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How Safe Is Your Home Birth?

In the wake of Janet Fraser’s tragic homebirth a broohaha is erupting. How safe is your homebirth? What is a home birth and who should have one? Yes, the woman who coined the term “Birthrape” to describe an emergency episiotomy has lost her child during a home birth.

Let me be very clear here, that a baby died is a horrendous tragedy. Not learning from this would be even worse.

My friend, and fellow Mom Blogger, Amber Watson Tardiff wrote a compelling piece that asks the question everyone sidesteps, is homebirthing a crime? Amber notes:

You may have even seen quotes from Janet calling c-sections and episiotomies “birthrape” and insisting that “survivors are angry and we are starting to talk about it.”

What you may not know is Janet’s baby suffered cardiac arrest during her cherished unassisted water birth and died on March 27th at her home in Australia.

Apparently the possibility of “birthrape” was much more important to Janet than the safety of her child.

Well, she (Amber) has a point, but what Janet did wasn’t just a home birth, it was an unassisted home birth. Some call it free birthing (here’s what the Daily Mail says), and there isn’t even assistance from a midwife. Janet had also had a prior c-section, so a qualified medical professional sounds like a no brainer. Ms. Fraser also labored at home for some time, perhaps days, while refusing to call for help. The Australia Herald Sun says:

Janet Fraser is in labour. Her plan is to drop the baby on the lounge room floor, or wherever feels good at the time.

Has she called the hospital to let them know what’s happening? “When you go on a skiing trip, do you call the hospital to say, ‘I’m coming down the mountain, can you set aside a spot for me in the emergency room?’ I don’t think so,” says Fraser, whose breathing sounds strained.

Although a home birth may have had the same results, one can only imagine that a midwife just might have saved the baby.

I know a number of women who have given birth at home and, for them it was a great experience. Our own Jennifer Lance has a story (that I’m too squeamish to read) about her birth experiences. Derek Markham has a list of 35 reasons they chose home birth (he’s so actualized), and Carlota has talked extensively about her daughter’s birth.

Personally, I took the drugs. These aren’t the drugs of my mother’s generation. I’ve worked in the Emergency Room and seen natural child birth. It’s not for me. Again, I’m a self-identified candy ass greenie.

I support women who chose a home birth.

But a free birth?

I cannot see the wisdom in it.

Neither can Ms. Fraser’s baby.

What do you think? Is Ms. Frazier a criminal or a hero?

[This post was written by Jessica Gottlieb.]


  1. I realized that I didn’t clarify the difference between free birth (or unassisted home birth) and home birth until way late in the article and that sort of confused people.

    But all confusion aside, I am all for birthing centers, full midwifery services and the nine, but as far as free-births or equating what these professionals do on a daily basis to rape is insanity.

    I hope Janet Fraser’s followers realize that midwifes and doctors are good people (insurance companies that rush your delivery and hospital stay– not such much) and really should be present during the delivery process.

    And if you think your OB/GYN is raping you– find another one!!

    • Nita wife and mommy of 4(+1) says:

      When, if by you experience this harmful behavior from MD’s, you realize you’re being misused; it is too late to get another. As a nurse, I have witnessed inappropriate behaviors from doctors. Reporting, which does nothing, and trying to compensate with tlc, can not make a difference.

      I experienced, personally, a birth assault my last delivery. I was in the hospital under a midwife’s care. I hadn’t been there an 45 minutes. After my water broke I was suddenly 10cm and they decided it was time for me to push. After pushing for 20 minutes the MD entered asking what was taking so long. My midwife suggested we wait for the head to mold more, maybe an hour. The MD insisted she was tired and didn’t want to be sleep during an emergency. My son and my vitals were fine, yet I was wheeled to the OR against my will. My midwife looked bewildered. I reminded them I had not signed the C section papers. They asked my husband to sign for me. He refused and security was called. I pushed as hard as I could during transfer and my son’s head engaged nicely. At that point, the MD asked for me to be “supported”(restrained). A nurse anesthetist shot an antiemetic into my IV, without warning. (I found out later what it was.) The MD grabbed forcepts, shoved them inside me without warning and began to yank. (All in the name of CPD)The entire staff appeared mortifed. I gathered myself enough to yell out, “I AM A NURSE AND I KNOW THIS IS WRONG!”

      Suddenly, the MD relinquishes control to my midwife and stands aside. My healty baby boy is delivered into they arms of my midwife. Security enters as my son enters the world and the MD tells a nurse to tell them they were no longer needed. The MD seemed shocked I had no tears.

      During the remainder of our stay, we were hospital “royalty.” We received written apologies and sympathies. I will never trust that hospital again.

      My son is our fourth child. We are expecting number five. Our fifth unmedicated birth. We may be at a new hospital; but I definitely understand where these women are coming from.

