Giving Birth Outside the Health Care System in New Brunswick: A Qualitative Investigation

Kate LeBlanc, BA, and Jude Kornelsen, PhD



Introduction: There is limited research data on unassisted childbirth (a planned out-of-hospital birth without the attendance of a regulated care provider) in Canada; this means that there is a lack of understanding of its prevalence and of the childbearing women’s motivations. This study aimed to uncover women’s reasons for planning to give birth in the absence of an attendant licensed to practice in New Brunswick, in order to create insight into mainstream maternity care practices through those who have rejected them.

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviewing with women who have had planned home births in New Brunswick in the past 10 years.

Results: Participants had a variety of motivations and influences that played in their decision to have an unassisted home birth, including deeply held beliefs about childbirth and the need to manifest these beliefs in their experiences of birth. Participants expressed their desire to be the locus of control in their childbirth experience and believed they could best accomplish this outside of the hospital setting. Influences included ideological stance toward birth, the attitudes of their families and friends, and birth stories they had heard.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that when women’s needs are not met by mainstream health services, some will choose to give birth in the absence of a skilled provider or independent attendant. This gives rise to the need for discussion between all care providers and parturient women to better understand unmet needs and unaddressed fears around hospital birth.



home childbirth, unattended birth, freebirth, natural childbirth, midwifery, pregnancy, parturition, women, decision making, motivation


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