Freebirthing in the UK: A Narrative Study

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Nursing


Freebirthing is a clandestine, yet legal practice, where women intentionally give birth without health care professionals present. Although women in the UK have access to free maternity provision, research suggests that increasing numbers of women in this country are freebirthing their babies.

Problematically, freebirthing women are often faced with stigma and condemnation from the maternity services and wider society. There is research however, that suggests many women decide to freebirth due to previous birth trauma, including mental health consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder and post-natal depression. Response to freebirth from health care professionals can be unpredictable, ranging from support and understanding, to automatic referrals to social services.

By capturing the narratives of freebirthing women, this study aims to understand their motivations, experiences and pregnancy journeys. The methodology that will be employed - the voice centred relational method - will enable the narratives to be analysed within their bioethical and sociological context. The outcome will enable health care professionals to better support women who make atypical birthing decisions such as freebirth, whilst also contributing to the growing academic literature on subjects such as the rights and interests of pregnant women versus those of their babies, and the medicalization of childbirth.

Uniquely, this project is supported by two pioneering national charities - AIMS and Birthrights - who will assist in the recruitment of participants, disseminate the results and ensure the outcome of the study has impact where it matters most - in the lives of pregnant women and the work of health care professionals.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1917737 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 21/06/2022 Gemma McKenzie