Nature’s Masterplan for Birth: Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond, the Way Nature Intended (2020) by Louise Pedersen and Anja Pedersen. Amazon Fulfillment. 224 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-659995-86-2; ISBN-10: 1-659995-86-8.
Is natural birth (without any type of medication or epidural) a fairy tale for our birthing families? With almost 70-90% of birthing mothers using epidural analgesia in a majority of hospitals, inductions at 39 weeks for many mothers over the age of 35, and cesarean rates constantly increasing, how can we prepare our expectant parents for natural birth? Do they even believe it is possible?
This enlightening book reminded me of Grantly Dick Read’s Childbirth without Fear (1944) and The Birth of a Child (1950), as I mention in the forward. Grantly Dick Read was a practicing obstetrician in London, England from the 1920s to 1950s. Having seen women birth during wartime with no medication and later working with the poor in London, he realized fear was the most detrimental obstacle for a woman to birth naturally.
Nature’s Masterplan was written by two doulas, a mother and daughter. They include pages of references to support their experiences and situations we see in medicalized birth today. The authors understand the importance of empowering our mothers and babies to birth naturally for their own benefit and that of our future society. As doulas, we see perfectly healthy pregnant women birth without interference when they are home and attended by a seasoned midwife. Transfer rates can be as high as 20%, but that is mainly for pain relief. Emergency transfers are less than 5.4% (Blix et al., 2014). Even the World Health Organization suggests we should have only a 10-15% cesarean rate, meaning 85% of the population has the possibility of vaginal birth.
The book addresses what “normal” birth could look like, with hormones helping our bodies work the way they are meant to, in contrast to interference from inductions and interventions used in a hospital setting for a majority of births. The authors address the need for the right environment for the mother to feel safe, unobserved, and supported by a nurturing team. They explain and support the use of doulas, who improve outcomes for baby and for mother. They explain how fear inhibits the natural hormones, causing mom to enter fight or flight, which makes labor much more painful. They encourage the family to research practitioners, facilities, and the benefits and risks of interventions, with a long list of resources in the back of the book.
Missing is the importance of father/partner support. More could have been addressed about how a loving and supporting partner can impact pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery. Also not addressed is the number of unplanned pregnancies, where women are not always happy about what they are facing (45%) and where some babies (18%) are not even wanted (Guttmacher, 2015). Are these babies coming into the world in a healthy way and being welcomed into our society? Should there be more education in middle school and high school about the possibility of pregnancy in health classes? Can we encourage more sexual responsibility and conscious conceptions?
We are thankful for the life-saving abilities of hospitals with cesareans and other interventions, but if 85% of women might be able to birth without lots of interventions, would our society be different? As Grantly Dick Read states in his books (1944, 1950), could medicine be taking away the empowerment of women to trust their bodies and their babies, and replacing it with fear? Risk factors control the medical environment, but can we also see how medicine could create an environment where natural birthing can take place? No rushing, or time limits, or moving labor along?
The most important take-away of this book is encouraging the reader to open their minds to the possibility and benefits of birthing in a natural way. Because of fear and the sensationalism around birth in the media, few women even entertain the idea of a natural birth. When we start to educate women to welcome their babies, acknowledge their intelligence in the womb and after birth, and learn to have faith in the body that nature gave us, we might see the tide turn to more compassionate, loving, empathetic humans in our future society.
~ Barbara C. Decker, HBCE, PPNE, CLD, Certified Prenatal Bonding (BA) Facilitator
Blix, E., Kumle, M., Kjærgaard, H., Øian, P., & Lindgren, H.E. (2014). Transfer to hospital in planned home births: A systematic review. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 14, 179. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-14-179
Dick Read, G. (1944). Childbirth without Fear. Harper and Brothers.
Dick Read, G. (1950). The Birth of a Child. Vanguard Press.