Free birthing on the rise Growing numbers of Australian women disillusioned with the country’s maternity system are choosing free birthing over medically assisted births, according to one expert. Australian College of Midwives spokesperson Hannah Dahlen said research, soon to be released from the University of Western Sydney, showed there was a growing trend for Australian women to birth at home unassisted. Ms Dahlen, who is also an associate professor at UWS, said Australia’s fragmented maternity system was driving women away. “We know free birthing is on the rise in Australia,” she said. “America and Australia, are the two countries where it is highest but also where there is the least access to midwifery care.” Ms Dahlen said she had no figures on how many women were choosing to free birth as the issue was “still very underground”. “We still have people who don’t register their births, who home school, who don’t immunise…we don’t have a way to record how many,” she said. Ms Dahlen said the research found there was no stereotype for women opting for free birthing but she said she was surprised to find middle-class women with a university degree were also choosing to free birth. “We do know that these decisions are never made lightly, they don’t go into this blasé… Page 12 | www.ncah.com.au
but they really feel that the risk of hospital is a worse option,” she said. Ms Dahlen said the midwifery reforms were failing and there was not enough recognition of the importance of midwifery-assisted home births for low-risk pregnancies. “We very much believe that having a professional midwife attend your birth is preferred,” she said. “We are very supportive of home births. We recognise that there are quality outcomes for the baby and for the mother if the birth is low risk. Free birthing wouldn’t provide all of that back-up and support. “Midwives have got to continue to do what they are doing which is fight for women to access a professionally attended birth wherever that birth may be,” she said.
Nursing Careers and Allied Health