Is Natural Birth Only for Crazy, “Crunchy” Moms?

One of my husband's former friends spends a lot of time ridiculing us for our choices about health, baby care, and pregnancy and birth.  He constantly drops comments about how we're crazy, or too “crunchy” or maybe just conspiracy-theory-believing hippies who can't think for ourselves.  You can see why he's a “former” friend…

Unfortunately, his belief that families who choose natural birth are a bit crazy is pretty common.  Choosing to decline medications and medical technology is seen as a fringe movement, and a dangerous one at that.  In reality, evidence-based medicine shows that natural birth with no- to low-intervention rates is safest for the vast majority of mamas and babies.  It also proves that medications and medical technology are not only not helpful for most mama-baby pairs, but they can actually be dangerous.

Wanting the Best for Your Baby – And Yourself

There is nobody in the world that wants better for your baby than you do.  No doctor, no hospital, no midwife, no government, no social worker.  Nobody.

A mother's love is fierce and enduring, and a woman's investment into the life and health of her child is unmatched.  Considering all of your options in pregnancy and birth is your love as a mother manifested in a practical way.  Choosing a certain care provider, birth setting, childbirth method, etc. is your love manifested.

An interesting thing happens when a mom starts researching pregnancy and birth in depth as she prepares for her baby's birth.  At first she comes across the readily available, “mainstream” information: big, corporate-owned websites, glossy magazines, and “best sellers” at the book store.  Some mamas do stop with those because they generally line up with medical and governmental recommendations.  But often moms dig even deeper, looking into alternatives that get only a mention in a magazine or corporate website.  Or they hear about something from another mom, or even just a bit of gossip or flippant “you won't believe what my crazy cousin did…”  And curiosity is piqued.

Luckily there are books and websites devoted to natural birth – they give more than lip service.  And they often do something that mainstream resources doesn't… they share evidence.

Mothers have a fierce love and desire to protect their babies.  Evidence and wisdom both speak loudly to the mama that wants the best for her baby. Of course, there are mamas who immediately know that a very medically-managed pregnancy and birth is right for them.  But more and more come to understand the many benefits of natural birth – and the unpleasant outcomes often associated with typical, medically managed pregnancies and births.  Those moms want the best for their babies.

And they want the best for themselves.  I hate the implication that wanting a good pregnancy and a good birth is somehow selfish.  It's actually revolting to think that a mother who has done research and prepared for birth would be considered selfish for declining interventions that have been shown to create danger.  What's selfish about that?

And natural birth is designed by nature to give mamas and babies an incredible high after birth.  That “high” creates safety, enhances a mother's and baby's bond, stops bleeding, improves milk production, regulates every system in baby's body… I could go on and on (and I do, in fact, cover this extensively in The Case for Bonding at Birth).

Though a few mamas and babies really will need interventions, a mother is never selfish for planning a healthy, natural birth for herself and her baby.  She's never selfish for consciously considering choices in her health care and that of her little one.

And she's not crazy for doing those things, either.

Who Chooses Natural Birth?

Contrary to what my hubby's ex-friend seems to think, it's not uneducated conspiracy-theorists (or gullible media-mongers) who choose to have natural births – or even home births.

In fact, highly educated families are more likely to choose natural births – and even home births.

I'm not saying you need to plan a home birth, I'm just pointing out that it's thoughtful, intelligent women who are making these choices.  It's these women who are choosing to pay for home birth midwives, or who are choosing to pay to go to “out of network” hospitals that support their plans and preparations for unmedicated births, VBAC births, etc. Check out this article from the Atlantic – really thought-provoking (opens in a new tab for you). It's also interesting that many doctors and nurses are choosing to birth at home (also opens in a new tab for you).

These are highly-educated, intelligent people.

And lets be honest, income level and education level do not always correlate with intelligence.  If a mother of any social class, educational background, or racial group chooses a natural birth, she's probably done her homework.

Families choosing natural birth aren't stupid – nor are the stubborn.  It's often a mom's instincts that lead her to seek out advice from her doctor or midwife – or insist on being checked over when everything looks “fine.”  A woman who prepares, plans for, and truly desires a natural birth will willingly undergo a cesarean section if it will save her baby's life (which is a card that gets played so very often – a mother would be willing to die for her baby so it's easy to push for a “lifesaving” surgery or intervention that, well, wasn't really…).

