autonomous birth/unhindered birth

I speak of autonomous/unhindered birth rather than homebirth or freebirth/unassisted birth because what matters is not birth location, or even birth attendants, but birth style and who has the power. I am not sure unhindered birth ever happens in hospitals (which is not to say positive, joyful births do not happen in hospitals), but it is not a given at home, either. Whether a woman has autonomy in labor, whether she is free of violations to her body and her humanity, should not depend on whether she needs medical assistance or would feel safer with the presence of a birth attendant.

I often use autonomous and unhindered birth interchangeably, but the terms have subtle distinctions. Autonomous birth refers to the woman being “in charge”, or at least centered, during labor and birth. This is most likely to happen in a free/unassisted birth, and some people do use the term specifically to mean birthing without a professional attendant, though I do not.

Unhindered birth is an alternative to the less precise, more historically loaded term “natural birth” (which has come to most often mean “birth without prescription pain medications”, and which some even use synonymously with “vaginal birth”, with or without medications). One of my favorite midwives describes it this way:

Unhindered meaning on your own terms, without direction or management by someone else, given privacy to do your own thing.

Unhindered birth is a birth without unnecessary interventions (not just without pain medications), in which the environment is structured to acknowledge and support the mammalian nature of the laboring woman, to not disturb the physiology of birth. It means that procedures are not done because they are “routine”, or to measure or encourage a “schedule”, and when interventions (such as fetal heart rate monitoring) are elected, they are done in a way to minimally disturb the laboring woman. The Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative outlines the basics of what I consider unhindered birth.

I do not give a strict definition of what is or isn’t compatible with unhindered or autonomous birth because it’s not about a checklist, and I’m not interested in labeling others’ experiences. Rather, I hope to reframe the discussion to center women and respect for our autonomy and our bodies and our power in birth, without shaming women who need or desire medical assistance, while celebrating what most women’s bodies are capable of.

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3 Responses to autonomous birth/unhindered birth

  1. I loved this so much that I used the link tonight on FB.

    You’re such an amazing communicator, A.

  2. I’m italian 32 aged girl who had closed her tubes not because she hasn’t maternal istinct, but because she refuse every medical interventions in labor and pregnancy. The only time I have seen a gyn it was when I closed my tubes whit essures, whitout surgery but is irreversible. I scared that someone could force me to delivery in a hospital, I prefer to die or my baby die. I’m not a criminal, our society is criminal providing to safe a person against her will..
    I’m depressed because,though I’m beautiful,I worck, I have good relationships I think that young men cannot love a woman who decided to don’t be mum for ever..
    If I knew that unassisted birth is possible and isn’t against law perhaps I could have done a different choice..I have a question..a woman who have her first delivery deliver in elderly age..about 40 -42,is capable to bear her first son whitout assistance, if like me scare hospitals? I hope in a miracle, that my tubes could open itselves..but I don’t want midwives, they blackmail you..if you refuse any blood or other kind examination they don’t give you in care,if you are over 40 at the first child, if you are over terms the same..
    I believe in miracles..perhaps around 40 I’ll be pregnant but I’ll bear only in a place far almost 10 hours of car from hospital, in a wild place, no one will could hurt me..Do you think is possible..? I’m not mad. I’d like to know true stories of succesful and planned unassisted childbirth of pregnant who have had her FIRST delivery in this wonderful way,in spite of the midvives opinions about the greater risk of complication in elderly first time pregnants?

  3. Pingback: Quick hit on birth advocacy and privilege « Raising My Boychick

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