Table 2

Overview of the research traditions.

Research traditionTexts (n)Disciplines includedTypes of literatureFocus
Nursing1NursingQualitative empirical study.One study, which focuses on the experiences of women in California in 1971 who decide to freebirth.
Midwifery34MidwiferyOpinion, literature reviews, qualitative empirical studies, quantitative empirical studies, narratives, academic argument, conference abstract.Midwifery has explored freebirth in the most detail, with an emphasis on understanding the lived experiences of freebirthing women. Literature also explores the role of the maternity services and the provision of care in creating circumstances where women are more likely to freebirth their babies.
Medicine8Obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, sexual and reproductive health, perinatal care.Quantitative empirical studies, qualitative empirical study, opinion, commentary, editorial, conference abstract.Quantitative studies have attempted to understand the health outcomes for women and babies after freebirths by analysing the mortality rates for women in religious communities in the USA who eschew all medical care. A qualitative study explored women’s freebirth experiences in Sweden. Opinion, commentary and the editorial linked freebirth to negative aspects of the maternity system, such as limited homebirth services.
Sociology5American studies, sociology.Qualitative empirical studies.Sociological studies were frequently framed within feminist discourse with academic debate incorporating, for example, stigma, Foucault and concepts of risk.
Anthropology3Anthropology, physical anthropology, women’s and cultural studies.Qualitative empirical studies, poster presentation.Anthropological studies were varied and included one on the prosecution of women in the USA who give birth unattended. A second study explored the freebirthing practices of Piro women in Peru, and a third challenged the biological argument that female humans are unable to give birth unassisted due to bipedalism and encephalisation.
Activism9N/A.Report, editorial, narratives, opinion.Activism literature came from one source: AIMS (Association for Improvement in Maternity Services). These texts highlighted the role of birth trauma in women’s freebirthing decisions, explored women’s narratives and highlighted the condemnation of some freebirthing women by HCPs, for example the use of social services and police involvement.
Autobiographical texts with birthing philosophy9N/A.Narratives.The detailed narratives of women’s freebirthing journeys including motivations, birth and postnatal experiences.
Pregnancy and birthing advice3Lay/non-biomedical advice.Advisory texts, narrative.Two sources discuss the benefits of freebirth, and the third describes the condemnation the author experienced while outlining his experiences as a husband of a freebirthing woman on national television.
Law and ethics3Law, medical ethics, ethics.Review, student essay, academic argument.The review explored the lawfulness of freebirth in the USA, while the academic argument explored freebirth within a wider discussion on the regulatory framework for unregulated birth workers in Australia. The student essay emphasises the need for open dialogue between pregnant women and HCPs, and the requirement that maternity services better fulfil women’s needs.
  • HCPs, healthcare professionals; N/A, not applicable.