Giving birth the Dutch way

I am never more French than when I am an expat. And I have been an expat for over 25 years now.

The last 5 years, I have been living in Amsterdam. The beauty of this city lies in its capacity to transport you gently to another era– with its low grey clouds protectively overshadowing the town and its smoky fog stagnating over the canals; with its XVIIth century red raisin brick houses silently following the contours of the Amstel; with its streets made of natural stone, upon which one can still hear the soft-loud click-clack of horse hooves resonating (although it has since been replaced by the murmur of rusty bicycles). It is truly a poetically magical place. That is, if you travel beyond the ring of snorting and transactional sex tourism.

The world has decided that the Dutch are a rather direct, even slightly rude people. Hmmm… The world is forgetting about the strikeaholics, who are always ready to strike a “Non. Non” to everyone, non to everything. As a bilingual person, it always amuses me to notice how my own ideas, thoughts, and beliefs change slightly – but significantly! – depending on which language I am using to express myself in. I realise that I am more acerbic in French; less inclined to further develop my trail of thought. A simple “non” seems to settle any kind of initial conflict; to stop a boring conversation straight in its tracks. And this magical word also works wonders in English conversation.

Non to the midwife

When I had my first meeting with the Dutch midwife, I noticed how much I was abusing this magical word: 

-“V.,would you like to give birth at home?” She kindly asked.

-“Non.” I replied, sincerely disgusted by the question.

-“Would you like to try it naturally? without any epidural?” She continued to ask me.

-“Non,” I said smirking at this practice of ancient times.

-“Would you like to breastfeed?” She said, still in the same gentle tone as the beginning. 

-“Non, thank you,” I answered, thinking that was really a question.

Then it was my turn to question her:

-« When will I see a gynecologist ? » I asked. 

-« Never. Unless there is a huge problem. » she answered.

-« So does it mean you will check me? » I replied, making my body move in an inappropriate sexual way. I blushed slightly as I realized what I had done.

-« No. unless there is a huge problem. » she once again answered.

-« Oh. And will you at least weigh me? » urging her to do something with me.

-« No. » she laconically replied.

I couldn’t hide my surprise. What was her job then? She guessed what I was thinking and she followed up by saying:

-«  I will check your stomach every time we meet. » 

-«  Oh good. » I said, lacking conviction entirely.

Give birth like the Dutch the natural way

The Dutch way of delivering is all natural. They sincerely believe that there is nothing more natural than giving birth, that it is what the female body has been designed for, so most of the time you shouldn’t need any help.

If so, why do we need stitches after delivering? Is it natural to have a one way road running from the vagina to uterus?!

I started to get really angry at the belief that all natural is better. Could I not simplify their reasoning even more to the extreme and think, how about women who need C-sections? Shouldn’t they be left to die in the name of natural selection? 

Non, I was not convinced that the natural way is the best way.

Mouah! But who did I think I was?! Of course, I was about to follow their way, just like an organic sheep fed of pasture kale.

As I lived my days of pregnancy in the Netherlands, I came to the realization that you can never underestimate the power of a crazy little thing called: social pressure.

I ended up giving birth without an epidural on a seat that had a hole. Yes, it felt like I shat my daughter… What a glamorous feeling!

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17 thoughts on “Giving birth the Dutch way

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. I am constantly confronted with that dilemma, as a medical student in Groningen that comes from Brazil. Brazil has one of the greatest amount of c-sections in the world, which is also a healthcare problem. On the other way, there is too much pressure here on “the natural manner” (sometimes with bad consequences). It concerns me that here, the principle we are thought in consultation skills about “shared decision making” seems to be a superficial subterfuge. Shouldn’t we, as healthcare workers, primarily CARE about our patient and make giving birth a positive and non traumatic experience? Of course different people have different thoughts on giving birth, and we should minimally respect it and offer them care.
    There are enough people in the world judging mothers for whatever they do. I think healthcare workers should provide them information and CARE about their kids and them, physically and psychologically. Maybe I can’t change the system but, as a doctor, I hope to be able to care better for some people.

    Congratulations for your baby and I look forward to read the next part of your story!

    1. Dear Anna,

      Thank you very much for your message.

      My partner, my brother and his girlfriend are doctors and one topic that comes up often is : to what extent as a doctor can you push aside your personal beliefs ? If some doctors believe the natural way is the best , obviously they will influence it – consciously or subconsciously…

      You will like one of my future articles on the intrusive thoughts. Perhaps I can invite you to like my Facebook page: applying HR and philosophical concepts to motherhood.

