There is no denying that Dutch people like to do things the natural way, the “real way” and the “normal” way. In fact, I would say the majority of them are downright obsessed with making sure their behavior (oh and the behavior of others) follows some unwritten rules of normalcy and realness. So it should come as no surprise that this preoccupation with “keeping it real” extends to all acts – birth being no exception!

Now readers, I can see you scratching your heads and asking aloud how am I qualified to make such remarks about birth in the lowlands? Well, you may have noticed my absence the last few months and I am proud to say that although I haven’t been busy writing, I have been busy making and birthing a beautiful being – which I might add is no small feat ;). Yes, for you readers who affectionately refer to me as “dude” or “that funny guy from SDPL” I hate to disappoint, but I suspect my intimate knowledge of birthing will finally convince you of my femininity. 😉

The good news is that I am back and my 3-month bundle of joy (milk, spit, gas and poop included) is only slightly annoyed that I am ignoring her “Where are you momma?” grunts and squeals as I type this. 2013 is going to be a very, very exciting year for SDPL – we have some BIG exciting plans, and I must say I’ve never been more excited to rag on about the Dutch. But, back to the subject at hand, natural births…

8 years ago I looked across a plate of bitterballen in a smokey Dutch brown cafe and I told my then-boyfriend that “Yes, I’d be happy to live here” but that “No, I would never EVER (repeat EVER EVER) give birth in this country”. I suppose the expression “never, say never” has its merits.

I just couldn’t get by head around the Dutch you-must-birth- in-your-bathtub-at-home-while-burning-sage attitude. My first huisarts (GP) seems to be obsessed with the notion; babbling on about her upcoming delivery and how she would be in her own home, with candles, and her favourite music and just couldn’t wait to be able to be all drug-free, naked and gezellig. My early-twenty-slightly-judgmental-north-american-self could only muster the thought “Oh Christ, is she part of some Dutch hippy commune?! Time for a new doctor!

After moving neighbourhoods (and doctors) I realized that she was (most likely) not part of a commune but just shared the average Dutch opinion, and that of my new doctor, that birth “was not a medical condition” and as such, did not require medical interventions (or facilities).

Welcome to the world Dutchie!

Welcome to the world Dutchie!

Dutchies are pioneers of the modern-day home birth. Although numbers have decreased over time (and continue to) a hefty 25% of all births in the Netherlands are done at home (with another sizable percentage attempting to do so). Compare this to the less than 2% in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK and you can see why this is indeed a very Dutch thing.

Of course doing so in the comforts (hah!) of home also implies doing so sans body-numbing and mind-altering substances. Is that a gasp I hear from my American readers? 😉 Yes sir – Dutch woman, and their child-bearing hips are notorious for drug-free births. Even in hospital, only 6% of Dutch women have an epidural. Across the Atlantic things seem to be precisely the opposite – a recent study in the journal Anesthesiology, states that only 6 percent of women in large hospitals in the US opted for drug-free births.

While pregnant I had a lot of time to ponder the “why” of this situation: Were Dutch women genetically superior? Did they just not feel the pain like the rest of of us? Had all that bread and cheese and drop gone to their heads? Were they seriously just tougher? Was it all their free time to prepare? And what precisely were they trying to prove anyways? After speaking to a fair many, I realized the truth was they just weren’t all that scared or bothered by it (the pain that is), and rationally accepted it to be a natural part of the package. The very direct Dutch folder given to me by my midwife summed up the attitude best “Giving birth hurts. Pain is a normal part of birth, so expect it”.

Flash forward 8 years and you will find me (equipped with a fabulous doula, super competent midwives, and a supportive hubby) sitting in a hypno-birthing class in the middle of Amsterdam determined to have a natural, drug-free birth à la Dutch (but also realizing that sheer determination sometimes isn’t enough). Of course, even for the sake of this blog post, I couldn’t quite follow through all the way and give birth at home (sorry folks, I suppose I’ll never be that Dutch). But I did follow through on the natural part and I will say it was one of my proudest moments and biggest accomplishments*, and one I don’t think I would have come by if it weren’t for YOU…the Dutchies and your obsession with the normal.

*(Pregnancy and birth in any shape, size or form is a kick-ass accomplishment – no matter how or where you birth!)

142 Responses

  1. Martijn

    Congrats on the little one!
    Now… Please tell me that you have bought a seat for the front of your bicycle already 😉

  2. Desirée

    Kudos to you for trying, and going drug free! And congrats.
    I, as a Dutchie, am baffled by all the options women in the US have. Epidural, laughing gas… I suppose to us it seems US women are either very afraid of pain, or are slightly ‘alleen de lusten, niet de lasten’ How to translate this… ‘just the fun, not the pain’ doesn’t quite cut it, but I think you get my drift. To us, it has always been normal to have home deliveries. And no, these aren’t all with candles and bath tubs, usually they are just in the comfort of your own bed, in your own home, wich makes you feel more relaxed than being in some sterile, impersonal room in a hospital. And home deliveries are just as safe as hospital ones, and when a doctor has an inkling you might get complications, you will be referred to the hospital ahead of the delivery anyway.

    • marie

      I’m 100% for modern technology! Anything can happen at home, and oh lawd, have I heard many stories from my friend who’s a nurse! MY friends grand daughter died having her baby at home, and had she been in a hospital, it never would have happened. Also in the US all of our ”Midwives” have an extensive medical background, far deeper than here, I researched deeply into it all and decided to take my butt back to the states and have my children born there! Just my choice, but hey it’s your culture, you do what works for you! What I don’t like is the fact that the Doctors tell you that you will have your baby at home! At least in 2004 that’s how it was. I make my own choices in the States. In Holland your home doctor makes decisions for you. lol, in the States we tell our Doctors what we want, how we want it, (I should say the educated women, who Google and read about what they want for and during their pregnancy, etc) If we don’t like we get another opinion!
      Also, most women will take their pregnancy natural birth ( I worked in the hospital) But every option is available to them. The Doctors will even tell them natural is better.