      We forget what women acutally were dying from before medical advances. Their living conditions played a large part and overall health. Most things about hospital birth work against healthy delivery. More cervical checks = increased risk of infection. They still check constantly. Artificial rupture of membranes increase ROI. Use of pitocin increase chances of fetal distress. Pitocin is often used. Medical interventions increase chance of C section. Delivery by C section increases the chance a newborn requiring assistance breathing; along with other things. We must truly educate and refrain from placing ourselves completely in the hands of others.

      Why consider this woman a criminal? The very same outcome occurs in hospitals daily. No one is arrested. We just understand they did all they could.

      Who rallies against elective C section? That is Major surgery. Why are others thinking for us? The doctors are not to make decisions for us. They are to assist in educating us enough to make our own decisions.

      It is interesting how snap judgements come from “adults”. I shudder to think who may be serving jury duty with me. I am afraid because their votes count just as mine. SOS please.

  2. I saw this via Jerseymomma’s twitter.

    It has taken me some time to be comfortable with the whole “home birth” idea simply because I lost a baby and am rather sensitive about the whole thing.

    BUT…many of my internet friends have done it and if you have access to prenatal care and a midwife w/a hospital nearby I have come around to it being one of many parenting choices that is right for some. One even had a freebirth but it was more out of circumstances out of her control at the last moment. She had a totally clean medical history, though.

    Freebirth with no one trained anywhere in sight when there have been known medical past issues that could impact the delivery of the baby in question?


    This particular situation feels more like neglect-from what I read above she showed signs of trouble in her labor but was so attached to an idea and cause she ignored them and refused help?


    I feel so deeply for her loss. And the hell she will most likely live in her head knowing she contributed to it.

  3. Criminal? Not sure. Uneducated and careless, even if not on purpose? Certainly.

  4. With this, uninspired, pathetic piece of blogging, I’ll now stop checking in to see what you have to share. This is clearly not the blog for me.

  5. I went to the hospital to have my baby, and I delivered him on a bathroom floor, with only his father there to assist, because there was a shocking lack of ANYONE LISTENING TO ME when I said I was going-to-have-my-baby-right-now. Then, because this was not a plan the hospital had, they contrived to keep me there for monitoring (despite lack of any symptoms of anything in me or baby) for FIVE DAYS. I figure if I have my baby at home, at least I’ll have a midwife, right? And I’ll be home!

    All future babes, barring medical emergency, will be born at home, assisted by midwife.

  6. Since when is an unassisted home birth not worthy of being called a home birth? It happens at home. I have a problem with what looks to me like hijacking of the definition to suit an agenda. I’ve been around home birthers my entire life and have never, ever heard “freebirth” as the preferred term.

    What happened to Janet Frasier’s baby is a tragedy, but it is extremely irresponsible to say that it is unequivocally the fault of her birthing choices. Babies die in hospitals and with midwife-assisted home births too. It’s thankfully rare in all cases.

    I know many women who have had unassisted home births. Frankly, while I am quibbling with terms I have a problem with “unassisted,” since none of these women were alone in the woods or even alone in the bedroom. In every case, at least one person (usually the father) was present to assist, and in most cases there was also another woman present, whether her mom or a friend. That is not exactly a lack of assistance.

    My point, though, is that birth is generally safe, and evidence stands to show that it’s actually safer at home. Most women who choose to birth at home without a midwife have had previous births and have a good support system. There is absolutely no cause to assume that their babies are in danger.

  7. Criminal no.

    In mourning, certainly. Will she mourn the rest of her life? Likely. Will she be able to encourage others in homebirth (not free birth)? THAT would be heroic.

    I’ve had two wonderful homebirths. One of my babies was saved by our amazing midwife. I would not go unassisted. Having been through a situation in which my midwife actually saved the life of my baby, I’ll stick with my midwives. Also, they can carry oxygen and pain med for the stitching up in the end… yes, I accept pain med for the perennial stitches. Must have midwives for me to birth comfortably!

  8. Ms. Fraser also chose to receive *no* prenatal care. None. From anyone. This is made clear in interviews she did before this tragedy happened, while she was still pregnant.

    According to a study done in Australia, a slightly higher percentage of babies die in homebirth than in hospital. BUT the researchers thought this was almost entirely due to high risk pregnancies trying to deliver at home. Ms. Fraser was a VBAC and she had NO midwife or doctor assess this pregnancy, how it was progressing or what risks she or her child might face at birth.

    According to US statistics, out-of-hospital birth pose–overall–a slightly higher risk of infant death.

    Unattended birth and total lack of prenatal care, on the other hand, quite dramatically increase the risk that your baby will die.

    This isn’t about homebirth. It’s not about reasonable people disagreeing.

    This is about a woman with an extreme agenda who ignored *every* recommendation out there by *every* kind of health provider on how to give her baby the best chance of a healthy birth.

    If that’s not reckless and negligent, what is?