      All the best,


  2. I can’t wait to read more. I am am American and while I was an expat in 2005 I had a homebirth in Utrect. It was absolutely wonderful and empowering and a huge contrast to my first child’s (natural) birth in a hospital. It is the best place on earth to give birth.

    1. Hi Amy !
      Sorry for the late reply – I did not see your message.

      Although i was really surprised on how they do it here , i did feel empowered to do it without medication. But doing it at home is one step too far 😉 however when everything goes well, it is the best way I have been told. Have a lovely day !

  3. Hello, I am also French living in the NL. When pregnant 4 years ago with my son, I was shocked that women here would still choose natural birth vs medicalized. Many of my friends wanted the epidural but arrived too late at the hospital and ended up having to give birth naturally without being prepared for it. I had told my midwife that I will camp on the car park of the hospital to make sure it will not happen to me.
    Anyways, my due date had passed, and no sign of contractions were felt until 11 days later. I thought I was going to explode.. Eventually one night, the contractions started but it stopped after a few hours. My midwife sent me to the hospital for a check up and I ended up having a emergency c-section because they couldn’t track the baby heartbeat anymore. The medical team was fantastic and my son was born healthy. I couldn’t be happier with the kindness of the me

    team that took care of us.
    I am now pregnant with my second child and we are followed by both a midwife and the hospital.
    To conclude, I am not always enthusiast about this country and its culture however I really appreciated the medical assistance when it was actually needed. And I am looking forward to give birth again at the Diakonessen in Utrecht.
    I am wishing you also the best of luck for this beautiful experience!

    Salut! C.

  4. Bonjour C.

    I can completely relate to you when you say you would have « camped in the car park ». I was really against to do it the natural way … yet ended up delivering the natural way and on a chair with a hole! All of that was unexpected!!
    But I have to say I was tremendously happy to have been able to do it that way.

    I wish you all the best for your second delivery!!

    And thank you for your message,

    Ps: My partner is a Dutch cardiologist and he confirmed to me that the Diakonessenhuis hospital is a very good one.

  5. Well she asked you if you want an epidural (did you get one in the end btw?) so obviously the Dutch don’t believe it’s necessarily natural anymore, it depends on what the woman wants.

    1. I delivered naturally as it was too late to get an epidural. And it was as good as a delivery can be 😉

  6. I hated the Dutch healthcare system when lived in the Netherlands and I was in shock when I heard that many Dutch women give birth at home. However, after making more research during my own pregnancy, I realized that Dutch are absolutely right about this. In my country more than 50% of births are c-sections (WHO suggests 10-15%, the rest is because some doctors don’t wanna spend time and wait until we deliver naturally), 80% of women get an episiotomy (which is rarely necessary), many are traumatized because of practices like Kristeller manoeuvre, vacuum, etc. Obstetric violence is a real thing and many women wish to had the opportunity to deliver at home. I recently watched a French documentary about obstetric violence, check it out please:

    1. Hi Mila,

      Thank you for your message.

      At the end, I delivered naturally- at the hospital- and I was so happy that we did not use the forceps or any other – barbaric- tools ! Because everything went well, I would recommend the Dutch/natural way.

      Having Said that, at the back of my mind, I still would have wanted a little bit more check ups.

      Have a lovely day,


  7. “Would you like to breastfeed?” She said, still in the same gentle tone as the beginning.

    -“Non, thank you,” I answered, thinking that was really a question.

    What is wrong with this one?

    1. Nothing is wrong with the question. But I did not want to breastfeed- I ended up breastfeeding, but my first instinct was to say: non, thank you.

      1. V, would you write more about the birth itself as well as the culture surrounding epidural use and breastfeeding in the Netherlands? How will you be raising your child with your Dutch partner to balance the Frenchness and Dutchness within her? Looking forward to your blogs and your points of view xx

  8. Hi! I am Dutch and soon I have to deliver twins in Milan, Italy. My feelings about delivery is the opposite, I wish to do it naturally at home with serenity but as I am pregnant of twins I have to deliver in the hospital, they told me I have to do C-section because both the girls didn’t turn yet, I still believe that they will turn and I can can deliver naturally, it also good for your hormon balance, our bodies are miracles and very well made, so (unless their are medical issues) I still believe that natural delivery is the best for our natural balance (of course the availability of painkillers should be near) but don’t underestimate your brain power! Good luck with giving birth the Dutch way, you can do it!

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you for your message.

      Firstly, I want to tell you that I am sorry you can’t choose because you are pregnant with twins. It is annoying when you know you want a certain and just can’t …

      On my side, i have already delivered and did it the natural way … And it went well. I delivered on a chair, so it was really unexpected! Hahah

      Having said that the point of my article was to show how different – and unexpected- the Dutch way is !

      Good luck with everything.



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