Why The Natural Birth Community Must Not Ignore Her Critics

Not often, but occasionally I take a peek at one of those awful anti- natural childbirth websites. You know the ones I am talking about. They mock natural birth, non-vaccinating parents, Chiropractic, herbal remedies and all those who follow those types of lifestyle choices. They have a special place in their hearts for the unassisted birther or the woman who claims that childbirth was painless and wonderful. They particularly disdain midwifery, particularly the home birth variety. (Opps, I am that natural type!)

These people spew venom, hatred and disdain for those who think the c-section rate is too high or inductions are dangerous. (I am not going to name their particular websites or blogs here because I don't want to encourage them or send more people to click on their posts.)

Often their attacks are personal in nature, making sure to send nasty thoughts in the direction of any noticeable natural childbirth supporter, blogger, or celebrity.

You might be wondering at this point why on earth we can't ignore these people (who appear to often be women and mothers themselves). What could we possible learn from them? Well, in some ways they should be ignored. We don't need to give them money or attention or our own venom or emotions.

But there is something else I find occasionally on these vicious websites by those who hate and attack us (I hope you don't mind that I use the terms us and them.) No- sometimes I find something that is kind of disturbing on their blogs. You are not going to appreciate me saying this, but sometimes they say things that are.....


Yes, sometimes the trolls, haters and villains speak some truth. Don't worry- it is buried deep beneath hatred and venom and it is mixed in with many untruths or twisted facts, but still, sometimes it is still there. Some of what they say we ignore at our own peril. (Lucky for us they are so mean and hateful that most people will simply ignore everything they have to say. I am surprised they haven't noticed this yet.)

So what exactly are they saying that we must not ignore?

~They talk about midwifery as though it is dangerous.~

I personally love midwives and the midwifery model of care. I have always had midwives and have never even seen an obstetrician. I have received care from both CNMs and CPMs, both in and outside of the hospital. I have been treated well, given great advice, and excellent safe care at my births.

It seems though that among the natural childbirth community we revere and love the midwifery model so much that we forget that, just as is true with the obstetric model, there are imperfections within it.

There are bad midwives. And I don't just mean very medically minded or cruel midwives- I mean midwives who trust birth and say all the right things and even think all the right things- but who are simply incompetent, dangerous, or unethical.

I have heard awful stories of midwives who can't start an IV when it is needed, who don't carry drugs for stopping hemorrhage, who can't properly suture and even who are unable to provide infant CPR. I have heard of midwives who transfer about 50% of them time and others who don't transfer when they should. I have talked to midwives who approve and even encourage the use of recreational drugs and others who inflate their abilities in order to get clients.

I believe that the midwifery model of care is fantastic for most women- but all midwives are not created equal and choosing a midwife or a home birth is not a magic bullet that will protect us from a birth going wrong.

We must open our eyes to some of the problems within midwifery that make it possible for incompetent and even dangerous midwives to continue to practice. This can only be ignored at our peril. We must carefully choose our own midwives. If we are studying or training to be a midwife, we must do more than just trust birth. We must be able to recognize when it can't be trusted.

I don't have a solution to this problem. I have nothing to offer to fix this. But talk to your midwife. Talk to others about her. Learn her experience, her transport rate, her training and her credentials. Choosing midwifery alone is not enough to guarantee a perfect birth.

~They say we can't support our claims relating to the safety of natural choices.~

I think there is actually lots of truth regarding the dangers of drugs administered and procedures used in common medical practice. More than that, I happen to think common sense itself makes a good case for things like a 30% c-section rate being dangerous and silly.

But I must admit that sometimes I notice that some of the things stated, claimed, or quoted among natural types are not true, not substantiated, not based on evidence, or are misinterpreted.