  9. By the time my second pregnancy was through, I was ready to do a UC. I was exhausted with the interventions through my healthy pregnancy. I felt like a lab rat, not a strong mama readying to give birth.
    It’s medical professionals who make us feel like they know better than us about what our bodies are capable of that make some women turn to UC. I definitely would have. But I only heard of the practice 2 weeks before Baby E was born, and it didn’t seem like an appropriate amount of time to prepare.
    In the end, we were at the hospital a TOTAL of 20 minutes before he was born, and Mark and I were the only ones in that room who knew what my body needed to do. Every which way, I’m still annoyed with the way I was “handled” and “managed”, though they were all clueless. I was too damned calm for a woman pushing a baby out.

    I know women who have had UCs, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them here. They had awesome experiences and would never look back.
    Know why? The medical community has entirely and thoroughly scared them away. No surprise there to me!

  10. I found this article, or should I say “opinion” poorly written and confusing to uneducated readers on this subject. I think the commenter, Annika should write a post for ECO Child to publish – very clear, concise, and to the point.

    I’m sure Ms. Fraser has enough sadness to live with, let’s leave her alone. How do we know her baby would have survived if she had been in the hospital? People die, babies die – in all kinds of situations. What about all the babies that die in hospitals, shall we say that hospital births are criminal? What about all the unnecessary money that is spent on unnecessary interventions in the hospital, isn’t that criminal in a way – causing side effects and higher costs to people not even involved?

    I’m sure Ms. Fraser was well-educated and informed of the birth process and the risks involved – we risk more putting our newborns in a car seat and then driving them home after a visit to the hospital.

    If you don’t want to have a home-birth, by all means don’t, because you will have a hard time. However, don’t belittle the people who make different choices.

    I had a beautiful home birth! I would do it all over again. I know I could do it without a midwife, but that is not an important rite of passage for me. Maybe it was for Ms. Fraser…

    Birthing at home is a safe, healthy, empowering, and beautiful experience.

    I’d rather read substantiated articles and posts – not personal and biased opinions.

  11. Jen – just because Ms. Fraser received no *professional* prenatal care does not mean she received no prenatal care. Most people who UP choose to do their own prenatal care. Even if she had received professional prenatal care, prenatal care has never been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes. In the US, even as prenatal care continues to increase in frequency and technology, our prematurity, mortality, and morbidity rates continue to rise. Prenatal care would not have prevented her baby’s problem, and it’s unclear whether it would have even predicted it.

    Second, one cannot take the statistics about unattended birth as gospel. Unattended births in studies always includes ALL unattended births, including roadside deliveries, precipitous births, dumpster babies, etc etc. There are no solid numbers on planned, properly prepared for unassisted births.

    It is not reckless and negligent to take responsibility for one’s one health and nutrition. Now, I don’t know the particulars of her labor, and whether or not she should have sought help during her labor. But every UCer I have ever known will not hesitate to get help if it appears help is necessary. As far as I know, they don’t know yet whether what killed her baby would have killed her baby no matter where she birthed.

    And to everyone else who thinks UC is reckless and negligent: you need to spend some time doing some research. Go look up all the “what ifs” of pregnancy and labor. Find out exactly what it is that OBs and midwives do. Find out how much they can prevent, and how much they can cause. Learn what *actually* constitutes an emergency.

    What you will find is that there are actually a very small number of truly horrible complications that are likely to happen in any given birth, and those are often fatal regardless of who is in attendance. You will find that most common complications of labor today are caused by the interventions designed to prevent other complications. The only people who are afraid of birth are those who don’t know enough about it.

    The only difference between UCers and people who use paid attendants, is the UCers are willing to take responsibility on themselves for their pregnancy outcomes, rather than deferring that responsibility to someone else. In that respect then, UCers are better educated and prepared than most women in the modern world, because they make the effort to take responsibility for their own bodies and babies. That’s not reckless; that’s what every woman SHOULD be doing, whether or not she has a paid attendant.

    I might also add that if the obstetric and legal climate weren’t so hostile against women who choose to birth at home, they might be more inclined to ask for help in the first place. It is this attitude of calling women who choose to manage their own body and baby health care “reckless and negligent” that drives them away from the system in the first place. A woman who uses a paid attendant is too often discouraged from doing research and making informed decisions, particularly where they run contrary to the provider’s protocol, and ESPECIALLY when it threatens the provider’s liability. This is especially true in the case of VBAC, breech, and twin birth. More and more women are choosing UC because they are given no other choice.

    All this being said, I agree that the experience and skill of a paid attendant are valuable, and should be available to all women. Unfortunately, it’s not. And if a woman decides that she wishes to shoulder that responsibility herself, that is her business. Just because a paid professional is in attendance, there is still no guarantee of a perfect outcome. Many women prefer to have one there anyway just so they can place the blame on someone or something else should anything bad happen. Sometimes bad things just happen. Who’s to say her baby would have lived even if she had an attendant?