Moms are smart and they want the best for their babies.  Intelligent women choose natural births for intelligent reasons – not because it's trendy or even deliciously counter-culture.  It's because they know that birth is generally safe – at least, until you mess with it.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Natural Birth is Not a Fad

It's sometimes implied that natural birth is just a fad, and even intelligent mothers are all caught up in the hype.  Fingers are pointed at celebrities whenever a pregnant one has the audacity to publicly support natural birth, or even share her experience with it.  And women choosing natural birth are often accused of just being trendy.

But natural birth is not a “movement” and it's not a “fad.”  If anything is a fad, it's overly-managed medical birth that strips a woman of her dignity while claiming it was all done to save her baby.  Again, I'm not saying that medical interventions are never needed – they are.  They're just not needed on the excessive level they're used on today.  We don't have so many defective mothers in our society.

And as I said in Birth is Safe, Intervention is Risky, natural birth is not a horrible, traumatic experience.  I can imagine it's pretty horrible when you have no clue how to work with your baby, you're strapped to a monitor, and you can't get out of bed.  That's no way to help your baby be born!

But a prepared woman can get through natural birth.  I'm not promising it's comfortable.  It's not comfortable to train for a marathon and complete it.  It's not comfortable to climb a mountain.  It's not even comfortable to do the work it takes to shatter a glass ceiling and take the lead in the board room.  But we applaud and encourage women for doing those things every day.

There's no point in belittling or ridiculing women for standing up and saying that they want a natural birth – and doing the work it takes to get it.

What Does Science Say?

I've written a lot on the scientific backing for various aspects of natural birth – check the end of this article for a treasure trove of more articles to read. I won't repeat everything here, but there are many “routine” interventions that we know cause problems for mothers and babies:

  • Continuous fetal monitoring
  • IV usage
  • Routine vaginal exams
  • Epidural medications
  • Limiting mothers to laboring while sitting in bed
  • Bright lights, beeping monitors, pressure from doctors, nurses, midwives, family, etc.
  • Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) to induce or augment labor
  • Immediate cord clamping
  • Immediately removing babies from their mothers
  • etc.

These interventions are widespread and we're only beginning to understand the implications for women on physical, mental, and emotional levels – and the generational impact of these interventions on our babies.  And these are only birth interventions – many happen during pregnancy, too.

Old beliefs are crumbling as studies show the assumption that medical technology and intervention always leads to better outcomes is flawed.  The long-held belief that birth is a mechanical process and the doctor a helpful mechanic is being proven false – in fact birth is an entire hormonal orchestra and messing with one part of it can derail the entire performance.

We're also just starting to understand how interrupting the normal process of birth and the initial moments of mother-baby bonding completely changes how baby's body systems adapt to his or her world.  For instance, we know that the microbiome, our inner world of probiotic, “good” bacteria is seeded largely at birth and nourished by breastmilk.  At least, we're just starting to understand this.  A decade ago it was just fleeting thought in a researcher's mind – and when you and I were children it was unimaginable.  Science continues to understand more and more about how infinitely complex human beings (in fact, life) is – and pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the mother-baby dyad are part of that intricate complexity.

Understanding of fetal development was also limited for many years and it's only just in the past couple of decades that we've come to understand how much a baby absorbs, learns, and processes in the womb.  By the time birth arrives, a newborn is an incredibly complex, feeling person – a person who expects and is primed for you, “mama.”  We never could have fathomed how much our babies need us, or how much we need our babies – nor could we fathom how carefully a mother's body has been adapted to nourish her baby, regulate her baby's body systems, and provide everything her baby needs even after birth.

As wary as I am of medical technology, I'm excited that science occasionally turns an eye towards pregnancy and birth, because we continue to find out just how complex – and intention the entire process is.  And we learn over and over that the best way to safeguard our mothers and babies is to feed them well, support them, and let them birth as nature intended.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

For Further Reading

These articles are here to help you explore natural birth and its benefits:

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Is Natural Birth Only for Crazy, Crunch Moms

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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