Unassisted childbirth sounds like a nightmare for most expectant mothers, but 100 years ago, it was considered normal. Pregnancy was considered a natural condition, not an illness like many doctors currently treat it. In modern times, women would consider having a baby without a doctor present unnatural, but most births before the 1920's were attended by midwives or other mothers. Doctors rarely made an appearance during birthing.
There is the argument that many of these long ago births resulted in death to the mother, child, or both, but that is rarely the whole truth. Many of those deaths could have been avoided if there had been sanitary conditions. Even doctors in those times rarely practiced proper sanitation and often passed infections from patient to patient because they didn't wash their hands or instruments sufficiently. There was also the practice of “packing” the birth canal with something to staunch the flow of blood, but rarely were those things sanitary either and often resulted in spreading infection.
It is rare that a woman hemorrhages post delivery, though it does happen, and should be a consideration for women considering unassisted childbirth. But also consider this, how many women are heard about on the news dying from giving birth on their own because they didn't make it to the hospital in time? More often than not, stories on the news or television are about women who delivered a healthy baby with little to no complications.
Despite what many believe, it is also not illegal to have a baby unassisted by a doctor or midwife, though in some states, including Illinois, any person, other than the mother, who attends the birth can be arrested if they don't have proper medical training. It's unclear on exactly what the charge would be for attending a childbirth and the courts should have better things to hear than this. Not only that, but what about those parents that truly didn't make it to the hospital in time and had to deliver the baby on their own, would they also be arrested and charged because they didn't have proper medical training?
Doctors and nurses have even gone as far as telling expectant parents that their baby won't have a birth certificate if they don't have it in a hospital. This is totally false, all that has to be done in most states is a trip to the local Department of Health. All they ask for is proof that the woman requesting the birth certificate is the birth mother, often pictures or video of the mother with the baby during or after birth will suffice, and a signed affidavit from at least two witnesses to the pregnancy or birth.
Modern society makes something as natural as childbirth much more complicated than it has to be. There are some complications which do require a woman give birth in a hospital, but more often than not doctors are relying on fear to keep women coming to them for pregnancy and birth. The biggest fear is that the mother, the baby, or both will die in childbirth if they don't have a doctor present to save them. Having a doctor present doesn't guarantee survival of any illness or condition, it just creates better odds in the case there is a situation where advanced medical knowledge is needed.
Why would a doctor rely on fear to keep patients? For the same reason all of us work, for money. If women stopped going to doctors and midwives for pregnancy, it would be a huge loss of income for them. Pregnancy and childbirth is a something that will continue as long as the human race will thrive. There are so many conditions that have been discovered during pregnancy with advances in medical technology, but those conditions have been present throughout time and, yet, the human race survived before they had knowledge about them.
Unassisted childbirth is not for every woman, especially those filled with fear about the outcome or with medical conditions that require a doctor's supervision. Unassisted childbirth is about feeling empowered and, most importantly, trusting the mother's body to do what it was made to do.
When a doctor assists in childbirth, they suggest things that would make things easier and more convenient for them, not the mother. Labor is not easy and being forced to lay flat on the back is not comfortable for a heavily pregnant woman, but it's the easiest position for a doctor to interfere with the process. A laboring woman should be free to move as much as she wants until she finds a comfortable position, and she, not the doctor, should decide what position she is in to deliver the baby.
Doctors will also induce labor prematurely because they want babies delivered when it's convenient for them. It's not always best for a baby to be induced because it causes distress, no matter how many weeks gestation. Doctors don't tell laboring mothers that often times the interventions they recommend are what is putting babies into distress and lead to unnecessary caesarean sections.
Breaking the water sac is not the best way to speed delivery and can endanger babies by exposing them to infection and dramatically reduces the amount of time a mother can safely labor. Internal examinations are not only unnecessary but are another way infection can spread. Doctors are in such a hurry to speed up the process that they inadvertently make things worse.
Many women who decide upon an unassisted birth do so usually for one reason, they have experienced childbirth before in a hospital and were not happy with the experience. Women who were forced into c-sections feel like a failure because they didn't give birth vaginally, which couldn't be further from the truth. Any woman who delivers a baby, no matter the way, is a warrior and much stronger than any man could imagine being.
The experience of childbirth is special and every woman deserves to have the best birth possible. The woman who chooses unassisted birth chooses it because she is not afraid of the process, wants to bring her child into the world in a place where she is most comfortable and in a way that brings comfort to her. It should be a magical experience that cements the already immeasurable bond between mother and child.
How can a laboring mother be comfortable if she is not allowed to eat, drink, or move; and is in an unfamiliar environment where she has to put up with poking and prodding by doctors and nurses? Not only thatm but after all the hard work of labor, the mother or father should be the first people to hold their newborn, not just one in the line after the doctor.
Unassisted childbirth is not a decision to make lightly. It isn't a romanticized way to have a child. Childbirth is hard work and there can be complications. One of unassisted childbirthing's biggest advocates died during childbirth in early 2011, but even she admitted before that there are disadvantages to the practice. Weigh the options, take stock of your health, do some research, and, most importantly, if you decide to have an unassisted birth, take a first aid course in case an emergency does arise. If you are uncertain, then don't take the risk with yourself or your baby.