    Instead of railing against women who choose to UC, maybe your efforts should be better spent in making attended home birth more available to women, and changing the system to allow women to have a say in their own care.

  12. Jaimelee says:

    Okay I want to apologize if this is a long comment.

    In 2007 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy completely natural in a normal birth friendly hospital. While many moms in my birth class were debating home births I simply said i wasn’t brave enough becuase my mom was a neonatal nurse practitioner and I spent a lot of time around premie babies so the what ifs scared me.

    The night i was holding my baby after 12 hours of labor I remember thinking wow it is going to be so easy next time around and even thought I might try a home birth. Fast forward to today. I am currently pregnant with my second child a baby girl and am scheduled for a high risk c section in July due to a massive fibroid that set up camp over my cervix thus blocking the way out and inhibiting a normal bikini cut c section.

    I comment on this becuase my midwife didn’t detect the fibroid in my yearly exam and if it weren’t for the ultrasound i had we would have had no idea it was there. This fibroid is in a position that would have possibly killed me and my baby had it not been found, Say if i didn’t have the ultrasound. I am currently reading everything i can and setting up a personal blood bank as well as emotionally coping with the fact this will be my last child. I want to be as prepared and educated as possible and what my future birth holds.

    I bring all of this up becuase I am a big advocate of natural birth and even contemplated becoming a bradley instructor or doula but while there are lots of uncessary interventions going on with this natural process there are also cases where they are necessary and can save mom and baby’s life. I think everyone should find a happy medium in their own birthing choices in doing what is best for baby and mommy.

    My heart goes out to Janet and think her loss was tragic but I don’t think we should knock home births all together nor do I think we should all run out for scheduled elective c sections. i think there should be a happy medium and truce made between natural birth and medical assistance. You are ultimately in control of your birth but you also can’t get so caught up that you lose sight of what is important, your life and the life of that tiny unborn baby.

  13. I imagine that she is suffering enough by the loss of her child. If she truly had criminal intentions, that would be different.

    I had a wonderful lay-midwife assisted homebirth. Personally speaking, I am not sure if I’d ever be comfortable birthing unassisted.


  14. This is always a heated issue with lots of “blame game” players on both sides of the fence. I’ve listened to the same arguments for over 20 years. It seems like reaching consensus about how and where women should give birth will occur just about the same time that we achieve world peace or the end of domestic violence, etc…

    After working as a childbirth educator and attending a couple hundred births(as a doula – labor assistant)in birth centers, homes and hospitals, I’ve come to believe that the overwhelming majority of women intuitively gravitate to which location, type of support and “methodology”is best for themselves and their unborn babies to achieve a safe passage through the giving birth/delivering experience. I’m witnessed optimal outcomes in all settings and with all kinds of support teams.

    Bad outcomes, sadly, also occur in all birth settings and situations. There isn’t a species in the world that has achieved zero per cent birth mortality rate.

    Consider it may be important for women and their partners to make the best choices for themselves and their unborn children, hopefully after receiving good information, and to take responsibility for their choices – even when the birth does not go as planned. It seems like punishment by law wouldn’t touch the pain most men and women would feel from losing a child and thinking it might not have happened if they’d made a different choice.

  15. What a terribly uninformed piece.

    Birthrape is VERY real. Most women don’t even know it’s happening to them. A woman in my ICAN group just had her waters broken totally against her wishes (while she was asleep) which caused her baby’s heart rates to decel and be followed by a repeat cesarean – which she did NOT want.

    I had a VBAC and it was the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life – and it was NO THANKS to any medical staff. They all insisted on trying to cut me open again for no good reason. Instead, I birthed a nearly 10 lb perfecly healthy baby boy the RIGHT way, and avoided the physical and emotional trauma of a repeat cesarean.

    I will never give birth in a hospital today. As far as I’m concerned, that is the most dangerous place for a healthy woman to give birth. So I understand this woman’s deep need to give birth outside away from the MedPros. Since homebirth is technically illegal in IL (USA) – I may HAVE to go unassisted if I can’t find someone to attend the birth. I’ll do what I have to do to keep me and my baby safe.

    BTW, this is a horribly sad thing for this woman. I personally would have liked to have a midwife to assist my delivery, but she did what she felt was right for her.

    If she’d had her baby in a hospital and it died (which HAPPENS ALL THE TIME) then this wouldn’t even be news.) How said is that?

  16. Emily Jones, where are you getting your information showing no correlation between lack of prenatal care and high fetal and maternity mortality and morbidity?

  17. I agree that if you do not want a home birth then do not have one. We have been birthing for THOUSANDS of years and only now is it criminal to do something that was done only 40 years ago almost every day.

    This woman will be in pain and in doubt for the rest of her life. If her baby died of cardiac arrest it could have done so in the hospital too. If she was determined to go natural do you think she did not read up on the subject? That is stupid. People die. Children die. It is a fact. A lot of people die in the hospital for complications that arose from being in the hospital… aka secondary infection and procedures that did not need to be performed.

