The Dangerous Illusions of "Natural"

There is a new “trend” in Vietnam. Mothers want to be “natural”. They want to raise their children in a “natural” way. They intend to give birth at home, they won’t give the baby a proper care after delivery like getting his vitamin K shot and they won’t vaccinate their children, believing they will survive horrible infections “naturally”.

I would like to talk about this dangerous illusion of “Natural”:

Nothing in our world today is natural! Since the first caveman learned how to make tools and start a fire – he has changed “nature” forever. And that’s not always a bad thing. The ability to change our environment and create unnatural tools is what inspired all the technology, science, research and advancement we have today!

Here are a few facts about how “unnatural ways” reduced children mortality:

  • In the 18th century in Sweden – 1 of every 3 children died “of natural causes” before they reached the age of 5.
  • In Germany in the 19th Century – 50% Of the children died before their 5th birthday!
  • In 1990 – 7.6 Million children under 5 year old around the world died because of infections and hunger. In 2013 “only” 3.7 million children died (and the number of children born is much higher) Global Child mortality of “natural causes” declined from 18.2% in 1960 to 4.3% in 2015.

The major reasons for this decline in child mortality are:

  • Better sanitary conditions
  • Better food technology – the ability to grow more food faster and cheaper
  • Vaccinations
  • Better care during delivery and early infancy

All of these reasons are “Unnatural”!

I would like to ask these mothers who so fiercely want their children to grow in a natural way a few questions:

  • Are you going to stop using makeup, lipstick, deodorant or perfume from now on?
  • Are you still going to go to the supermarket to buy your food?
  • Are you going to drive your car or motorbike to the supermarket?
  • Are you still wearing clothes? Shoes? Using a phone? Having a Facebook account? A bank account? A job??
  • Are you going to move out of your home and go live in the forest? Take a bath in the river? Use soap?
  • When your child has high fever and he feels miserable – will you give him Tylenol?
  • If your child has Appendicitis and you know that without surgery – he will probably die, will you let him fight it “naturally”??
  • Can you live quietly with the knowledge that without medical care there is a risk that one of your 3 children will not survive till his 5th birthday?

If you honestly answer “yes” to any of these questions and you still think it’s better to raise your child “naturally” – you are only deluding yourself and putting your child in great danger.


I’m a pediatrician, with over 18 years of experience of taking care of babies and children. I have worked in emergency rooms, delivery rooms, Neonatal and Pediatric intensive care units. I have taken care of many babies in critical conditions and sadly, also saw babies die because of complications during and after deliveries. And I wouldn’t want my wife to give birth at home. It’s too risky even for me!

I can understand why mothers want to give birth at home. Hospitals are not a pleasant place to be in, even when you are healthy. It lacks the warmth and the intimacy of home. But it is much safer for the mother and the baby to be in the hospital than at home. Complications during deliveries can always happen, no matter how healthy the mother and fetus are. It can be just a matter of minutes that make the difference between having a healthy baby or having a baby with severe brain damage or dead because he couldn’t breath and didn’t get enough oxygen. You don’t want to be so far away from a doctor or a delivery room when it happens.

One of the major reasons why baby mortality dropped over the years – is better delivery care in the hospital. Giving birth at home is statistically more dangerous than having a baby in a hospital. A large study, analyzing 13 million birth cases from 2007 to 2010, shows that babies born at home were at greater risk of seizure, born without a pulse or breathing, and unresponsiveness than those delivered at hospitals. Babies born at home were 10 time more likely to be found without breathing or lacking a pulse five minutes after birth than those born in a hospital. In addition, babies born at home were found to have four times the risk of seizure than those delivered in a hospital.

As for giving Vitamin K and vaccinations:

Last year I had a 2 months old baby that was brought to the clinic because of seizures. She was completely healthy before. We found out that she had a massive bleeding into her brain. Apparently, she did not receive her Vitamin K shot after the delivery, which would have prevented the bleeding. Vitamin K is crucial in preventing bleeding and most babies are born with low levels of vitamin K. They must get the shot as early as possible after delivery to reduce the risk of hemorrhage!

As for vaccinations, I would like parents to remember how many babies died in Vietnam only 4 years ago because they were not vaccinated for measles. Vaccinations have saved the lives of millions and millions of babies over the years! As a pediatrician and a parent – I can’t understand or accept parents who would choose to risk their babies lives (and every other baby around them) because they read some factitious news or unverified “information” on some obscure internet website and they would rather believe that than to trust scientific facts and almost every pediatrician on this planet!

Dr. Jonathan Halevy - Head of Pediatrics, Family Medical Practice Ho Chi Minh City