      • Milanvo

        I don’t know what doctor you have talked to, but you don’t have to follow your doctors advice and they can’t take decisions for you, it is actually illegal for them to do so. So you might have had a bad doctor

      • Kristin

        I loved my epidural when I gave birth, I was able to feel no pain and enjoy the moment almost as much as my husband. (If only all that blood had been his instead of mine, I think I would have enjoyed it even more.) And if you can have all the fun and not the pain, WHY NOT? The hospital is great, you get your own room, people waiting on you with just a push of a button, and free babysitting!!!! I think it was the last time I slept a full eight hours until my child was almost six months old. I guess everyone has to do what’s best for them, but I do like being in a country where I get to decide what’s best for me and my doctor doesn’t.

      • Lijn

        It’s a little late, but i can’t bear to read this! Dutch doctors don’t make you DO stuff, they give you advice. if you want to go to the hospital, fine, do so. If your pregnancy isn’t totally standard they’ll send you to the hospital and the rest of your pregnancy, and the delivery, will be dealt with by a Gynaecologist team. If YOU want to go to the hospital, you do so. if YOU want drugs, you get them.

        What they don’t really endorse down here is YOU making medical decisions on your own because you have “googled them” of because it is “just what you want”. The baby’s safety (and the mothers) is always first. So, in America, you go to the hospital and tell the doctors what to do, because you are an MD, fresh out of Google Uni.. I can’t believe that, and if I’m wrong, good luck with suing them blind.

        And, for the record, I had my second baby at home. no candles, no music, no “plan” because what are you planning? It can take 2 hours or 48, come on… Just giving birth in your own bed is really nice and private. Just me, my hubbie, the midwife and the nurse, small and intimate To say i loved it.. it’s still giving birth, which is always an amazing experience, But I wouldn’t call it fun. But the privacy, your own home, bathroom and fridge, all the attention is for your new baby and I thought it was pretty damn sweet! AND the nurse stays there for 10 days, to check on you and your baby, do the chores and make coffee with beschuit met muisjes for your familiy and friends!! Don’t put it down untill you lived it!

      • dutchie

        I agree with Lijn on the fact that it might be a bit late, but it is really hard to read without saying something. Also not repeating stuff said already.
        That being said, I am not sure where you did your research on midwives in the Netherlands, but they in fact do have an extensive medical background. You make them sound like they are uneducated on the matter.

        Everybody is entitled to there own preferences about country where to give birth, but try not to make it sound like one is better than the other. I myself am dutch, but live in Norway. One of the best countries to be pregnant, give birth and have kids. The fact that I would not give birth here has nothing to do with the medical expertise or traditions, but with the fact that I like to be close to my family when it would happen.

    • Moedervan8

      yeah..I tried having a C-section at home..didn’t go over so well. So I chose a sterile, impersonal room in a hospital with an amazing doctor and wonderful nurses. Oh, yes..and I opted to have an epidural. Not very dutch of me. Of course I did have 8 children…so that was pretty dutch don’t you think??

    • Mandy

      Why should’nt anyone be afraid of pain?! You get pain relief for everything else, why not childbirth?
      You people are mediaeval. And as to complications, things can go wrong in minutes, so you better hope you live next door to a hospital.

      • peet

        Thank you Mandy. To call us Mediaeval.

      • Tamara Duijvestijn

        Hahaha, Peet made me laugh!

        Mandy: Epidural is nice for the mom, but the baby will have it in his/her system as well because they’re stil attached. For most women this is a very big deal. Just like not wanting to vaccinate your kid. I myself would like to try it natural. It’s part of giving birth and I’d like to experience that. Of course, if the moment comes where I’d rather kill myself, I’d get an epidural. But I’d like to experience all of it, even the ‘natural pain relief’ we women are made to experience (because of hormones).

      • Tamara Duijvestijn

        Oh by the way, we all do live next door to a hospital. You know how small our country is, do you? 😉

    • Karin

      But if an emergency c-section is needed, of course you don’t have the time to be transferred to the hospital(sometimes through the…window with the help of the lovely firemen) and as the Netherlands have the highest infant death rates in Europe and have of the mothers giving birth at home end up in the hospital, I would rethink about it….

      • Judith

        You should check your sources before you post something like that, The Netherlands doesn’t have one of the highest infant death rates in Europe at all.

  3. sonia

    Did you celebrate with biscuits and pink and white sprinkles???

    • Corry Oosterhouse

      Oh yes, congratulations!!!!! And I forgot about the biscuit with sprinkles!!! Great memory!!!

  4. Lisa Jochim

    Congratulations!!! I’m such a baby, I don’t even like going to the dentist without drugs let alone give birth. Enjoy this wonderful new chapter in your life. Lisa

    • Jolan

      I would choose giving birth over a visit to the dentist any day 🙂
      Yes, natural, being dutchie and all.

  5. Corry Oosterhouse

    My Moeder gave birth to 6 of us kids in the Netherlands at home, drug free and at home!! And stayed in bed for weeks afterwards per orders of the midwife!! She was weak for weeks after that, thanks to all that lying about!! So much for the strong Dutch, huh? The story continues—we move to the USA and moeder gave birth to my youngest sister in the hospital with drugs (I think!!). Liked it much better!!! As for me, I had my 5 kids in the hospital with whatever I needed to give birth comfortably, thank you very much!!! LOL!!

  6. simone

    lol i am a dutch outside holland and will have my baby abroad. When i told my doctor i wanted a natural birth she asked me if i really wanted to have all this pain, and why..
    anyway congrats on your new baby!

  7. nomynot

    first off all congrats with the little one. Thank you for teaching me something about my own country. I had no idea that the so called natural birth all Dutch women have to go though is not a international or even European standard. hope you get some sleep soon 😉

  8. Charlene Prinsen

    My husband is a Dutch citizen and he has never, nor will he ever, take novicaine when having a dental procedure. And don’t even offer an aspirin for a headache!

  9. Peter

    Congratulations. All the strength and good health to you and your daughter. It’s good to have you back and I’m looking forward to your new entries. This is a particular good one. I love sharing them as Dutch living in the US. As if I tell things like this myself people don’t believe or get it.