For the natural birth community to be respected we must speak the truth. We must also back up what we say with some real evidence. It is out there, but just because it is on somebodies blog, doesn't mean it is true. (Yes, I realize I am a natural birth blogger. I try to back myself up when I make a claim, but nobody actually checks my facts or those of any other blogger for that matter.) We can't take anybodies word for this stuff. We have to find out for ourselves. I personally find that using some of the words from ACOG themselves can be helpful, as can simply reading the package inserts for common drugs used at the time of delivery. Sometimes the best way to fight the enemy, is with their own research. They can't ignore that. Well, OK, yes they can, but you get what I mean.


One other thing I think we must avoid (and yes I realize I am guilty of it too) is the venom they use. Natural childbirth is often better. Not only is it often safer, it can be a miraculous and joyous event for the mother and the baby. This speaks for itself. We don't have to be mean and hateful to convince people of the joys of natural birth- if they experience it they will know for themselves. Dr Bradley talked about how other doctors got mad that he was stealing their patients. He said he never tried to steal patients, but at the time the hospitals had large joint recovery rooms. His mothers would WALK in, joyous, invigorated, and babbling on about their fantastic birth and their beautifully nursing newborn. The other exhausted, drugged and in pain mothers only had to look at them and talk to them to realize that birth could be so much more than what they had experienced.

In the end, birth and the euphoria that can surround it is more than can be proved or written about or put in a study. It is not just something that uses the mind or the body, it is a whole person experience and so it must really be experienced to be fully understood. The truth is that women are turning to natural childbirth not because we have a slick add campaign or lots of money but because they no longer trust the very model of care that these vicious people support. They have been hurt by it and are looking for a better way. The critics will never be convinced by us- they don't want to be, so we need not fight with them, but we must strengthen our weaknesses. The truth of natural birth will triumph, but we cannot ignore our flaws. To do so will only weaken us.


Krista Eger said…
I cannot even stand to go to those websites. The one in particular is ridiculous because I swear she just studied debate not medicine. She accuses everyone of using logical fallacies (which I'm sure we all use because how many people go to school for debate??), but acts so smart about it and in reality she uses them ALLL THEE TIME!! My point is that she is really really good at arguing which is a great trick to terrorize and appear smarter than the other person. It doesn't make her more right. It just makes her better at making a point. That's why so many people are tricked into it. It is all politics. What is the point of arguing it? Why would she want to do that? Why does she have this agenda? Those are the questions you have to ask. Why would someone devote so much time to belittling someone? And most of all, why would someone get so much joy out of tearing a group of people down? She has something seriously wrong with her that's why. No normal person gets joy out of putting others down. Natural birth advocates are not there to bring people down, they are there to enlighten people to help them be happy. None of us are trying to get people to be dangerous or make stupid choices. It's the same thing as being religious and wanting someone else to share your religion because it makes you happy. I don't want to feed her psycho disease. So I stay away. Nothing that makes you happy can be described as venomous. And that is exactly what her website is.
AmandaRuth said…
Thank you for this post.
paule said…
i am not sure if i'm reading this right: are you saying that you feel that the choice of not carrying drugs makes a midwife dangerous?
Heather J said…
Here's the entire problem with your blog as well as the anti-NCB blogs and all the thinking that goes into them...

If you cannot take responsibility for your own damn birth, do not be surprised at absolutely anything that happens during it.

If you cannot research, educate yourself, know what to do all by yourself in case of emergency and speak up for yourself and your child, then you have no business complaining about any of it.

Too many women choose hospitals and OBs because they WANT to pass off all responsibility of how their birth turns out and goes and essentially give up their power to someone who eagerly and hungrily gobbles it up.

The same goes for midwives... even of the homebirthing variety. A lot of women hate the hospital/allopathic model of care and opt for a homebirth with a more caring person generally but a person many times, who still has a Savior complex.

Honestly answer this question: why do you need a birth attendant if you honestly believe natural childbirth is so great and awesome and safe all by itself?

And I'm not arguing with you that it's not. But if you're not willing to go unassisted and gather up all the information and learn everything you can to prepare yourself for an unassisted birth, you have no business home-birthing with a midwife and then blaming anyone on any outcome.

