Even in maternity care systems with free midwifery care, some women intentionally choose to birth unattended by any health professional (freebirth). Women who choose freebirth represent an enigma for many, and a provocation to some. However, people who do not conform to dominant medical practices are a source of valuable insights that can reveal shortcomings in the mainstream health care system. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore and understand women's motivations and preparations for freebirth.
The study was informed by the theoretical lens of the 'undisciplined patient'. Qualitative, in-depth interviews were performed with ten Danish women, who for their most recent birth had planned to freebirth. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Four themes were identified. "The standard system is not for me" describes negative experiences during previous births and the desire for more individualised support. "Re-establishing trust in myself" describes the women's quest for recognizing their own needs and re-building autonomy and inner strength. "I do my research" describes how the women sought new ways of knowing and prioritised experiential knowledge. And finally, "I create my safe space" describes the women's efforts to create the best possible physical and emotional space for themselves and their babies in order to have a safe and autonomous birth experience.
Freebirth is not undertaken lightly or without preparation by women. Improved continuity of care as well as greater flexibility in hospital guidelines could accommodate some of these women's demand for autonomy in birth.