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Redefining freebirth as a reproductive justice issue.

Velo Higueras, Maria; Douglas, Flora; Kennedy, Catriona



Freebirth or unassisted birth is currently defined as the deliberate choice to give birth without a regulated healthcare professional in countries where maternity care is available and easily accessible. Empirical evidence on this practice is limited and has mostly focused on understanding women's motivations to freebirth as a matter of individual choice. Previous traumatic experiences, alongside rejection of medicalised models of care and trust in the birth process have been identified as factors influencing women's choice. Yet, there is limited evidence on how women experience maternity care in the pregnancy leading to freebirth and the impact this care has on their choice. A qualitative evidence synthesis was conducted to explore women's perceptions of maternity care provision and their experiences of care when choosing to freebirth. 22 publications between 2008 and 2023 and from ten different high-income countries were included. Thematic synthesis, underpinned by a feminist standpoint, was used to analyse the data. The study found that freebirth was rarely women's primary choice. Faced with restrictive policies, inequitable access, and unequal power relationships with care providers, women used peer support and engaged in extensive research to develop their self-care agency. Becoming midwives to themselves generated a sense of personal transformation and empowerment. The study concluded that, when healthcare services fail to provide unrestricted, equal and free access to a wide range of maternity care options, women's choice to freebirth becomes a matter of reproductive justice. Self-care in the form of freebirth helped women to achieve a safer birth experience and to protect their reproductive self-determination.


VELO HIGUERAS, M., DOUGLAS, F. and KENNEDY, C. 2024. Redefining freebirth as a reproductive justice issue. Presented at the 2024 Virtual International Day of the Midwife conference (VIDM 2024), 4-5 May 2024, [virtual event].

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Conference Name 2024 Virtual International Day of the Midwife conference (VIDM 2024)
Conference Location [virtual event]
Start Date May 4, 2024
End Date May 5, 2024
Deposit Date May 5, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 23, 2024
Keywords Freebirth; Health care services; Maternity care services; Reproductive justice
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs (Evidence synthesis) (Poster)
Additional Information The file accompanying this record contains both the slides and a recording of the presentation.


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