This isn't going to stop until every woman stands up for herself, her body, her baby and her birth... takes responsibility for her decisions and actions and stops trying to give her power away but then backpedals and resents that she had no power or something didn't go to her liking.
Liz said…
wow.i guess i get thrown in there huh? maybe you sense some anger because many of these people/bloggers have lost babies due to incompitant midwives. i am in no way anti midwife, and i am not even anti hombirth- but do i push for more accountability, stricter cut offs, better training- hell yes! these are HUMAN BIRTHS, HUMAN BABIES we are talking about here. Dr. amy can be cruel- i agree, but she in no way represents the majority of these 'trolls' you speak of. she dosn't represent us, or us her..we are just trying to get the whole story heard-instead of the very edited verison that ends up on many of these facebook pages- pages that delete and ban every poster who says something that dosnt fit into their sparkly version of homebirth perfection- like how i have been banned from many for just saying that my baby died at my homebirth.

what i am trying to say is that yes1 i am glad you realize that what we are saying is true- but please don't lump me and my friends in with dr.amy.
Mama Birth said…
I agree- women should take responsibility for their births whoever attends them (or doesn't attend them). I personally hire a midwife because I feel like birth can be unpredictable and I want somebody there who can handle things that I couldn't on my own but which do happen. I recognize the risks of HB and Hospital birth. I choose what I feel is best for me and a risk I am comfortable with. I have had an unassisted birth and it was fabulous- I also feel blessed that it went as well as it did and it was not a planned unassisted. I think women should be able to choose what they want, it doesn't really matter what I think of their choices. Another thing you can't really factor in as to birth choice is feelings/emotions/etc. Some women instinctivly know that they should birth cesarean/unassisted or anything in between. We can't really calibrate that, maybe it is intuition.....

As to if I think a midwife is dangerous if she doesn't carry drugs- what do you think for yourself? For me, one of the first thing I ask is if they carry drugs to stop bleeding. I personally would not hire one if they didn't. That is in fact the reason I do hire a midwife- they have access to some simple yet lifesaving technology. But what every woman feels comfortable with is up to her- I have been sent birth stories from women who started to bleed out, the midwife had no drugs, the herbs and other natural things didn't work and a transport was needed. A trained and armed midwife can not only save lives but also prevent transfer.
laurel-Ann said…
Oh man.. I have saw a site just recently spreading what I found to be the most disgusting, judgmental and just down right mean and hateful words I have seen about birth.

She lists HB deaths to prove her point... but what about hospital deaths? I feel like it is totally one sided. I agree with you that HB midwives are absolutely not perfect, there are good, bad, lazy midwives AND doctors. Painfully, babies die unnecessarily at home AND in the hospital.....I will say that according to the facts
I gathered prior to my birth, between the hospital I planned to birth at and the HB midwifery practice I ended up transferring to... The midwifery practice did in fact have significantly lower intervention and mortality rates. So although this woman thinks the facts HB supporters come up with are false... in at least my case, I am proud to say, they stood strong.

My birth was beautiful and empowering.I love my baby girl to a point i never knew was possible. My midwife kissed my daughter and talked to her and I nearly started crying. She absolutely cares and what a profound impact I believe it will have on my daughter's and my life.

