One thing that we can't say about Sarah Schmid is that she's camera shy. And she's got almost half-a-million pairs of eyes to prove it. The outgoing resident of Halle, Germany documented her sixth and latest birth from her own backyard. What's remarkable was that the entire delivery was a solo outing, which she later posted on YouTube.
It's a phenomenon called "free-birthing", meaning that the mother does all the heavy lifting, so to speak, through all the stages of labor and without any additional help or even anesthesia or other medication. And Schmid, who once trained to be a doctor before becoming a full-time mom, is a regular pro at it, even recording the events on video. Save for a midwife, who helped her with her first baby, she's delivered four other children unassisted and finds nothing unusual about the practice.
“A woman looks like a woman," said Schmid. "It is the most natural and normal thing in the world. I don’t think it’s strange.”
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What Schmid did find off-putting was during her medical training when she noticed hospital births and how mothers felt uncomfortable in a more clinical environment. After quitting, she was determined she would never let a baby be born in a medical facility.
Figures are next to impossible to come by on the trend, although health care workers admit that such deliveries are occurring more frequently than ever. An advocacy group called the Free Birth Society is calling it a movement, and while the organization doesn't cite any hard facts to support that claim, it does have nearly 5,000 followers on its Facebook page.
Similarly, free-birthing is still relatively under the radar when it comes to collecting data on its popularity. The closest numbers available are the number of planned home births (which might make allowances for the presence of midwives or even physicians), which is as low as 0.9 percent of all baby deliveries in Sweden and as high as 20 percent in the Netherlands.
Advocates of free-birthing believe the practice is connected to an increasing satisfaction for mothers who feel in control of the process. But the medical community is worried that the lack of professional assistance could result in high-risk situations, such as breech positioning of the baby when the mother is in labor.