The Cult of Natural Childbirth


Response to the uproar over the “cult of natural childbirth”

I am not a cultist.  I am not a home-birth advocate, although I think it can be done safely.  I am not a highly medical intervention advocate either.  Both extremes put our mothers and babies in danger.   I have been witness to some train wreck births on both ends of the intervention spectrum.  Women and doctors can become fixed on an idea and cannot be dissuaded from their perspective despite their current situation.  This can lead to mistakes on both sides, resulting in poor outcomes.

I am a childbirth educator, advanced practice nurse and a mother.  I am passionate about low intervention, natural childbirth and breastfeeding.   I am an advocate for informed parents making decisions collaboratively with their provider of choice.  I am an advocate of the use of the fewest medical interventions necessary for the comfort and safety of mother and baby.

If a mom plans on an epidural, formula feeding and an induction at 39 weeks my job is to educate her on the best way to make her plan safe and effective.  I will ensure that she know that she has alternatives. Many women are not empowered to know that they have choices, relying on what their mother, aunts or friends tell them is appropriate.  Likewise when a mother desires zero interventions, I will carefully explain the risks and benefits so that she can make an informed decision about her and her baby’s care.  Women are influenced by media, social interactions, and past experiences.  Doctors and nurses should not discount those influences, but add to it the knowledge that they bring, as health care providers.

Women such as Elissa Strauss and Amy Tuteur, M.D. have recently shared their outrage over extreme, natural childbirthers that are glorifying childbirth, sometimes at the expense of their baby’s life.  I have seen that type of misguided activism and the sad outcomes that can occur.  Although I agree that some advocates are taking the movement too far, care needs to be taken not to discredit and marginalize the natural childbirth movement as a whole.  There is room in feminism for all of us women if judgmental ladies would move over.

There is power in childbirth.  It is an amazing feat that only women can accomplish.  Some women choose to exercise their power by having a scheduled, medicalized, epiduralized experience.  Good for them!  We should celebrate that we, as women, have healthcare choices and autonomy to demand that type of childbirth.  Women who choose to have a more natural childbirth experience should also be celebrated and encouraged.  I have been moved to tears watching women find strength, that they didn’t know they had, during natural labor and childbirth.  I have also been amazed at the miracle of birth in the operating room.  The bottom line is that women have choices.  Women must not check their autonomy at the labor unit door. Women deserve be informed of risks and benefits to all medical procedures and their choices should be respected.  Women need to respect other women’s decisions about childbirth.  There is not a right or wrong way to give birth. Each woman, baby and situation is unique and options and choices need to reflect the details of each childbirth situation.

Let’s take a step back and remember what is important in this discussion.  If women are happily foregoing epidurals and Pitocin, then why should the media and medical professionals discourage it?  Identify, criticize and educate about the real dangerous ideas that are out there, like completely unattended births or home VBACs.  When women raise such a huff over what other groups of women are doing it smacks of jealousy and esteem issues.  If you are secure in your woman and motherhood then seeing a bunch of crunchy moms blog, about how they are potty training their 4 week old or how they didn’t make one sound in labor, will not affect you at all.



Live and let live sisters.



9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer Delaney
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 20:04:43




  2. Clara Cando
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 14:05:54

    A couple of months age Jan Tritten, editor of Midwifery Today crowd-sourced a medical decision on a public facebook page.

    She asked whether a postdates mom with NO amniotic fluid on ultrasound merited referral to an OB. She got a bunch of answers from prominent MANA midwives ranging from “everything`s fine” to “try some stevia/homeopathy/massage therapy”. Unsurprisingly the baby, whose name was Gavin Michael, died soon after that.

    When the Skeptical OB posted screenshots on her blog the whole thread and every mention of the events instantly disappeared from the MANA facebook page. To this day, Jan Tritten and MANA are refusing to respond and they systematically delete every mention of Gavin Michael from their pages.

    As a response Gavins mom and a group of supporters have started the #notburiedtwice campaign. They demand that MANA takes up responsibility for endorsing and enabling undertrained providers and burying the dead babies twice: once in the ground and once swept under the rug and scrubbed away from natural birth websites.



    • bohobirth
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 14:56:37

      Thanks for the explanation Clara. I had researched a bit in the mean time. I am appalled, but not surprised, that this happened. I’ve seen worse cases of lay midwives advising parents poorly and the devastating outcomes that follow. I’m glad that the Skeptical OB brought attention to this topic, but I’m not in agreement with her philosophy of birth and breastfeeding. What are your thoughts? I still believe that women should have a home birth as a choice, but with qualified birth attendants. I never have understood the natural birth at all costs mentality. I heard a lay midwife tell a mother who lost her baby in childbirth,”at least you had a home birth.” I think that the public should understand that midwives are not all equal in skill and education. I’m interested to know what you think about this topic.