  10. Yvette

    Congrats on your little bundle of joy! Now a complete new world will open up for you, not only being a mommy but also discovering the unique Dutch way to raise children 😉 (because of course there are things only the Dutch do, for instance swimming lessons from a very young age (have you been to mommy and me swimming lessons yet?)). Looking forward to new posts!!

  11. Florence

    This is so true! I’m a Dutchie living in the US, and I will never forget the look my doctor gave me in the hospital – my little girl was breeched (stuitligging), and my water broke: I asked him if I could try and give birth naturally. He must have thought I had gone insane, and couldn’t get me in the operating room fast enough. Still very disappointed….and it’s been more than seventeen years.

    • Sarah

      Well, nowadays in the Netherlands a stuitligging will also lead to a C-section in about 75% of cases, although the doctor generally won’t immediately force you to have one if you want to try vaginal birth first.

      • Sabine

        Yes, unfortunately more and more Dutch women are also loosing the trust in the natural power and go to hospital. It’s a pity, but medicalisation at all parts is taking place here, too. It’s logical, feat creates pain, never thought about that ladies?

  12. Sarina van Beek

    Congratulations from Canada! Have missed your blog, glad you are back.

  13. Lisette

    Though I read your blogs, I never comment. But I wanted to congratulate you with the birth of your baby!

  14. Joost


    I happen to have been in a comparable situation three months ago (albeit as a father). Now we did not have any choice (and may be biased by the situation) and to be honest, both of is were happy to give birth in hospital.

  15. Alexandra

    It is a very primitive way of giving birth!
    I am just as proud as you are on giving birth even with a little help!
    Numbers of home births and drugfree births are going down for a reason…. the realization that there is a better way!

    I am Dutch and have had 4 kids, one without drugs and the other 3 with drugs and these births were stressfree and as relaxed as can be, hence happier memories!

  16. marie-anne

    Congrats!!!! I did miss your blogs. I thought you had moved back!
    I teach an “Inburgeringsklas” myself and KNS (Kennis van de Nederlandse Samenleving; how Dutch act and react in their natural habitat) is one of the subjects I teach and needless to say: we always have a blast with your colums. The nosepicking is one of my faves’ personally…..

  17. Alexandra

    Congratulations! I’m Russian 🙂 but might have been Dutch in this respect of natural way of giving birth 🙂 ..guess, the most important is that attitude that birth is a natural process and not a painful stuff to be avoided at all costs 🙂 Gave birth to 2 girls in hospital without drugs and to boy at home.. Natural no drugs is better for children, I believe:-) , it’s often is ignored when thinking about mom ‘comfort’ 🙂

  18. Emma

    Congrats with your child! I only recently stumbled upon your blog, but I’m an American in the Netherlands too, with a Dutch hubby of my own. I recently gave birth 5 months ago, and I too went ‘au naturel’. When I told my (Dutch) co-workers, they would said, “Ah, yes, that’s good.” But when I told my family in America, they were like, “OMG?! More power to you!” My mother, rather traditional Chinese woman, was freaking out and kept telling me, “It’s REALLY painful! You should go to the hospital to give birth in case something happens!!!!”…this coming from a woman who gave birth 4 times naturally, lol.
    Well, I did it without any medicine (though it felt so horrible that I was asking for some, but my kraamzorg was all super enthusiastic and was like, “You can do it! Have a shower! Let me rub your back! etc.”). I was going to have a home delivery too, but my baby pooped in the water! So I had to be taken to the hospital, which was luckily only 5 minutes away. I dilated and popped the baby out so fast that I couldn’t even be given any medicine, lol.

  19. arctic dutchie

    Congratulations/Gefeliciteerd! Glad to see the blog continued. It helps me explain myself to (now fellow) Canadians 🙂

  20. Liubi

    First of all, congrats on the birth of your baby! You were very brave to do it the Dutch way.
    I am a dutch mother of two living in Germany. I had my first baby in 2008 in a German hospital. I had the baby the Dutch way, so giving birth without any drugs. Only halfway through the process I realized it was a mistake and I asked for drugs but it was already to late. I had my second baby in 2010 in the same hospital and also drugfree. This was an amazing birth. I have Colitis Ulcerosa and honestly, at times this gives me more pain than the birth of my second child although he was slightly more than 4kg. So yes, I am, personally, a firm believer in a drugfree birth and I will certainly choose for one again when a third child is coming. But then again everyone experiences something else so it is a personal choice, drugs or not. However I prefer it to do it the Dutch way.

  21. Gorm

    Congratulations! I also have a three month old who also came the natural way, in the bath, but in Australia.

  22. Emma

    Forgot to mention, the birthing professionals and such all push for the natural births, as well as all the older Dutch women. But I find that the younger Dutch women nowadays are more likely to go for the rugprik (epidural) if they are not really afraid of needles. In a sense I find that the younger generation are getting more Americanized too. When I was still pregnant, I really wanted a baby shower, but having no relatives or American friends here, my -husband- had to throw me one because my in-laws had no clue what a baby shower is or supposed to be like, lol. The grandparents were even saying, “Why are you having a baby shower? The baby is not here yet! Isn’t that what a kraamvisite is for?”

  23. Stempelientje

    Congrats with the new world citizen! You forgot to mention Dutch woman are forced to give birth at home without painrelieve. We have only the option to go to hospital if we have a a. ‘medical indication’ (insurance will pay) or if you are rich. and can afford it yourself… I was lucky enough to have e medical indication but before I had to see the gynacologist and had to explain to him WHY I wanted a epidural. I said Belgium is nearby, epidurals are not uncommon there…….I go there if you refuse…he could only promise that as long as I was in labour during the day…at night no aneasenatist available for epidurals, so getting only 6% of epidurals is easy explained….I am sure that the majority of that 6% is also cesearian. These homebirths are stupid,- we have one of the highest infant mortallity rates also.. Woman should be able to choose themselves what kind of labour they want. I think the midwives here are like the mob……..if you don’t deliver at home and don’t breastfeed, they like to think you are a bad mother…..