    Having a baby is NOT an emergency. Most hospitals and doctors treat is so. The United States is criticized the world over for their birthing. We also have some of the highest rates of PPD in the world. Lets not point fingers because we do not have the whole story.

  18. I will simply answer your question with my opinion and not debate other commenters.

    I believe she was negligent and more concerned with an agenda than the outcome. I don’t believe it was criminal. And regardless of blame, fault, or judgment, my heart is broken for her and that little baby.

    Women can feel deep and powerful emotions about their birth stories. I know I do. I wouldn’t call it birth rape, but I definitely won’t be doing things the same way with #2. The man who delivered my son was an arrogant asshole, rolling his eyes at me when he didn’t like the way I was pushing and shaking his head and sighing heavily when I refused the episiotomy. Disrespectful, yes. Rape? Certainly not.

  19. I think the frustration on the part of readers here is not that she wanted an unassisted homebirth, but that she INSISTED on it, and INSISTED it was a better route. I think any time someone refuses to acknowledge a gray area, they open themselves up to this frustration and criticism. I think everyone on here knows that babies have been born unassisted and have been totally fine. But to preach about how awful it is to give birth in a hospital, to be SO ADAMANT, use the term “birthrape” (implying, unintentionally or not, that women who give birth in hospitals are willingly subjecting themselves to something with “rape” in the title) and then to refuse help in a homebirth resulting in devastating consequences? THAT is where my problem lies.

  20. While I think criminal might be a strong word, I do have to agree. Considering the statistics of death related to Freebirth, it truly seems to be playing roulette w/your baby and your own life. I myself chose a midwife & natural childbirth, IN a hospital where I had doctors and an epidural waiting nearby in case they were needed.

    No one deserves to suffer the loss of a child, but I agree that people need to take a close look at this and at the consequences of the choices made in the name of a “natural birth” at home.

  21. I am so sad to hear this has happened, and while it’s ironic that it happened to an activist, it shouldn’t discredit all home births.

    At base, it seems to me this is a case of mental illness — someone who neglected to accept any expert’s advice. What possesses someone to block all inputs? It’s not healthy.

    However, I am like many others who had an EXTREMELY rapid labor (first and only child) and no one would believe me — doctor, doula, or midwife. And — given that they were not listening very well? I was much better off in a hospital.

    As for episiotomies, I experienced a LOT of tearing and understood the protocol (natural tears heal slightly better, I think it was?). I do not think in the U.S. this is much of a controversy any more.

    I’m mostly concerned about the lack of prenatal care b/c of the high prevalence of infectious diseases in pregnant women, particularly Step B, which requires IV antibiotics. My understanding is that midwives in any setting can’t prescribe this… I could be wrong. But clearly one argument in favor of having all resources available.

    It’s particularly a shame when someone who has access to excellent care doesn’t use it. My hospital said 1/3 of all women who come there to deliver a baby have had zero prenatal care. They don’t have any choice.

  22. Criminal or hero, neither. Unfortunate is more like it. She thought her idea was a good one, probably even thought it through to some degree. Sadly her baby will bear the mark and example of free birthing and why it is a bad idea. No babies needed to doe for this to be found.

    I will totally step aside from the birthrape comment, that is as lewd as any word I have heard and I have a foul mouth.

  23. I think this illustrates the problem with that fact that some hospital births are so traumatizing to some women that they end up seeking out alternatives for subsequent births that aren’t in the best interests of themselves or their babies. That is the real issue. Women are not usually considered partners in the birthing of their own babies by doctors or staff. They are infantalized themselves and acted upon at a moment of heightened emotions and extreme vulnerability. We don’t all have the perfect A Baby Story experience.

    And perhaps we don’t because we don’t go into pregnancy and childbirth with the facts we need to be realistic and make sound choices.

    What happened to Ms. Frazier’s child is a tragedy and her own part in that will be something she will never really recover from, but is she a criminal? I am glad I am not the one who has to make that decision.

  24. A criminal? Are you serious? Unless you feel her intent at having an unassisted home birth was to achieve this result then it is absurd that you would even suggest that it was a crime.

    Childbirth is something that women were created to do. It isn’t a medical procedure. I have my children in the hospital with doctors, but that is my choice.

    I personally think that Janet Fraser is extremist, but I think with this post you have proven that you are as well.

  25. Nepenthe says:

    “Criminal” for a woman to choose to allow her body to perform a function it is designed by evolution and nature to do? Um…are you serious? Have you really thought that line of reasoning through to the bitter end? You’re suggesting we criminalise women giving birth in the manner in which they choose and women dictacting what they do and don’t allow to be done to their bodies. That’s insane.

