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Natural Birth Isn’t Beneficial

By Amy Hoyt

Hey, what’s up with that headline? Is that a typo? Aren’t you a proponent of natural birth?

Why, yes. Yes, I am. What I want to share with you is an idea that has been spreading in the breastfeeding world for some time now, and I think needs to also spread to the birth world. Natural birth does not hold benefits. It holds normalities.

As mammals, this is the normal way we were intended to birth babies. Moving, private, peaceful, free. As humans, this is the normal way we were intended to birth babies. Supported, loved, nurtured, unmedicated.

Natural birth doesn’t add anything to the birth experience. It is the way the birth experience was intended to be. It doesn’t benefit the baby. It doesn’t benefit the mother. It doesn’t bring short-term or longterm benefits. It is where we set our human standard. Anything other than this is deviating from the way we were intended to be.

Birthing naturally brings risks. Just as with breastfeeding, our bodies have a specific way to work. We have a specific birthing function, a specific feeding function. It is a correlation between the mother and the baby. Any time we deviate from that course, we increase the risk of things going wrong, and causing harm.

Often times we are told that our bodies are not good enough. That, even though we are mammals, whose very definition is one who “gives birth” and “nurses their young,” our bodies will not do. We need help from manmade products. “Supplements.”

We supplement with membrane sweeps, cervical ripenings, artificial oxytocin. Supplements lead to less of us, more of them, until we find ourselves unable to produce at all. Unable to produce milk, unable to produce contractions.

We are told our nipples are the wrong shape, our uteri are the wrong shape, our pelvises are the wrong shape. Our bodies will harm our babies. They tell us this, and they are wrong.

We are told that natural birth is dangerous, that it is impossible, that it is unrealistic, and that we are just trying to martyr ourselves. When did normal become such a big deal? When did we get so detached from ourselves that we can’t fathom our bodies functioning in normal ways?

Our society has set the standard at medicated birth, just as it has set the standard at artificially-fed infants. We have tests and procedures that are necessary for medical births, that have become routine and “normal.” We have nurses trained to help medicated mothers, but who are unaware of what to do for a naturally birthing one. We have doctors who have been trained to interfere, and do so with such regularity that we have to specifically state over and over that for this birth, we want to be left alone.

Shouldn’t it all be the other way around?

Shouldn’t we be wondering at the dangers of medicated birth? Of interfering with the natural bodily functions? Shouldn’t we base our studies not on how natural birth might lower risks, but on how interference may increase risks? Shouldn’t the burden of proof be placed on deviating from normal, rather than deviating from medicalized birth?

Why are we looking for studies and statistics which prove the value of natural birth? Do we look for studies and statistics which prove the worth of natural breathing, natural urination, natural eating? Why don’t we hear studies talking about the benefits of not catheterizing everyone? Or putting everyone on a ventilator. Or giving everyone a feeding tube? Wouldn’t that be a ridiculous world to live in, where everyone was made to believe that they could not eat, breathe or urinate without medical intervention?

And yet, with birth, we find a huge discrepancy. It is a normal bodily function that is overseen by doctors, nurses, medications and machines. We are told that we can’t do it naturally. And medicalized birth becomes the norm.

We need to stop setting the birth standard at medicalized birth. Any deviation from the normal way the body functions should be backed by a true medical reason. We should not be laughed at, scoffed at, or ridiculed for wanting to do what is normal. Normal should be supported and accepted. It should not be rare. It should not be so hard to attain. It should not be something we have to battle for.

The health benefits, bonding benefits and breastfeeding benefits associated with natural birth are not benefits at all. They are what every mother and baby are intended to have. They are the standard. Yet how many know this? How many choose risk because they believe that risk is normal?

Natural birth is not beneficial. Natural birth is normal.