    • Sylvia

      “we have one of the highest infant mortallity rates also.. ”
      Which has NOTHING to do with birthing at home. To each her own, but do not type false and faulty information wherever you go.
      The NL also has the lowest abortion rate; children with special needs and children who have a birth defect, causing them to die moments after birth are carried full-term more often in the NL, whereas those children would be aborted in other countries.
      This counts as ‘infant mortality’ while these children never had a chance on life.

      So, be strong in your opinion, but be right on your facts too! Homebirthing is just as safe as hospital birthing when it’s a normal risk-free pregnancy. In hospitals there even is a higher chance of non-nessecary interventions causing KISS and shoulder dystocy etc.

      • Dennis

        Sylvia, NL does have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world, and it has to do with giving birth at home, as a large (and as far as I know the only well designed) medical study from the province of Utrecht has shown. Your statement that giving birth at home is just as safe as it is at the hospital ‘if risk-free’, while true, is misleading; the high mortality rate is caused precisely by the fact that if something goes wrong while giving birth at home, the baby faces a much higher risk of death due to the fact that precious time is lost on getting to the hospital, the doctor trying to get familiar with the case and figuring out what’s wrong. I think that so many Dutch women give birth at home because they are not given all the right information, as most of them will only ever see a mid-wife at a specialized ‘mid-wives practice’, whose livelihood would be threatened if the vast majority of women would (and could) choose to give birth at a hospital under the supervision of a medical doctor.

    • Vincent

      according to the CIA world factbook, the Netherlands is 204th out of 223 countries in infant mortality rate (where nr. 1 has the highest rate and nr 223 has the lowest rate). So your claim that the netherlands has one of the highest infant mortality rates is false; let alone that there is any relationship with homebirths to be found…..

      • Cor Bouman

        as a husband I saw 4 of our 5 children entering the world AT HOME! The 5th too, but we did it together, because the GP was to late! My wife was a turbo-birthing mother!!
        I pulled out our daughter very gently and laid her on my wife! I asked the doctor, when she ran up the stairs: “Well, can I get the 50% of your gage? I did the job!!;-)”!!
        Once the doctor was very quickly removing the “navelstreng” around the head meanwhile birthing and another time, the first one , a son, coming 6 weeks too early, she, the doctor and of course the midwive, reacted our first one by pressing very strong the very small feet.
        But, as a christian, we believe in the wonderful help and grace of our beloved Lord and He helped!
        Aboiut the data given by Josh… That are the facts, instead, sorry to say,that people are
        believing everthing WITHOUT controlling!! Please , do control all your thougths and believes abnd be not so naive to believe everything.

  24. Catherine Hofman-McGill

    So happy for you! Congratulations! FYI my girls are now 28 and 21 and even back then my doctor advised it’s better for the baby not to have drugs and so I had both without any pain relief which is maybe why there was such a big gap between them!

  25. Christa

    Congratulations on you little one!!!

    I gave birth at home twice. Normal, drug free, in my own home, with a doula and the second time while in a birthing tub. Especially the second time was amazing, never felt any pain, until the 10 mins of actually pushing my little girl out of me and into the water. Where I grabbed her myself. Baby was calm, I was calm (and exhilarated! from nothing to baby in 6 hours!). Perfect.

    I just think every woman should decide for herself. Delivering in the hospital isn’t that much more expensive, children costs money, either way. In the end, those few euro’s are peanuts compared to study costs! So “being forced” to deliver at home is bullocks, if you ask me.

  26. kees

    Female indeed. A guy would’ve written it in 15 words.

    • Martijn

      But the blog would not have been as amusing as it has been thus far 😉

      • kees

        So I wonder why anyone would have questioned this bloggers femininity.

  27. Stijn

    Gefelicteerd! I already wondered why it took you so long to make a new blog. We’ve missed it… But now the reason is prevailed you’re excused :). Enjoy your motherhood and learn her how wonderfull this world can be.

  28. Alex

    Congratulations on the safe arrival of your little one. I am Dutch but all our children were born in the UK. Such different births (elective c-secions, no other choice) compared to some of my relatives and friends in the Netherlands. I am surprised that the antenatal care (well at least my experience) was better compared to the Netherlands but after our babies were born I was dismissed out of hospital within 2 days! With no kraamzorg, I felt fortunate that I was able to fly in support, it would otherwise have been a struggle to look after a newborn and toddler(s) so soon after a C-section.

  29. Eveline

    First of all: CONGRATULATIONS!
    and…I’ve missed you and your awesome blogposts!

  30. Marjon Reinders

    Congratulations. Glad you are back – in this whole new role as a mummy (which tends to change more of your life than you ever thought possible)

  31. alice (@PenguinSeymour)

    I always tease friends who like ice hockey: when a hockey player get seriously hurt during a fight or fall: “Ah, that does hurt, but not as much as natural child birth! Bleeping “kitties”!”
    Pethedine or laughing gass is quite common to give during child birth in hospital though.

  32. Joshua

    Congratulations. As you say, babies leak at both ends. Things have really changed in the last fifty years though. I’m sure back then nearly every birth was at home (hospitals are full of sick people and pregnancy is not a sickness), but there was no incense or bathtubs, etc. involved, just some hot water and clean towels.. The Englishs TV show ‘Call the Midwife’ pretty well sums up the process as it was right up to the early seventies in Holland. The angst about child birth in some countries (not to mention the amount of intervention) is astounding.

  33. Samantha

    Congratulations to you and your hubby with your baby girl!

  34. maartje

    Thanks for sharing this insight in my own culture, didn’t know it was a typical ‘normal’ dutch thing. You describing this normal obsession makes a lot clear for me.
    Congrats on your girl and your brave delivery.

  35. Jeroen

    Congratulations with youre newborn. Great to read youre blog even i ( as Dutch) find out stuff that i dint know about us. Hope to read more from you in 2013. 🙂

  36. familyride

    Gefeliciteerd and congratulations! I never thought of my homebirth as a nod to my Dutch relatives, but now I will 🙂 My mother moved to America before I was born and gave birth in hospital, but labored in the parking lot until after midnight so she wouldn’t have to pay for an extra day (even though she got a discount for working in the accounting department of the hospital)–so Dutch-ly stubborn and frugal. Also, hooray for hypnobirthing!

