A newborn baby is fighting for life in hospital after what’s believed to have been a “freebirth” gone wrong.
Medics have warned against the practice, in which a woman chooses to give birth without medical or midwifery assistance.
Paramedics were called to an incident in Ocean Grove, on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, at about 10.20am on Tuesday.
“A female in her 20s was transported by road to University Hospital Geelong in a stable condition for observation,” a spokesman for Ambulance Victoria said.
“An infant with a medical condition was transported by road to University Hospital Geelong in a critical condition.”
The baby was at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne in a critical condition on Friday.
It’s understood the birth took place at a home without midwives or doctors.
Freebirth, also known as an unassisted birth, usually occurs at home.
It is different to a home birth, which is a planned birth at home with medical care.
Barwon Health, which runs University Hospital Geelong, did not comment specifically on the incident but said freebirthing was “strongly discouraged”.
Chief medical officer Ajai Verma said while the organisation respected individuals’ autonomy, freebirthing was not supported by evidence in medical literature and posed a significant risk to both mother and baby.
“Barwon Health provides a comprehensive service to support women giving birth that is respectful of individual choices and includes the option for some women to give birth at home,” Dr Verma said.
That publicly funded home birth program allows women to give birth at home with the help of two midwives.
Women who choose to freebirth will not have access to the healthcare and resources available from medical professionals if something goes wrong for them or their baby, according to Healthdirect Australia’s Pregnancy, Birth and Baby resource.
Additionally, complications — such as abnormal bleeding, retained placenta, umbilical cord prolapse or low birth weight — cannot be diagnosed by a health professional and thus may go undetected.
“Even if your pregnancy is low risk, problems can still occur, Healthdirect Australia says.
“This is why birthing with a trained maternity care provider present is considered the safer option.”
A spokesman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), speaking broadly and not regarding any specific incident, said health professionals generally agreed that freebirth was not safe because of the significant risks for both mother and baby.
“RANZCOG maintains that every woman and their baby should have the direct care of a qualified and registered professional at their birth,” the spokesman said.