The things this woman says shows me she knows NOTHING of NCB or HB. When I saw the site I was very bothered and sad but I realize after reading your post that you are right... I won't give this woman the honor of saying she is correct (that may be small of me... but how dare she say such things about something so many people find empowering and hold so dear to their heart... the hate and as you properly put, venom twist all of her arguments into disrespectful arguments which I can not bring myself to address) I will however agree with you that we need to strengthen our argument, for the sake of NCB. For the great work of Dr. Bradley and the many many incredible, loving midwives,for doulas and the hard work so many mothers have put into bringing their children into this world in a safe, loving environment. We need to strengthen our argument for the sake of the beautiful lives NCB supporters are trying to protect, not neglect.
paule said…
it is not about what I THINK, i was trying to see what YOU think. we've come to believe that drugs are lifesavers, yet the best tool for midwives are their HANDS. drugs don't always work.
AND, if we are going to talk about the "dangers", let's talk about redefining hemorrhage too. if a pregnant mother's blood volume has adequately expanded (adequate nutrition, which usually happens in informed moms), she has an extra 6 cups of blood. why do we define PPH at 2 cups of blood, then? are your lifesaving drugs really saving a life if used proactively, rather than relaying on symptoms?
i've seen a hemorrhage "freak out" ~ where it looks like the faucet got turned on. the client recieved cytotec, pitocin and methergen, was laying on the cold floor in her blood and was NOT holding her baby.
i agree with you: it starts with EDUCATION. but please, let's leave at that. education. not more regulations. not more protocols and legislation. education. because education is what makes the difference, not legislation. the whole concept of the NARM was to get ride of the bad midwives. and this has failed.
Mama Birth said…
P- I am not anywhere calling for more regulation. This isn't about licensing midwives or not- But women need to know what their midwife can do or will do in certain situations. We can't just say "I choose home birth or a midwife or a doula or hypno or Bradley or whatever and so everything will be OK". We have got to educate ourselves, know the consequences, know the abilities of our care provider and if they are even worth having there and if we feel safe with our choices.
I agree that a midwives best tool is her hands- but there are some who don't know how to use those-

I totally prefer this model of care over obstetrics- but my point was not legislation- my point is that sometimes our knee jerk reaction to anybody questioning or condemning NCB needs to be examined. Sometimes the critics make some valid points- not often- but sometimes (and it is usually hidden amid lies and venom) they do.
Joe Valley said…
Your words are valuable to me like air is to mammals. Or something that speaks to your high value in a metaphorical way. I get my panties in a bunch often about the medical model's birthing debacles. Yet, it behooves me to recognize that debacles can happen in the midwifery model, too. Just today I heard a fabulous story of medical model birth. Happy mama. Happy papa. Excellent customer service. Smiles. Hugs. And all that. Whoa is me to put on my blinders and bow to the pedestal upon which I've placed the midwifery model. The more I develop my critical eye for safety, the more I'll be able to encourage and recognize good midwifery practice.

Great big digital hugs right now through my computer screen to you Mama Birth.
WhisperDeCorvo said…
YES!! There is truth being spoken on both sides, at times its hard to see because we want to support our beliefs so strongly we become polar opposites. Where admitting there is truth is akin to admitting our fault.