  37. Jolan

    Congrats on your babygirl!

    I wanted a homebirth with my first, but he was a ‘sterrenkijker’ (looking up and not being able to turn right) So after hours and hours (days in fact) of labor, getting tired, no babymovement, they decided to move me to the hospital. After extraction, suction and other horrid medical tools, avoiding me to have to go for a emergency cesarian, he finally was there, our firstborn boy.
    I hate that birth, still. And blaiming it for my sons autism. Fair or not, I don’t care.
    My youngest was born, peacefully, at home, in my bed. Not even a persian knot tapestry down ‘there’ as I had with my oldest. Not one scratch, neither of us.
    He very healthy, I very happy.
    As I sometimes say: Zoals de laatste bevalling doe ik er zo nog een paar.
    (roughly: the way the last delivery went I could do a few more of those)
    But no more births for me. Two boys is enough. A handfull.. and more..

    Enjoy your little one, because it is true what they say.
    Time -will- fly.. and she’ll be starting preschool before you blink twice with your eyes.
    So, cuddle, carry and hug 😉

  38. Annette

    I think if Dutch women could choose themselves, a lot would choose for drugs. But the health insurance is not sufficient. And a lot of mid-wives refuse flat to drug the mothers-to-be.
    I moved to Belgium from the Netherlands, I had 2 children drug free and 3 with drugs. The first two were pretty horrible, the last three were easy. Now we are about to move back to the netherlands and I am happy I have my children and I will not have any more!

  39. Nessa

    Congratulations to you! You are so brave. Both of my babies were born with an epidural in place. I don’t think I would have been able to cope with that. Those contractions prior the pain block were excruciating. However epidurals aren’t great either you get a huge needle stuck in your lower spine with a tiny tube and that site aches for months after the baby is born.

  40. Barbara

    The point everyone here seems to disregard is the pure fact that giving natural birth gives the mother a very big boost of self confidence. It’s an accomplishment you can really be proud of and nobody can ever take that feeling away from you.

  41. Abby J.

    Congratulations on your bundle of gas and joy! Love your blog. And, have to admit, I am one of the readers that thought you were a “dude”. Why!? 😛 Glad to know, though, because it makes these posts feel even closer to home as an American lady in Amsterdam myself…Thanks!

  42. Dutchess Roz

    Congrats – love reading your blog posts 🙂

  43. Iris

    Great article. Congrats on the baby!

    I am surprised with allt he comments though. I am 30 weeks pregnant atm and are able to make all the decisions I want. For instance: I would like to give birth in a birth center and if the pain is too much, they will transport me to the hospital next door for pain medication etc. It is no longer needed to have a mecial indication to give birth in a hospital, and as long as you have an extra module (aanvullende verzekering) with your insurance all costs are cover. And it is also no longer true that ‘at night no aneasenatist are available for epidurals’. If the first birth goes well, I definetly would like to try to give birth at home the second time.

    I do wonder if the kraamzorg is something typical Dutch, I think France has the same system for sure.
    And also, you could write about the length of maternity leave in different countries, because the differences are extraordinary!

  44. Tas

    Congratulations on the baby! I have a Dutch husband and have told him that if I give birth in Holland… under no circumstances should anyone deny me the drugs should I request them! 😀 But I am sure that would be easilly arranged!

    Hope the little one is well!

  45. mommycell

    Gefeliciteerd! Wat leuk! I am so glad you are back! I have missed reading your blog. I am proud to say I had 3 natural/no drug births here in the US. Wanted to have babies at home in a tub but my hubby said no way. enjoy your little bundle and use lots of Zwitzal 🙂

  46. sheenabyrom

    Congratulations! I am a midwife in England but have Dutch grandchildren. Great blog….lovely story. Don’t like the photo of the baby hanging upside down after the birth! Horrendous! Hope that wasn’t your little one…..

  47. Els Borgesius

    Jesus, after all these stories I feel like a dutch hero. I delivered my baby 22 years ago in hospital, having very strong and painful contractions during 18 hours, no drugs, no caesarean and no epidural incision, but a natural rupture. Everything was OK, my daughter is now doing research in a hospital in Brazil where they propagate natural births. Very funny ‘coincidence’?

  48. Invader_Stu

    Congratulations. I experiences the birthing process in Holland myself just four months ago. Well, not me directly (I am a dude). I got to watch while my wife did all the hard work and screamed for drugs.

  49. Suru

    Hartstikke gefeliciteerd and welcome to your baby!! Rose muisjes 🙂

  50. Cindy

    Congratulations! Have a wonderfull time with your little bundle of joy 🙂

  51. Grace

    First of all, congratulations!!! Second of all, may i just say that i admire your courage to “go Dutch” when it comes to natural birth!!!! I work and live in the Netherlands now, but as a Chinese, especially a “one-child” policy generation, I must say that most of the young women in China have a very low threshold for pain nowadays. Almost all my friends who have given or are planning to give birth are determined to choose a c-section. No matter if it necessary of not. I myself have thought about this before, but until now I’m afraid I still need to catch the last plane and fly back to China when I’m about to deliver a child, natural birth just sound toooooooooo scary for me!!!

  52. A Dijkstra

    Yeah, baby! 😉 Wonderful!

    About home births…
    Well, each American and Nederlander is unique. The significant difference is that Americans focus on making the choice that is right for them as an individual, whereas a Dutch person chooses more by popular belief. If many people, whom you love and respect endorse a practice, of course you will view it favorably. So Dutch think,”home birth, yes!” Americans think, “pain meds, yes!”
    My Dutch husband often observes how Americans are “individualistic”. He also observes that “life is good in America”. It is a comfortable and enjoyable. After 4 years he still dislikes aspects of America and retains a view that the Dutch way is better in medical insurance, vacation days, social coffee breaks and ease of cycling/daily exercise. He still views home birth as better too. I don’t expect him to rush back for the tax rate, small spaces, hard furniture, cold rain, lack of privacy or cost of living.

