An Unassisted Birth -- Why It's Good and Bad to Birth All By Yourself!

An unassisted birth carries obvious risks. Here's what you should know about the pros and cons.

Having an unassisted birth means you're likely giving birth in the comfort of your own home, without the assistance of a registered midwife or obstetrician. An unassisted home birth may be your only option if you can't find a provider who will attend your birth at home because of distance or other factors, or if you are strictly against birthing at a hospital or birth center.

Having this kind of birth means you will be completely in control of your birth process, your surroundings and who you allow in your space. "If you get anxious around medical providers or have had a poor previous experience with doctors or midwives, an unassisted birth may be a more relaxed experience and could make you feel safer," says Gina Crosley-Corcoran, a doula and childbirth educator and blogger at The Feminist Breeder. But, she cautions, "Even in the simplest, lowest-risk birth, you may need immediate medical assistance, such as a drug to stop bleeding, skilled hands to help to resolve shoulder dystocia or an oxygen tank.

Midwives are trained and equipped to address these emergent issues in the home. If you don't have a skilled and equipped provider, you're relying on however long it takes for an ambulance to reach you." One plus of unassisted birth, she adds, is that "you can still have traditional prenatal care with a doctor or midwife, even if you choose to birth on your own."

If you're having a routine pregnancy with no complications and feel confident in your birth experience, having an unassisted birth should carry few risks. "Many choose this type of birth because they want to ensure complete control and autonomy during their experience, with no interference or distraction from their ideal birth -- which is usually completely natural and holistic," says certified birth doula Kristine Adams Cowan of Bump Birth Baby. "If ultimately you decide to have this type of birth, be properly educated on labor, birth and signs of complications."

Tips for an Unassisted Birth

  • Rent a Heart Rate Monitor
    "If you can get your hands on a fetal heart rate monitor (Doppler) for the experience, I would recommend that," says Cowan. "Have lots of warm, clean blankets ready for baby and be self aware."
  • Take Care of Yourself
    "Don't get so wrapped up in the idea of having an unassisted home birth that you forget to do things like take care of yourself," Cowan adds. "Eat, drink, move, rest and call for help when it is needed."
  • Know That Circumstances can Change Rapidly
    "Ideally, an uncomplicated pregnancy leads to an uncomplicated labor and birth. But this is not always the case -- just like a woman who has a pregnancy filled with hurdles can have the smoothest birth," she notes. "Know when there is a definite need for intervention and who to contact."

Warning Signs
Cowan cites the following as signs that would indicate a need to seek medical attention:

  • If there is evidence of meconium (generally the amniotic fluid will have a greenish, brown or golden color if meconium is present).
  • If there is excessive bleeding.
  • If the woman feels lightheaded and/or breathless.
  • If you are unable to detect baby's heart rate or it is unpredictable or low.

"While the idea of being free to do what you wish during labor may be what makes some families decide on this option, not having the guidance of a professional may actually be a hindrance to a successful, smooth birth," Cowan adds. Arming yourself with the appropriate, evidence-based information is important in this case so you can be prepared for what is to come.

Shannon Moyer-Szemenyei is a certified birth and postpartum doula, mother of two busy boys (Owen, 4, and Graeme, 10 months) and the writer at Sweet Stella's.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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