The “natural birth” movement was born in the United States in the 1940s, under various names such as “pain-free childbirth,” “prepared childbirth,” and “natural birth.” Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, more women began to embrace this idea. It really gained momentum during the 1970s and 1980s, when Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery became a bestseller. Ina May Gaskin outlined the benefits of giving birth in a comfortable environment at home.
Arguments against the “natural” birth movement
The “natural childbirth” movement gained more followers in the 1950s and 1960s, but really took off in the United States in the 1970s. The movement was motivated by women’s desire to take control of their lives and push back against the paternalistic medical establishment. The movement’s supporters often cite historical reasons for the success of their philosophy. However, arguments against the movement’s approach are surprisingly varied.
Some critics of the natural birth movement argue that home births are dangerous and the risks associated with drug-free childbirth are too high. Others contend that drug-free childbirths are not always safer or more effective. There are also concerns about breastfeeding. Despite these concerns, advocates of natural childbirth are still gaining popularity among women. While there are legitimate concerns about the risks associated with home births, advocates must not be tempted to dismiss a practice that benefits babies in so many ways.
Roots of the movement in a belief that women deserve to feel pain during childbirth
The “natural birth movement” is a movement that promotes giving birth naturally and without the use of artificial drugs. Its origins lie in Christian philosophical ideas, such as the belief that women should feel pain during childbirth. The movement advocates a return to a more “natural” birth, which involves vaginal childbirth with minimal medical interventions. By promoting this movement, women can break the cycle of modern society and become more aware of their bodies.
Proponents of natural childbirth make several claims. Giving birth in familiar surroundings helps reduce anxiety and fear, while birthing in medically-induced hospitals can lead to a medicalized birth. But these claims can’t stand up against the evidence: a recent study found that most women do just fine without all the medical technology that comes with 21st century obstetrics.
Benefits of the movement to women
The benefits of natural childbirth are well documented, including the numerous stories of traumatic outcomes of delayed intervention and repeated testimony from mothers who felt like failures. The “natural childbirth movement” has been a form of critique against modern Western society. Its advocates advocate for eschewing interventions and technologies and define “nature” as something primitive, spiritual and instinctual. Women who believe in this model argue that it is natural for the body to give birth by vagina.
Mothers who give birth naturally may be more likely to breastfeed their infant. Medical interventions disrupt this process, making it more difficult for the baby to latch on to the breast. Natural childbirth also improves the gut bacteria in the baby, which plays an important role in digestion and the immune system. Breastfeeding also allows a mother to avoid the discomfort of a hospital stay, which helps her recover more quickly. And, unlike women who undergo surgery, doctors are usually able to breastfeed their babies without pain or abrasions.
Misconceptions about the movement
The “natural” birth movement argues that the vaginal delivery is superior to the more-frequent cesarean sections. This is not the case. The birth process that results in a healthy, living baby is superior. Despite the myths, a significant percentage of women opt for cesarean sections. However, women who wish to avoid cesarean delivery should do their research before making the final decision.
There are numerous misconceptions about the natural childbirth movement, but the truth is that this approach is a valuable tool in the quest to improve the health of our society. This is an example of the worldview known as holism, which has been central to antimodernist critiques of society. This article is based on research funded by the Wellcome Trust. While the claims of natural childbirth are undoubtedly compelling, many are skeptical.