

Second A husband is responsible for his wife and children. He is responsible for their safety, he is responsible for the actions of others that he allows to "practice" their craft upon them.

It is pretty much impossible to hire someone to manage a pregnancy and birth and then not let them DO anything or call any shots.

In looking back at my own births I know that I wanted a doctor not for his medical expertise but for the emotional support of someone who is supposed to be an expert, telling me everything is ok.

For our first 6 UC we had a friend here. Someone who is knowledgeable about birth but who also has a deep abiding faith in God and his word and what he said he would do. She has always been a great encouragement to us.

With our last birth we decided to go it with just my husband and I. And even though we had some problems that we did need help with, I'm not sorry we UC'd. The problems we encountered only served to draw us closer to the Lord and closer as a couple.

I've never had a midwife although there were pregnancies that I wanted one my husband always vetoed the idea.

I'm glad we were able to have your help after our last birth. I think God orchestrated everything and gave us help at the exact time we needed it.

Christine P said...

Hey Mary,

Just found your blog and had to comment. Our last two babies were UC. We had a friend there, so I didn't consider it UC, but I guess technically it was. My previous birth history and the Lord's leading is why we went this way.

Our first baby was c-secton because of supposed CDP. The next three were c-section because of the first. I was not even given the option of VBAC because my babies are big.

I had a friend that was a lay midwife and she mentioned home birth to me when we had our 5th child. I was familiar with home birth but did not even think it was an option for me.

She put me in contact with a certified midwife and we were on our way to a home birth VBAC.

My labor was exactly like my first baby - no progress after hours of pushing. Your story about Allison makes me think that is what my midwife was thinking. "She can't do this." We ended up transporting and I ended up with another c-section.

I am so thankful you and Allison's midwife did not give up on her. After my failed VBAC/homebirth, I really thought I just could not have a natural birth.

Well, the Lord knows different. When we were expecting our 6th child, circumstances were such that UC was our only option. We believe that was His plan for us!!!

And what happened? Exactly the same labor as both failed labors. But we did not give up and the Lord brought our precious baby to us in His timing!!! He designed us and He knows how to get it done!!!

Then came baby 7. I prayed and prayed and I was sure this would be an easy labor. NOW I knew how it was done. Right? Well, He had to show me that it is not about ME.

It was another HARD labor. Pushing with nothing happening. But we had a lot of people praying and you know what happened!!! The Lord brought forth that baby too.

He didn't start breathing right away, but his cord was still attached and he finally (through prayer) started breathing and was perfectly fine.

I feel in my heart, he would not be here if he had been born in the hospital. Even if that is not the case, we would have never have seen the Hand of God work so mightily in our lives.

Plus, all that know our story can look at our little boy, who can count to 12 at the age of 3, and know that the Lord's hand is upon him. Praise the Lord!!!

I am thankful for midwives!!! But birth is a natural process that the Lord designed. Sure it is great to have the support and expertise of a midwife, but it is not necessary.

And in my case for baby 5, it was a hindrance. I suppose we had really replaced our trust in the Lord for trust in our midwife.

Thanks Mary, for all you do!!! You really care about woman and God's design for birth!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it is personal and while I have contemplated it and our first baby was a planned Unassisted, we ended up with a midwife and have used midwives thereafter. Unfortunately I have a bit of a "don't like it, but they are necessary" attitude towards midwives now because of my experiences with them (not horrible, I'm just very private and found them extremely invasive with questions and how they treated my husband). My husband goes over the top with prenatals (probably with his medical background and professional degree), bp daily, urine tests, even bloodwork *G*, he knows which position the baby is always in, knows how to convince it to move this way and that with massage, knowledge about a million things including nutrition, but said he would not want to be in a position to choose between wife or baby if something happened. 1st and second babies I called the midwives early and they were 36 and 58 hours of horribly intense labor due to posterior baby. 3rd baby we did chiropractor, massage therapy and water birth and kept track of baby's position and ended up with a short labor and the midwife came with 6 minutes to spare - as soon as she arrived I got tense, uptight and wished I was alone again. I love the ladies dearly as friends, but I am a private woman when pregnant, and having them around actually irritates me like a bad mosquito bite. Which is why I waited as long as I could and DH kept asking, "Should I call the midwife?"
I want to be alone with my husband, have a shower, and fall asleep cuddling my baby instead of weighing, measuring, and having a contented baby scream. I don't want a midwife to tell me how to hold my baby (as though I haven't had 2 others), how to nurse, ask me questions about my relationship with my husband, or sit and watch me for 4 hours after the delivery. I don't want a sweater knitted, an extra woman be it sister or Mom around, herbal tea, happy music or a lollipop. *G* I don't want one telling me to stay in bed for 2 weeks after the delivery and then to chide my husband when she comes unannounced the next day (which was so aggravating I had to leave!!) and sees me up and around.
I am a private person who does not discuss things with others, so I just found all of the questions a necessary evil and why would I want this glorious time to be like that? I do understand why they ask them, and why they need the frequent visits (my husband's patients go through it), but I should not dread the visits and I did, praying they would forget about me and not leave messages on my machine. I felt like my husband knew more about my body, my norms and the prenatals were a joke compared to what he did daily and weekly, but it was all written off and just smiled at.
But I will use a midwife again and I do not want my husband to have to live with a bad situation because we needed help and did not have it available. I wish I could find somebody who would enable me to have the experience I want instead of take over my pregnancy, and I'm just hoping maybe I can share a bit of my problems with the next midwife so it is a more comfortable experience. I do love your website and know you quite well through a variety of friends we have in common (I'm sure we would get along splendidly)