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“I knew there has to be a better way”: Women’s pathways to freebirth in Poland

Published:August 05, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2021.07.008

      Abstract

      Background

      Each year a small number of women decide to birth at home without midwifery and medical assistance despite the availability of maternity services in the country. This phenomenon is called freebirth and can be used as a lens to look into shortcomings of maternity care services.

      Aim

      By exploring women’s pathways to freebirth, this article aims to examine the larger context of maternity services in Poland and identify elements of care contributing to women’s decision to birth without midwifery and medical assistance.

      Methods

      A qualitative methodology was used employing elements of ethnographic fieldwork, including digital ethnography. Semi-structured interviews with twelve women who freebirth, analysis of online support groups, secondary sources of information and elements of participant observation were used.

      Findings

      Women’s decisions to freebirth were born out of their previous negative experiences with maternity care. Persistent use of medical technology and lack of respect from maternity care providers played a major role in pushing women away from available Polish maternity services. While searching for a better environment for themselves and their babies for the subsequent births, women experienced a rigidity of both mainstream and homebirth services and patchy availability of the latter that contributed to their decisions to freebirth.

      Conclusions

      Freebirth appears to be a consequence of inadequate maternity services both mainstream and homebirth rather than a preference. Women’s freebirth experiences can be used to improve maternity care in Poland and inform similar contexts globally.

      Keywords

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