Why do some women choose to freebirth? A meta-thematic synthesis, part one

Feeley, Claire Lauren orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8013-0352, Burns, E, Adams, E and Thomson, G orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 (2015) Why do some women choose to freebirth? A meta-thematic synthesis, part one. Evidence Based Midwifery, 13 (1). pp. 4-9.

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Freebirthing or unassisted birth is the active choice made by a woman to birth without a trained professional present, even where there is access to maternity provision.

To integrate the findings of the current literature on the phenomenon of freebirthing, asking the question: ‘Why do some women choose to freebirth?’

A metasynthesis was carried out based upon Noblit and Hare’s (1988) meta-ethnography. Searches were carried out in March 2013, updated in March 2014 using 15 key databases. Inclusion criteria was applied: primary qualitative work, in English, focusing upon women who had freebirthed intentionally. A quality appraisal was carried out. This paper reports the findings from international studies, as there were no studies based on a UK population.

Findings and key conclusions.
Four studies were found that incorporated data collected from 272 women. The studies identified were based in the US (n=3) and in Australia (n=1). Four key themes were generated: rejection of the medical and midwifery models of birth; faith in the birth process; autonomy; and agency. There was a prevailing sense of choosing to freebirth in order to retain choice, control and autonomy over their bodies during the birth process. Implications for practice. For some, within their particular context of maternity provision, the biomedical model of childbirth is clearly not acceptable, therefore, it is important practitioners identify and address these women’s bio-psychosocial needs.
Even the midwifery model of childbirth is apparently not satisfactory, suggesting the gulf between the midwifery philosophy of care and that which is currently practised needs radical attention. For some women, a previous negative experience with maternity care provision motivated their decision to freebirth. It is, therefore, important that maternity service providers improve the quality of care provision so women feel dignified, supported, and are participatory in the care that they receive. A UK-based study is being undertaken in order to establish the motivations of women who choose to freebirth in the UK.

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