    It is mixed here these days. I know many women who choose midwifes and are tremendously happy, but cost was a factor.

  53. Marijke Geurts

    Being in Dutch and living in Canada I’ve had quite the opposite experience, :-). Our first daughter was born at home in the Netherlands, and it was beautiful. Our two other children were born in a Canadian hospital, but yes, drug free all the way. Especially with our youngest, the doctor and nurse were very respectful and understanding of what I wanted (not wanted, I should say) and it was beautiful. But people are sooooo surprised when they learn I didn’t use any drugs…. which in turn surprises me.

  54. Sascha Frangilli

    I gave birth to my daughter while in Australia and was sooooo happy to know that IF I wanted drugs during the delivery IN the hospital, I would get them. Why be in pain???? Strangely enough though, my Dutch genes kicked in during the delivery and the knowledge of knowing that I could get drugs any time I wanted (unlike in the Netherlands) was enough for me to bare the pain. Not until her head came out, could I no longer control myself and screamed: “Give me an epidural or any other shit and do it NOW” (in that I-Am-In-Giving-Birth-Pain-Screeching-Voice-From-Hell). It was too late to administer anything and I gave birth to my baby drug-free (unwillingly hahahahaha). Nevertheless I am very glad I did not give birth at home in the Netherlands. Lol.

  55. Lynn

    Congratulations with the new Dutchie!
    Wishimng you that she’ll be an endless source of joy for her parents, and a regular important contributor to ideas for your tremendous blog.

  56. Karien

    Congratulations, and well done you!
    Funny story too, mine is quite the opposite, there is me trying to get (and got! 3 times!) my natural Dutch homebirth in the UK… So it must be in the genes, as there is no drop to be got there.

  57. Cras

    Let me chime in with congratulations as well!

    Except for my older sister, me and my 2 younger siblings were all born at home. I even slept for years in the bed I was born in 🙂

  58. Linda

    Congratulations on the little one!! I enjoy reading your stories, they never fail to put a smile on my face.

  59. Tom

    My wife delivered at home in our own bed. All natural, no drugs, no sterile surroundings.

    Now Im not going to voice an opinion on what is best (home/hospital) since im not the one who had to go through the pain, but what she said afterwards was something like: The beauty of birth outweighs the pain. Delivering at home adds greatly to this beauty so getting drugged is for (and I quote “zeikwijven”).

    All I can say is I never respected my wife as much as during that period.

  60. Farrah (@Momofthreeunder)

    Hey! Congrats to you!!!! My baby birthing days are done. I had the twins in 2010 and their brother the year before- so when we moved here (we’re in Oisterwijk) last fall- it wasn’t until after there were medical pregnancy preventative measures taken. When we arrived I became familiar with how the Dutch do the birthing and I have to say- I don’t think I could do it. Due to health issues both times I had c-sections and that’s good enough for me.

  61. Simone

    Congrats on the little one!

    As a Dutchie, I can never wrap my head around my friends’ insistance to deliver at home, au natural. Why put yourself through it? It’s like breaking your arm and saying: “oh, I don’t need a cast, that’s unnatural: I’ll just let it flap around on it’s own ’till it’s fine”, or “No, no, dentist, you can pull out two of my wisdom teeth au natural, the pain is part of life.” Are these people crazy? Our human developments have created certain comforts in life, such as central heating, plumbing, electronics and pain medication. None of it is “natural”, but be happy it’s there! I would not want a natural birth myself, and I certainly don’t want to risk a home birth (people seem to forget sometimes that women still die in childbirth, even in the Western world). Of course, to each their own, everyone decides for themselves. But before people say it, I don’t think there’s ever been an empirical study that proves that a drug-free delivery is “better for the baby” (though feel free to bring the evidence).

    • Meredith

      Giving birth without drugs is better for the baby. If you would like to read about it, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer is a great source that references studies published in top medical journals. Congratulations to the blogger! I just had my second baby here in the Netherlands, both in hospital. I would have liked to try it at home if I had been allowed (medical conditions meant hospital for me). As an American I first thought birth without drugs would be a crazy thing, but reading this book (and others) made me wish for a drug free experience. My first baby took so long, I ended up with an epidural because of exhaustion (more than 24 hours of labor). Second baby labor was so short (dilated almost 10cm in 30 min of contractions) The pain was bearable at home but as soon as we had to transfer to the hospital it was outrageous. I think at home I would have been okay. I ended up with a morphine type drug (remifentanil) because I could not handle the pain but was too dilated for an epidural. Disappointing but at least I only had it for a short while and was able to complete the birth without it. Lucky for me I had a doula who helped me and a supportive husband. I wish I could say I had no drugs because I have a feeling that my baby had difficulty feeding because of the morphine. But I will say they did give me drugs when I asked for them here in NL.

    • B Rylaarsdam

      I’d dare say that it’s common sense that a drug-free birth is better for the baby. Just like not drinking alcohol and smoking is better for the baby during pregnancy.

      • ed

        Actually, there are some advantages for the baby in having an epidural. The stress hormones from the mother transfer to the baby and if you are not in pain, you are less stressed. There are a couple of research studies on this.

  62. Titia

    Congrats on entering the world of motherhood. 🙂 My siblings and I (born in the Netherlands) were all home births, drug free.
    Coming to Canada and having three C-sections myself I could only dream of drug free home births.
    To each their own.
    Looking forward to your next post 🙂

  63. Nits

    Well congratulations, being Dutch but having lived abroad for years I gave birth to both my daugthers here during the 90-ties. During my 1st pregnancy the first 6 months were spend in Belgrade, Vienna and London. We came back to NL afterwards. Having a foreigner as a husband who turned pale every time my mother discussed home birth, we decided to go to the hospital. We visited a few hospitals in the area, my only questions was always on the drugs “allowed” during birth. The answers? It was not my decision (given by someone who had not given birth), this cannot be discussed before the actual delivery (why not?), it is “not done” in NL (get real – times change), pain is normal (define normal?) etc etc. We finally ended up in a hospital which confirmed they would administer painkillers under the condition of no impact on the baby – fine with me, would not have it any other way. In the end I delivered without any drugs in the hospital 2 healty daugthers. Until a year ago I used to think this was still the spirit of the time but found out last year, the lack of pain control is still the standard. Woman really need to ask upfront. Working for a large international company, this is one of the most difficult to explain to my collegues both male and female.

