Dahlen H, Jackson M, Stevens J. Homebirth, freebirth and doulas: casualty and consequences of a broken maternity system. Women and Birth. 2012; 24:47-50

Jackson M, Schmied V, Dahlen H. Birthing outside the system: the motivation behind the choice to freebirth or have a homebirth with risk factors in Australia. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020; 20

Davison C. The relationship is everything: women's reasons for, and experience of maternity care with a privately practising midwife in Western Australia.: Curtin University; 2014

Davison C, Hauck Y, Bayes S, Kuliukas L, Wood J. The relationship is everything: Women's reasons for choosing a privately practising midwife in Western Australia. Midwifery. 2015; 31:(8)772-778

Feeley C, Thomson G. Tensions and conflicts in ‘choice: womens’ experiences of freeebirthing in the UK. Midwifery. 2016; 41:16-21

Holten L, de Miranda D. Women's motivation for having unassisted childbirth or high-risk homebirth: An exploration of the literature on ‘birthing outside the system’. Midwifery. 2016; 38:55-62

Joy J. Free to birth. AIMS Journal. 2013; 25:(4)6-7

Mc Kenzie G, Robert G, Montgomery E. Exploring the conceptualisation and study of freebirthing as a historical and social phenomenon: a meta narrative review of diverse research traditions. Medical Humanities. 2020; 46:512-524

Plested M, Kirkham M. Risk and fear in the lived experience of birth without a midwife. Midwifery. 2016; 38:29-34

Birthing out of the system

02 July 2021
Volume 29 · Issue 7
 Women are challenging mainstream maternity care by opting for freebirth
Women are challenging mainstream maternity care by opting for freebirth


Could the rise in freebirth in medicalised societies be a sign of a broken maternity system? Dr Clare Davison endeavours to answer this question

A growing amount of research suggests the rise in women choosing to freebirth is partly in response to the system not meeting the needs of women who want continuity of care and a non-medicalised birth (Feeley and Thomson, 2016; Holten and Miranda, 2016; Jackson et al, 2020).

Birthing outside of mainstream maternity services can be loosely divided into two categories: women choosing to birth at home with a registered midwife, even though they have medically defined risk factors that would class them as at increased risk of complications and/or exclude them from midwifery led care; and women choosing to freebirth. Freebirth, sometimes referred to as unassisted birth, is a practice where women intentionally give birth without healthcare professionals present in countries where there are medical facilities available (Mc Kenzie et al, 2020). Although the actual numbers of freebirths cannot be verified due to the birth taking place away from the health system and the required reporting system, freebirth is reportedly becoming more common.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month