    Also, you err on many points in your “article”. Janet Fraser has never claimed that consensual genuinely medically required procedures are rape. She has, however, stated that women being held down whilst their genitals are cut with scissors as they scream “NO!” (as one example) is sexual assault, which to my mind, is a fair statement. Non-consensual medical procedures are assault. That’s a fact. For women in labour, the assault is often sexual due to the nature of the procedures being forced on them. That’s another fact. The term “birthrape” may be confronting but who are you to invalidate those women who feel it applies to them? If you don’t identify with the term or the experiences behind it, then I’m very happy for you, as it must be a truly hellish trauma to endure.

    Furthermore, there have been no FACTS obtained or released as to how Janet Fraser’s baby died. It is not even known if the baby was already dead when born, or died during the birth. It is certainly not known whether it would have made the slightest bit of difference if the baby was born in hospital instead of at home, or if prenatal care would have helped either. So there is, at this point, NO evidence on which to pin blame on either homebirth or Janet Fraser for her daughter’s death. None. Your comments are erroneous, hysterical, sensationalist, ignorant and totally cruel.

    Also, nobody knows how long Janet Fraser actually laboured or at what point she made decisions to seek help. I’m quite sure she sought help as soon as she felt it was needed, as we all would do. To claim otherwise is complete assumption based on nothing other than the need to invent further fuel to burn Ms Fraser at the stake. Furthermore, labouring for days (even weeks!) can be completely normal and healthy. If you knew ANYTHING about labour and birth, you’d know that. You don’t know the level of Ms Fraser’s personal knowledge about birth, you don’t know the choices made, you don’t know the details of what truly happened, you dont’ know ANYTHING – so what, precisely, have you based your calls for blood upon?!

    Truly, there are a lot of bigmouthed ignorant ghouls running around the inter-ma-net at the moment. It really is true what “they” say about opinions.

  26. Babies die in hospital births. Babies die in homebirths. We have to live with our choices.

  27. A hero or a criminal: why does she even have to be either one of these things?

    Is it really necessary?

    From much research on the subject: a major question concerning this would be WHY? Why would ANY expecting mum decide to go this route? I’ve read a time or two about home births here in the ol’ USA where the mom and the midwife have clearly communicated that the plan was to have the midwife come over to the mum’s house as normal BUT that unless desired by the woman giving birth wants or needs to be checked in any way or for whatever period of time more than what’s written in the *hopefully* prepared birth plan, that the MIDWIFE would be at arm’s reach BUT yet letting nature take it’s course.

    This is unfortunately rare for various reasons, mainly because state laws typically require more unnecessary, uncomfortable, and painful physical exams, among other things. Also, with the cost of malpractice insurance these days and a sue-happy population in which we live in, it’s a risk to them if they do not do what is excepted of them by the gov’t.

    This leaves mums with very little possibility of anything than the basic same old, same old that is expected of them. Oh, and this is why some women choose to deliver their own THEMSELVES: it can many times be the only way to have the type of birth that Mother Nature intended.

    Moreover, women who are not educated about the subject matter should most definitely NOT attempt something like this nor should they be giving birth in the first place!!!

  28. Unassisted birth is ignorant. Women and babies survive today when they wouldn’t have 100 years ago because of trained medical professionals. I’m all for assisted home birth, birth centers, water births, and hospitals… whatever the parents choose in an educated and fully informed way. I feel strongly that Ms. Fraser stood too strongly for something that cost her child’s life. Parents can be punished for withholding medical care for their children… sometimes we take our rights so far that they cause harm to our children who are innocent and unable to protect or stand up for themselves.

    I think this is a horrible tragedy. I don’t think Ms. Fraser should face criminal charges for she will live with this tragedy for the rest of her life and I cannot imagine walking in those shoes.

  29. How safe is my home birth? The question is, how safe is *your* hospital birth? Didn’t you hear about the dozen newborns that recently acquired MRSA while IN THE HOSPITAL, not to mention the hundreds of others who acquire infections and antibiotic-resistant illnesses every year, some of whom die? Seems to me that if anyone is criminally negligent, it’s people choosing to give birth in germ-infested and disease-ridden hospitals where your chance of being cut open is 1 in 3. It seems a complete oxymoron to say that hospitals are safer.

    Also, some of you seem confused about what birth rape is and whether it’s “real.” Perhaps this will help clear it up. http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2008/03/not_a_happy_bir

  30. I think it’s a very bad idea to give birth without having a trained attendant present. Unfortunately, the legal climate in many areas can pressure a mom into an unassisted homebirth. I understand that there are laws in many states prohibiting midwife-assisted homebirth. I’d be willing to bet that there is a much higher rate in those states of death and serious complications from unassisted deliveries. Banning midwives does not stop homebirths, it just makes them significantly riskier.

