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Why We Need to Stop Calling It 'Natural' Birth

Forget everything you think you know about "natural childbirth." If Los Angeles-based doula Erica Chidi Cohen (pictured below) has her way, and, like childbirth, she is a bit of a force of nature herself, we will all start thinking about birthing our babies in different terms.

It stands to reason that if some babies are welcomed into the world through "natural" childbirth, well, then other babies come unnaturally? The wrong way? In sub-optimal conditions? Chidi Cohen wants to change that paradigm, or, as she says, "flatten the hierarchy" of birthing babies.

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"The term 'natural childbirth' is quite divisive," she says. "It places women in camps of achievement. To be pregnant is natural and to deliver your child is natural," no matter what method is used or required for a healthy delivery. "Using that language is pulling women apart instead of bringing women together."

Amen.

'Having an epidural doesn't take anything away from the birth.'

Being a mother is hard. Being a first-time mother is especially hard. Being a first-time mother in this age of social media, where there's instant access to the intimate birthing experiences of your friends, family, acquaintances and strangers just a swipe away, can be downright overwhelming.

Chidi Cohen advises expectant mothers to be mindful of their consumption of social media while pregnant. "Be conscious. We are big sponges, absorbing everything around us." She wants us to absorb all the positive and leave the negative behind.

Chidi Cohen's preferred terms for birthing are "medicated" or "unmedicated." They are descriptive, leaving the judgment out of the equation and the experience. These words help a new mother see things differently. "A 'medicated' or 'unmedicated' birth mean the tools were one or the other. Having an epidural doesn't take anything away from the birth."

Wise words from a doula, whose sole function is to support a woman through the process of birth.

'Trust yourself. Set realistic goals, but remember that birth is not a competition.'

"If you feel you failed from the very beginning that creates space for negative circuitry to take hold," says Chidi Cohen, and those negative feelings could very well bleed into bonding and the precious, early days of motherhood. That process is hard enough as it is, without adding to it unnecessarily by telling ourselves we have failed—even as while holding, burping, nursing or feeding a healthy newborn.

"The path to birth is fluid," explains Chidi Cohen, "and the goal is fixed." That goal, always, is a healthy baby and a healthy mother post birth. She wants all new mothers to feel their success and not to consider a change in the birth plan a failure. "The 'how' of birth is not a reflection of who a new mother is," advises Chidi Cohen. She encourages new mothers who did experience a change in their birth plan to try and reframe the experience.

So often, new mothers can encounter isolation post-partum. This makes them vulnerable to post-partum depression and also to developing some degree of post-traumatic stress that can jeopardize and complicate future pregnancies.

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Chidi Cohen's advice for all expectant mothers is simple: "Trust yourself. Set realistic goals, but remember that birth is not a competition. Be gentle with yourself, with an asterisk of flexibility. Every choice a mother-to-be makes," says Chidi Cohen, "needs to be anchored in flexibility."

Wise words from a wise woman.

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Erica Chidi Cohen runs her well regarded doula practice out of Los Angeles, California. She is currently at work writing a book to be published by Chronicle Books.

Erica is running the Ergobaby Mama Panel at our Spring Family Fest on April 9th in Los Angeles.

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