      • Clara Cando
        Jul 08, 2014 @ 01:35:55

        I think you are getting the wrong idea about me (and about the Skeptical OB). I am not against homebirth. If a woman sees a truly qualified midwife, is deemed a good homebirth candidate according to scientific criteria (breech, GD, twins and VBAC are not `variations of normal`. They are high-risk conditions), and gives her informed consent knowing the real odds of an adverse outcome then I think homebirth is just fine.

        What we are campaigning against is laypeople with a piss-poor excuse for medical training calling themselves midwives, advertising their services to women using blatant misinformation and leaving a trail of tiny coffins in their wake,

        The reality is even more gruesome and outrageous than your worst nightmares. Lay midwives delivering 32-week twins, lay midwives lying to mothers about the risks of breech (google Sarah Snyder and Magnus, keep a box of tissues handy), lay midwives lying about the risks of GBS (still got that box of tissues? Now google `Wren homebirth`), the stories never stop coming.

        There is one constant to every single death: no matter how outrageous, incompetent or negligent the midwife`s behavior the `birth community` always rallies around her. The mom is shunned, her story blotted out, erased from blogs and message boards, her baby conveniently forgotten.

        I can see why people would criticize the SoB for her frankness but she is the only birth blogger who stands up for these bereaved mothers. The only one brave enough to expose the root causes of their babies` deaths and campaign to change them. She gets a lot of credit for that in my book.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa
    Jul 07, 2014 @ 20:03:36

    I agree with you, actually. Women should have a choice, and that choice needs to be a true choice with informed consent. Women should know that their lay midwife may have woefully inadequate training and experience to keep her and her baby safe. They should know whether it not their care provider is insured. They should know what the rates of injury and death to both mom and baby are for their chosen birth location. MANA (and other natural birth extremist groups) seem determined to keep that information from women.

    (Additionally, women should know they can refuse interventions and ask questions at hospital, as well as be treated with compassion and respect, obviously)

    Liked by 1 person


    • bohobirth
      Jul 07, 2014 @ 20:13:47

      Absolutely! I know that some states do not allow CNMs to attend home births. I wish they all did. Women who are desperate to have a home birth take a lot of risks and put their faith into some scary circumstances when they rely on lay midwives. I have seen lay midwives do an awesome job and I have also seen tragedy and death go unaddressed. It is a big red flag when a lay midwife discourages her patient from getting a second opinion or going to the hospital to for help. We need to have enough middle ground so that women will be comfortable and safe during labor and birth. The opposite end is just as scary. I’ve seen terrifying mistakes and poor outcomes in the hospital as well.
      Thanks for your comment 🙂



  4. Shannon
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:09:40

    And that’s really all Amy Tuteur and her readers are about. If you really sit down and read her blog, you’ll see that she is FOR choices… All choices. She’s even for keeping HB legal, because it’s a right to choose one. It’s the awful training of midwives and the lack of understanding of the real risks of HB that are the problems. And that there is pretty much no oversight or any repercussions when something goes wrong.

    Like the midwife involved in baby Gavin’s death… She was in california first and had to leave the state to keep practicing. She lost her license here but nothing else happened to her after something went wrong here. So she just moved to Las Vegas and kept practicing. If a doctor or nurse was found negligent, he/she couldn’t just start practicing in another state.

    And then I found out that that same midwife practiced in Tehachapi in CA. It’s a pretty small town (when I grew up there 30 years ago, there were oy 6,000 people). The population has grown to about 20k but the town is still very isolated geographically. I’m not even sure the hospital there does births bc it’s basically the size of a drugstore. It’s more of a clinic. They can set fractures but can’t deal with emergencies. NICU? No… Like I said, if there’s even a labor and delivery ward, it’s probably got 2 beds. So this same midwife was actively encouraging women to have homebirths in a town with basically NO emergency services. Transfer would be pointless. The hospital couldn’t deal with those types of emergencies and transfer to Bakersfield would take over an hour. Maybe 2, depending on where you lived. People have acres of land up there… I lived 17 miles from the high school. NOTHING up there is “down the street”.

    So it’s no wonder she ran into problems in CA. She practiced in a geographically remote area. And then went something went wrong, she just moved over to Vegas as though nothing happened.

    That’s all we are concerned with. Stories like that. We want informed and safe choices. That means more training and oversight. I think you’d find you agree with Dr. tuteur more than you think you would



    • bohobirth
      Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:18:21

      I will have to read more of her writings. I’ve read several and the tone and language put me off. I understand her outrage, but I want to be careful not to lump in all natural birth advocates and parents in the same group. Thanks for the insightful comment. I will definitely research more into this issue.



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