  64. valerie

    Maybe it has a religious element, like a rite of passage.
    Pillarisation ended not that long ago.

  65. Billy

    Was reading about Queensday, and linked back to this blog, so a little late but congratulations! I gave birth last summer, and it was planned to be in the hospital. Which was my choice, and when I wouldn’t have a medical indication, it was possible (daycare, like 350/ 400 euro’s). The reason why I want to go to the hospital was that I don’t want to have this ‘mess’ at home (and don’t like that my neighbours could hear something so personal) And I had the choice between an epidural, pethidine or TENS (electric ‘shocks’). So hello hospital, hello epidural! But it went all a little different: when the midwife arrived I was ready to push, so a drug free home birth as result.
    Conclusion: you have the choice between hospital or at home, and when in hospital, you can gets drugs – well, at least here in Rotterdam…).

  66. Rona

    I tries both ways: my first was drug-free at home and the second in hospital (drug-free, though), not because I wanted to, but because things went wrong. And after having experienced both, I can say I didn’t like the hospital one tiny bit! If ever I would have had a third, it would have been born home as well. The experience of being in my own home, with my husband, without medical beeping machines around or doctors trying stuff you don’t want, to be able to do everything when you want it and how you want it with the cats next to me watching very intensily: I say it was something I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

  67. Damanique (@damanique)


    I was actually born in Belgium, but both my parents are Dutch, so I am Dutch as well. My parents were simply living there at the time of my birth. But aside from a birthplace on my passport that confuses people sometimes, this also meant that my mom had to give birth in a hospital; that’s a matter of fact in Belgium. They don’t do home births. She gave birth to my brother at home, though (and I had to go to the neighbors so I wouldn’t be in the way). And in both cases, it was without drugs. My mom’s always told me it’s just natural and a part of the whole process. I didn’t even realize this was a typical Dutch thing until now… (a realization I have on this blog quite often.)

    Unfortunately, the Dutch insistence on handling things ‘naturally’ doesn’t just apply to giving birth, but also to dealing with physical and mental illness. I know a lot of people who frown upon something as small as taking a painkiller against a headache, preferring to tough it out. That’s a part of Dutch culture I like a lot less.

  68. Rianne Mulders

    First of all: Congratulations. I always read you blog with a smile on my face. And today was no exception, although I have to admit it might have been because it’s about giving birth with or without pain-relief.
    Whenever I see american women on television giving birth screaming their heads of even after they had an epidural, I can just watch in amazement. And to be honoust sometimes I get slightly enoyed, because for crying out loud women have been giving birth since the beginning of times and they did not have epidurals back then … (Okay during certain times in history they might have used herbs … and some herbs might have altered their perception of reality for a short period of time … )
    And for the record: I never thought you where a man … no man has that much dry humour 😉

  69. B Rylaarsdam

    Wonderful article! I had one baby with an epidural and HATED it! Had my second drug-free in a hospital and it was the best experience of my life! There is a reason why there are so many c-sections and inductions in the U.S. and it is because we over-medicate what doesn’t need to be medicated at all. Drug-free means less interference means less complications. The rest of the world could learn a lot from the way the Dutch do birth!

  70. PDtje

    This makes me feel so honored about being Dutch! I do find it odd that most Dutch women fail to breastfeed when they go the natural way in giving birth.

  71. Michelle ten Berge

    I didn’t read all the 109 reply’s, so maybe someone already mentioned it, but I think you will really love reading ‘A pleasing birth’ by Raymond de Vries. He is a Canadian sociologist with a Dutch background and made a comprehensive study of the Dutchies and their obsession with home birth. Their is also a lot of history and sociological explanation of our country, which you will probably love, seeing your self described obsession with our country ;-).
    Love you blog by the way!

  72. Maaike

    In this densely populated country, it has always been fairly safe to give birth at home. Midwife and hospital were and are relatively nearby and if things weren’t going so well during childbirth after all, the-mom-to-be would be in hospital quickly.
    Moreover, hospitals aren’t safe places at all (chances are that you will come out more ill than you went in). These reasons, plus a strong lobby of midwives, lead to this ‘giving-home-at-birth-thing’.
    By the way, my mom, sister and I (all Dutch) chose for childbirths at the hospital. It is a choice after all… You cannot choose between midwife and gynaecologist: that is determined by medical conditions.

  73. Irene Stewart nee Feijen

    Thank you for your explanation of why the Dutch like natural birth. I was born in Canada of Dutch parents and while I had my two children in hospital, I did not have any drugs. I can’t say that the pain was all that bad and have always been irritated about depictions of birth on TV and in movies will all the sweating, screaming and carrying on (not normal, I guess). Before this, I did not relate my acceptance of the fact it was going to hurt to my “dutchness” but my Mom certainly did counsel me with “of course it will hurt, but then the baby will be there and it is over.” And she was right. I was not told horror stories about birth but rather that my grandmothers gave birth in the morning and were up in the kitchen and fields by afternoon! My mom gave birth at home with a midwife and my dad holding the light. They were shocked when they got to Canada in the 50’s and my dad was not allowed in the room! My mom was with me when my son was born and she as thrilled to be able to finally witness the birth of one of her grandchildren.

  74. pawlapoo

    I am one of the 6% of Americans who birthed my babies all natural. It seems very rare these days indeed! I hear all different opinions on why it happens. Like doctor’s wanting to make it happen when its convenient for them, so they convince the moms they need c-sections. Americans in general have become wimpy and just do what they are told.