  31. I’m shocked by several things in this opinion piece and the comments that followed. A criminal? Really? Do we call mothers who eat crap their whole pregnancy and then get high blood pressure criminals too? Aren’t they risking their babies health too? If that sounds extreme, it was. I’m making a point here. What’s worse is that in your extreme opinion, you also question her claims of birthrape? How anyone (women especially) could question the experience of someone else is beyond me! And the other commenters all too eager to laugh off a woman feeling completely and utterly VIOLATED at the hands of medical professionals…how horrible!

    What this article should be discussing is WHY women are leaving hospitals, seeking another way. I’m in the middle of the country. Some of the hospitals here have a c/s rate of over 40%. Only 10 years ago, my girlfriend was shaved and given an enema on admittance for delivery. Our birth system is broken and needs to change. We need to educate ourselves and give women more choices during labor and delivery. We all shouldn’t have to push out a baby on our backs!!! Women wouldn’t be leaving if our hospitals were more supportive and open. Most labor nurses around here don’t even know how to support a natural birth. They’ve never even seen one.

    Let’s support each other’s choices here. My heart goes out to Ms. Fraser and her family.

  32. Well, I just think that being a mother is an awesome responsibility. I think we owe it to ourselves and our babies to get the best possible medical care that is within our ethical boundaries. That doesn’t necessarily mean a hospital. But, I think a mother owes her child a healthy birth and healthy pre-natal care. And, if she feels that she’s being poked and prodded by the medical community, then again I would say it is her responsibility to find a doctor or midwife that better suits her and will still give her baby (and her) good medical care.

    As far as legal negligence goes, I’m certainly not a lawyer. However, I think anyone who disregards the health of a child should face a legal consequence, whether that person is the child’s parent or not. If a child were being beaten, would it matter if the perpetrator were the child’s parent or a stranger? No. The abuser would be arrested and punished. So, if a woman neglects to give her unborn child proper care, why should she escape legal responsibility? I feel sorry for her loss, no question. But, she must also be willing to face up to her own role in this tragedy.

    I know that sounds unfeeling to some, but I try to think about this as if it were my child. I would never hesitate to put my child’s health ahead of my own agenda. I can live with compromised ethics but a child who dies cannot have that luxury.

  33. While I agree this is a tragedy (that her baby died). I know far too many babies that have died as a result of interventions. Yet, no one is poop pooing the Dr.’s as irresponsible. Trust me when I say, babies are not “die-proof” in a hospital.

  34. My wife is ready to give birth any day now. This is our second child and she will be delivering at our home. We have a very experienced midwife here in Prescott, Arizona and two doulas. We feel so positive about this.

    You know, after millions of years of evolution, the woman and the baby know what they are doing. They have evolved to know. It they didn’t know all of us wouldn’t have made it this far down the evolutionary trail.

    We need to trust the woman and the baby and resist the too-big-of-a-brain-for-our-own-good human tendancy to intervene, poke, prode, medicate, and cut, induce, and medicate (until it is actually needed).

  35. it’s horrible that this poor baby died, i do have to say that it’s irresponsible to not have a midwife present at the very least. if you don’t want them to help deliver, just have them there in case something goes wrong. but i do have to slightly agree with the birthrape comment. i have not had any children of my own but i plan to have a home birth, but i plan to be as responsible as possible by going to check ups and watching the baby’s progress and if everything goes well i will go forward with my home birth in the presence of a midwife. i feel that hospitals are very stressful environments to have a child in. there are some very good ones, and excellent doctors willing to be flexible with your birth plan but they aren’t available to all people. i do not want any doctor forcing anything on me that i don’t agree with. i do not believe in drastic measures such as c section and thus i will not give any doctor a chance to pressure me into something like that.

  36. I agree with the many that ask how people know that this baby would not have died had there been prenatal care or had there been medical assistance.

    There are many tests I deny in prenatal care because having the result beforehand doesn’t change the outcome.

    This could have been true in this case as well.

    Would I make the same choices as Janet Fraser? No, but I certainly wouldn’t call it criminal and my heart aches for her family.

    I, for one, hope that she is able to help even MORE mothers-to-be as a result of this loss.

    I personally love the wonderful homebirth stories I get to read on the internet.

    Like others have said, not every one goes perfectly, but not every hospital birth goes perfectly either. Babies and mothers DO die at hospitals and birthing centers too – sometimes even deaths that were preventable if different choices had been made. Regardless of the surrounding circumstances…any loss is tragic and it saddens me to see people pointing fingers and calling names and such at during a time of mourning.

    Janet Fraser’s lack of prenatal care or “assistance” during birth may have contributed to her baby’s death, but it also may not have. That’s something she is going to have to deal with every day for the rest of her life. So many people’s blaming her and none KNOW with any certainty that prenatal care or medical assistance would have without a doubt made a difference. Sometimes, these things just happen and all the medical assistance in the world doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

  37. I have read a lot on home births and I am convinced that there are pro’s and cons to both sides. I am pregnant and I am going to have my baby at home. I think that christy is right about belittling others choices. I have talked personaly to women about their home births and the answers are always the same. They loved it and would do it again. One woman I know has done it 6 times. The point I am trying to make is that infant death in this case isn’t enough to say that mothers should not give bith at home. If you follow that logic than no one would have babys at all becouse some die no matter where they are born.