The thing I see more and more is how these polarizing "Discussions" scare away the women who need the information most.
Being informed is the most important aspect, but a balance can be made. I've seen just as much venom for non natural birth as i have against natural birth. Both sides get heated.
I had a natural birth with amazing midwives and a utterly fantastic doula. It was the best experience, but my experience doesnt hide or negate the bad (sometimes horrible or heartbreaking) experiences that can happen. Finding information and making intelligent informed decisions is the best bet at all times. Follow your intuition, but back it up with information.
mom2natnkatncj said…
So if a woman loses a baby in homebirth that means she's uneducated? She didn't do her homework? Babies die in hospitals too. Yes, they do. But how are you so sure that it's safer to birth at home. Especially with a CPM. Maybe you need to look into those who you say are against midwives because if you really looked you would see many of them have used midwives, CNM's fully trained. Saying well I was okay and so were all of my friends is not proof that it's safe. Where are the homebirth numbers? How many mothers and babies have died due to neglect? What then is a family's recourse should something go wrong? Where is the database to check a midwifes track record? Do you think all midwives tell the truth? That is what the "trolls" are trying to warn people about with homebirth. Many of them have experienced a natural birth. But you don't like what they are saying so you don't bother to take the time to hear it.
Helena Post said…
Ya know what? From my experience, it's heated and venomous debates between the two camps that's polarising the whole situation so much, that there's a whole stack of women in the middle, not willing to polarise themselves, and not feeling supported or listened to by either camp. I've been fortunate to have a lot of experience in birth - I had a pretty run of the mill interventionist birth for my first child, an almost unassisted and totally empowered birth in a local hospital for my second child, a beautiful homebirth with 3 midwives who gave me absolutely no post natal care whatsoever and a really bad lack of bonding experience because of it with my third child, then a 'perfect' homebirth with a midwife who travelled 250 kms to be there for my fourth child, an emergency caesarean with a homebirth attempt assisted by 2 beautiful midwives - and I've got to say that the caesarean was respectful, empowered, and the most perfect birth it could have been, and I REALLY appreciated that they were all there, and especially appreciated that the experience saved me from being a homebirthing nazi - for my fifth birth, and an amazing homebirth of my twins 21 months after the caesarean with a beloved midwife, where my boys were born two days apart and we all got to blissfully bond at home for my sixth and seventh children. And now I'm pregnant with my eighth child, and I'm of course preparing to birth at home with my beloved midwife, but comfortable about being in hospital if that's where it needs to happen, and really glad that I can appreciate all sides of the coin, and see the value in all aspects of birthing - even the crappy bits can teach you something. I just wish that the great divide would dissapear, and we could all realise that we're all doing our best with what we've got, and all deserving of respect and the freedom to birth how we want and need. Maybe homebirthing midwives could get some of those chips off thier shoulders, and hospital workers could relax and let hospital births be a little more human friendly if we could. Here's to a positive future eh?!
I responded to this post on my blog. http://momofmanyfeet.blogspot.com/2011/08/mama-birth-why-natural-birth-community.html I have been on both sides of the fence.
Jade Jymson said…
I have to say I'm a bit in awe. This is what we have been saying all along. Problem is, when ever we try to say it in any way (nice, funny, rude , sweet, cold) we get banned and called a troll. How exactly are we supposed to talk to people when it seems that most of them would rather their heads be burried in the sand?
Areawoman said…
Exactly, Jade. Dr. Amy can be strident and bitchy, but for the most part, the rest of us respectfully state our arguments and give our evidence. However, that respect doesn't go both ways. I've been banned from pages just for posting links to ACOG or the CDC and not saying anything at all!!
John said…
perfect. thank you.
Kanna said…
Hi there ^_^

there's a thread over at MDC, trying to tackle the subject on how to make homebirth with a midwife safer, e.g. by gathering better data on the safety aspects, improving training for midwives concerning emergency situations and by finding ways to weed out the "bad apples".


Sounds like some people from around here might enjoy joining in. ^_^

(And yes, I admit it, I'm the one who started that thread...)
Zion Lights said…
Gosh I didn't even know about those websites.. You're right about doing research before making claims though- people can get OTT about natural childbirth, and mistakes in this area can be irreversably damaging.
I'm all for NC, but also all for evidence and stastics too!
Hi Mama Birth, I am a homebirth mother who was been watching other homebirthers, natural birthers and the like be harassed and bullies by this group of Dr. Amy followers. I myself posted on The Skeptical OB with the hopes of reaching them. They were berating any woman who claimed that their childbirth was traumatic. I told them as a victim of rape, I could understand why someone with a background similar to myself, may be traumatized by a bad hospital experience. I also told them that my past was a big part of why I chose homebirth. The response I got was shocking. I was called an attention whore for saying the word rape and told I should not have had children because if I was not emotionally strong enough to handle a hospital birth, I was not ready to be a mother and needed more therapy. It was the most horrible display of human behavior I ever seen. I decided to combat their lives by starting a blog. There is no proof to show homebirth is dangerous or scientific evidence to claim midwives are greedy and unexperienced. I hope to dispel every lie they spread so fervently across the internet and I intend to do so without name calling. I just want the truth to get out. I am at theskepticalmother.blogspot if you would like to check out what I have written so far. Much thanks for reading..