  75. Esmee

    Although I’m all for home birthing, the fact that a birthing with painkillers on request is sometimes hard to come by is something that really needs to change. I went by choice to a hospital, having had a fractured pelvic girdle and not trusting my own abilities, but now that I know I can give birth the next one will be at home. I really hate hospitals and the epi made me completely insensitive. I missed out on my birthing experience.

  76. Cathy

    O, how convenient not to mention that a big study at the AMC hospital in Amsterdam in 2009 showed that one of every 3 Dutch woman that give birth for the first time is traumatized by the event. And that because of this research doctors are now obliged to offer you drugs, whereas before they were simply denied and the nurses just said you had to be brave!
    Oh, and you forgot another quite important fact: the Netherlands has one of the highest deaths of newborns of whole Europe… They didn’t tell you that when you were pregnant, did they?! Giving birth in Holland is cruel and medieval.. let’s do it the natural way and let 20% of all woman and children die whilst giving birth, a natural consequense of us deciding to walk on two legs instead of four.
    Even in countries like Chilli and Costa Rica you can decide yourself how you want to give birth.. over here in the Lowlands, no way!

    • phuikermans

      20%? Where on earth do you get your numbers from? I am very curious to see your source, because as far as I know the numbers are 1/250 for children and 1/2500 for women (so if you assume that those are different cases, which is obviously not true but gives an upper limit, you get about 1/230, which translates to a bit less than 0.5%, a factor 40 than your number). If you take into account the dying foeti, the number gets three times higher and your nuber is ‘only about 1000% too high). But yes it’s a bit higher than in most of the rest of Europe, that point is true. It is also true that the Midwives Alliance of North America released their death rates, which are 4-5 times higher than average in the US. Now it is obvious that the US and the lowlands differ quite a lot (probably most important in this respect are the distance to the nearest hospital and the conditions under which you will be refused giving birth at home) but I wouldn’t be surprised if death rates are still about a factor 2 higher (although I haven’t found any research or statistics that support this view for the Dutch case).
      Then about the 1/3 of women experiencing it as a trauma. I don’t really get your point. First of all, I’m also curious about your source here, since the best number I can find is 9%, as found by the Utrecht medical centre. So how does giving birth in the hospital make it less of a traumatic experience? I guess that for most people going through such an event in their own home is far less traumatic than having to hurry to hospital when you are already in labour (you’ll be refused if you come too early), giving birth in an anonymous room, surrounded by medical personnel in white coats running around to keep track of two or three others at the same time. Furthermore, the most traumatising births all happen in hospital by default, so that number is anyhow going to be. This number without any context does really make no sense whatsoever in this discussion (the 1/3 you refer to is anyhow larger than the percentage of women giving birth at home in the Netherlands anyway). Sure, the pain killing practise in the Dutch system is quite medieval, I don’t disagree with that.

    • Maaike

      Cathy, although you are right when you say that the rate of death of newborns was relatively high in Europe, 20% is nonsense.
      There were several reasons for the relatively high newborn death rate in 1999 (it has gone down since). One of the reasons was that Dutch women tended to be relatively old when they got pregnant for the first time. They got more twins than in others countries and that is one of the reasons why there were more complications at birth (by the way, when a woman is pregnant with twins, she will always deliver in hospital).

      Moreover, when a baby is born far too early, the baby will be kept alive with all kind of medical devices in other countries. These babies might die later after all but were kept out of the statistics used for these comparisons.
      The Dutch doctors tended to be more reticent when a baby was not able to survive by itself. When they knew the baby would die anyway, they would not try to lengthen its life als long as possible.

      There were some more reasons, such as a higher amount of smoking mothers-to-be.

      Anyway, research has shown that delivery-at-home has nothing to do with it. However, I agree with you on the fact that the death rate is too high and should go down. Doctors tended to wait too long before taking action when a delivery was not going well. A lot of effort is done to change this.

  77. No. 62: not queuing

    […] I never dreamed I would do, something I’ve grumbled and blogged about. I learnt my lesson on “never say never in this country, but as these innocuous sounding words slipped out of my lips, I too was in […]

  78. ab

    Planning to have a natural birth simply because I believe going back to what’s natural is best, and as long as the mommy is a healthy woman and has had no previous health issues it should work wonderfully.
    We should trust our bodies and potential more.
    Many women even have orgasmic natural births (and this website is from the US).
    Call it a hippie movement or whatever you like but women had natural births for centuries birthed by midwives with more sensitivity towards the female energy and body.
    The patriarchy wanted control over birth and that’s when the “modern” impersonal birth came about, scaring women and making them forget about their personal power and the significance of birthing another being.
    Fear is disempowering, why should we fear a natural process?

    Congrats on having a natural birth :)!

  79. Martine

    Hi i’m Dutch and gave (natural) birth to my son one year ago. But not at home either… In the hospital (i had to because of a breech birth)
    After it was all done I was happy to be in the hospital… What a mess!!
    Their was blood on the ceiling! :p

  80. No.66: Happy babies

    […] experience my own “Dutch birth” and raising a child in the lowlands, there are marked differences in how the Dutch have and rear […]

  81. rainbows...

    I have always been taught (that word was spelled incorrectly, right?) that giving birth at home is more “welcoming” to the baby. (which does have somtehing to do with the idea of “gezelligheid, obviously)
    there’s a point right there…

  82. Kelly

    Thanks for this great post about birth- the Dutch way. I would love read more on this topic (In preparation for following my Dutch ancestors when it comes time for me to give birth!)

  83. Irene Pass

    I absolutely love, love, love this site. It really explains so much of why I am like I am. I am Aussie born first generation, and it would seem I have had so many Dutch cultural traits handed down to me. Here I was until I read through your eyes and before I went over to check things out for myself thinking it was just me and my family. As for natural births I remember my oma saying “Just keep walking around the table” and my opa saying “It is just like a beautiful flower.” when describing his own children’s home births in the forties and fifties. As for me totally au naturale in hospital (home births aren’t readily available in regional Australia)….first birth an hour and a half and last birth ten minutes. I often wonder if it was because I was just super relaxed because the Dutch women in my family had never made a fuss about pregnancy or birth. Like you say….normal.


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