  38. What Janet Frasier did was irresponsible. Her baby died. The posters that say “babies die at home, babies die in the hospital” show a remarkable lack of emotional connection for the dead babies and their grieving mothers and fathers etc. I figure most of the people who rattle off that kind of flippant comment are fine with babies dying and long as it is someone else’s baby dying.
    Once your baby dies life as you once knew it will change forever. And if you are lucky enough to get another chance, hopefully your focus will change from worrying about what is happening to you to what is happening to the baby. Suddenly, it will all become clear: No outcome is more important than the survival of the baby. You can fight the system later. But the mother’s job is not to plan for a “lovely birth” but for a live baby. IF A BABY DIES IN HOSPITAL IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. But if you are not at any medical facility and your baby’s cord prolapses you have a few minutes to save him/her then YOU HAVE TAKEN THE RISK, and MUST assume the responsibility. Prolapses that occur at home (multiparas pay attention) almost always result in death. They happen more frequently than you realize and more often, the more babies you have had, because there is more room for the cord to slip through the cervix and become compressed.
    For thousands of years the most life threatening time in a woman and baby’s life has been childbirth. Women and babies died all the time. Nature did not create a perfect system for us humans. Our skulls are too big for the female pelvis and we have many more problems during birth than other animals. But people who work closely with animals will tell you that animals lose babies all the time. Which do you want? Raw nature, or a live baby? We women are spoiled nowadays. We are not hardened to the knowledge that we or our baby may not live. Now we are naive, and some cases stupid. This woman had talked (no doubt with the encouragement of her “friends”) herself into eschewing ANY form of help or aid, thinking that she could do “it” herself. And so, she did. To nature guy who was extolling the virtues of thousands of years of natural birthing. Look at Janet Frasier. That is nature. Pure, beautiful, unadulterated nature. She lived. Isn’t that beautiful?

  39. What a twit, she murdered her baby… Even if it was by accident.

  40. “I cannot see the wisdom in it.

    Neither can Ms. Fraser’s baby.”

    Absolutely disgusting comment. You should be ashamed to have written it.

  41. I saw no statistics to back up your assertions about safety during birth. Perhaps some empiricism would be useful rather than anecdotes.

  42. Omigosh the ignorance of this article.

  43. Oh my gosh, the ignorance of some of these commenters. I’m open to all choices as long as a trained professional is on the premises. To say that hospitals rape you and are germ infested and you’re neglectful for giving birth on one is so ridiculous that I hope that poster never reproduces.

    To say homebirths are careless and stupid is idiotic.

    To say that freebirth is stupid is very true.

  44. Just becaue a Dr/Nurse/Midwfie/Medical Professional is involved, it doesn’t mean they have the right to violate a woman withoutr consent. My 2nd son was born in hospital and I was subjected to being checked for dilation and my cervix being pushed aside (from 9cm to 10cm) against my will. In my definition this is birth rape. Those who have fortunately not been subjected to this cannot understand. And there are those who have been subjected to this who think it must be OK as it was a Medical Professional.

    I believe that birth is natural and doesn’t need to be medically managed (or mismanaged as the case may be). The interference rate is uacceptably high (forceps/ventouse/c-section) and puts women and babies at risk. I ended up with an infection as did my baby after my 2nd birth (hospital). My 1st was born at a midwfie unit.

    Due to the awful treatment and awful birth that I am positive wwas due to being in hosptial I decided to free-birth my 3rd baby. He was born perfectly and safely at home with no medical personnel present. I am sick of the scaremongering around unassisted births. Those of us who do birth unassisted are well-researched, take good care of ourselves during pregnancy and are prepared. Babies die in hospitals as well, and for me I believe the risks are worse there for a healthy woman with ahealthy pregnancy.

  45. Common sense says:

    Homebirth deaths make the news because they are rare. The only reason we don’t hear about hospital birth deaths is because they are so common. Figure it out!


  1. […] How Safe Is Your Home Birth? […]

  2. […] Europeans. They think that–gaffaw–home birthing is safe! Haven’t they heard about home birth activist Janet Fraser and her very personal tragedy? You know the story: an unassisted childbirth ended with her baby’s death, for reasons that […]

  3. […] has been a bit of controversy about unassisted childbirth after Janet Fraser, the birth activist who coined the term “birth rape“, gave birth to […]

  4. […] many people around the blogosphere has been pointing to the death of homebirth advocate Janet Frazer’s baby with a gigantic, “See?…See?!” (followed by a “Na-na-na-na-boo-bo!”), […]

  5. […] whose response was, The article I most enjoyed recently was “How Safe Is Your Home Birth?” by Jessica Gottlieb. I passed it on to several […]

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