The Obsession with the All-Natural Pregnancy

What does this mean for women and babies?

Posted May 11, 2013

The always-smart Annie Murphy Paul gives a fairly scathing review to Jennifer Margulis’s new book “The Business of Baby” in the New York Times this week. The book aims to root out what’s wrong with the American way of pregnancy and birth: too many C-sections, too many drugs, condescending OBs, a money-hungry medical system. I haven’t read the book, but its philosophy sounds familiar: an all-consuming love for what’s “natural” and a romanticization of a past that never quite existed. As Paul writes:

Margulis employs a simple heuristic in evaluating the practices and products associated with childbearing: anything used by mainstream doctors and hospitals = bad; anything used by midwives or alternative healers = good. (She also approves of anything used by Scandinavians; she spends many pages praising the health outcomes of women in Norway and Iceland, without delving deeply into the demographic and economic differences between America and such countries.) Her conviction that what is natural must be good leads her to romanticize not only other countries but also other eras: “In colonial times and during most of the 19th century, the majority of births in America took place at home,” she writes approvingly. “Birthing women were usually attended by informally trained midwives who passed on their skills from generation to generation” — while a birth taking place in a hospital today involves “at least half a dozen medical professionals.”

I write a lot in Homeward Bound about the culture of natural parenting (including the anti-vaccination movement), and where it comes from, so I’ll be interested to read the book. Given its Amazon ratings (20 5-star reviews, 2 1-star reviews) it seems quite polarizing, unsurprisingly. Anyone read it already?

About the Author

Emily Matchar

Emily Matchar is the author of Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity.

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