Debunking the Business of Being Born: Part 9

This is part nine in a series on debunking the Business of Being Born. The other parts can be found here. The description of what is happening in the movie is in bold, while my commentary in in plain text.

A female OBGYN says “Fetal distress, cord prolapse, a fetal brachycardia that doesn’t come up… how are you going to get someone sectioned or emergently delivered from home? Its not so easy.” 

These comments being allowed in the movie provide a false sense of balance to the film. Noam Chomsky once pointed out that if you only allow two view points, and then allow vigorous debate between the two view points, you can achieve the appearance of democracy and free speech without ever actually having it. At this point in the film the arguments between the doctors and midwives boils down to hypotheticals, and only the midwives are allowed to discuss the research that they have reviewed. The film picked doctors unfamiliar with home birth rather than those who are well versed in it for a good reason- its much easier to control the debate and make it appear balanced.

Midwife Cara says “People think when you do birth at home, you’re not necessarily prepared for that eventuality, and that everything has to go great. But it doesn’t.”

No explanation given of how to resolve the conditions the OBGYN brought up earlier.

Marsden Wagner says “The netherlands loses fewer women than we do, the netherlands loses fewer babies than we do, and one third of their births are planned home births.”

The safety data Wagner cites simply is not true. Multiple studies exist to evidence the fact that planned home birth has horrible outcomes compared to hospital birth, regardless of what country it takes place in.

The scene shows Abbey Epstein and Ricki Lake discussing strollers. The scene changes to Abbey and her husband at an OBGYN office. They are discussing the baby’s position. They perform an ultrasound and say the growth is right on track. Abbey discusses home birth with the doctor. “We really are very, really considering the home birth with Cara.”

Abbey’s doctor replies “Go. I’ll be your back up.” He is very encouraging. They discuss the logistics of being a back up. He is concerned about his patient being treated poorly at the hospital if he is not their back up. 

Cara is talking to Abbey in her car now. Cara says “I’ve had (inaudable) back me many times. And, you know, I could go to saint vincents, or we could go there. It would depend on what the circumstances were. 

This exchange makes for a false continuity of care. There is none. A back up means the midwife dumps you there and may or may not come in, may or may not tell the truth to the staff. Having your doctor willing to be on call is a step up, but it might not matter depending on how emergent your transfer is. New York magazine has talked to former patients of Cara Muhlhahn and area hospitals- they say the same thing. 

Physicians that say they “back up” midwives never bet their insurance on it, and that’s because its a very bad bet.

Abbey mentions that she would love the possibility of transferring to a birth center. Cara points out that if they need transfer its going to be to a hospital because something is wrong. Abbey says she fears she would change her mind about home birth in the heat of labor. Cara replies that she personally begged for a cesarean during her home birth. Quirky music plays and footage from Cara Muhlhahn’s home birth is shown. It is obviously intended to be funny. 

I have taken a break from this series and haven’t been buttered up by the first half of the movie, so I feel absolutely terrible for a woman who desperately wants pain relief and denies herself. I know that Cara likely felt like she couldn’t get pain relief because of the business she works in and her ideological beliefs about child birth.

Cara says she felt like she was between a rock and a hard place, was trying to escape her labor. Footage shows her in obvious pain many times. She says “Every single woman that is having a natural birth feels that way at a certain point. The rock is ‘I’m not pushing because it hurts too much’, and the hard place is ‘Ok then, you are staying pregnant forever, and its going to hurt forever’. Its the most infuriating place to be.” Footage shows Cara crying and whimpering during labor. You can make out her saying “just awful” while she is crying in the labor footage.

This is terrible to watch. I personally would not have included this. It normalizes suffering that is needless. No one should hurt that bad and have a room full of people look on apathetically.

Cara discusses how mean she was to other people during her labor. She is shown in the bathtub crying. She narrates “I looked at the faucet and said thats me, I’m either dying or pushing the baby out.” She talks about having a difficult labor making her a better midwife because she knows how hard it can get. 

If you think about it, Cara was in an interesting position after her difficult labor. She was at an impasse, she knew she had aided other women that were obviously suffering like she had. In light of that she could have either chosen to stop promoting natural birth and worked in a hospital again. She could have stopped practicing altogether. She could have apologized to people she knew that she encouraged to suffer needlessly.
Instead it seems she took the easier option, which is to justify what happened. It is easy to forget pain when you aren’t feeling it right then, and it is easy to forget just how badly something hurt you.

We all have certain beliefs about ourselves or the world that are deeply painful to confront. I have a feeling that Cara’s self image as a helper, as a sacred journey keeper for women in labor, was more painful to betray than labor itself.

triumphant music plays. Cara is pushing. The baby emerges and is put on her knee. One of her arms is grasping someone elses with a white knuckle grip that she doesn’t release, even to hold her baby. Her other hand keeps the baby somewhat more secure on her lap. She looks down at the baby with a rather stoic expression.

Cara did not have the amazing moment that Ricki Lake did during her birth. There are editing tricks employed to imply that it happened, but from what I can see she was just terribly exhausted, to the point where it was difficult to enjoy her baby’s birth. The hand she haphazardly extends so her baby doesn’t fall on the floor seems to be all she could manage right then. The scene ends rather abruptly, making me wonder what else happened after that.

The fashion model patient is trying to hear something through a stethescope. Cara is examining her and helps her use it. The client talks about her insurance company being unsure about what to do with a non-hospital birth plan. She says its cheaper to have a baby at home. 

They cut to Carol Leonard, lay midwife and owner of Longmeadow Farm Birth center says that a spontaneous vaginal birth at a hospital costs about 13,000$. She exclaims “Hello! I’m charging 4000$ for everything!”

There are many factors as to why midwives charge less. These aren’t highlighted in a frank manner, so I will do so here:

1. They provide fewer services (no OR, anestesia, continuous fetal monitoring, emergent labs, blood bank, etc)

2. They do not have insurance (if they screw something up they won’t be able to pay, and if barred from practice in one state they can move to another one and set up shop again, unlike a physician that banks their whole career on retaining their license)

3. Their education costs next to nothing (a CPM can usually get their whole degree for about 3K)

The old addage that you get what you pay for is true here. So is the fact that insurance varies wildly in the US, you may pay less than 4K for a hospital birth depending on your insurance and its terms.

Fashion model patient wonders “what their agenda is” in pushing a far more expensive hospital birth on the insured.

I can tell you right now- it is making sure the insurance company doesn’t have to pay out for a costly NICU stay, or perhaps a lifetime of special education or disability related doctor visits from hypoxic brain damage. The bet of paying on a hospital birth pays off in the long run. The people who run insurance companies just crunch the numbers and charge based on the results. They do not have much of an agenda outside of trying their best not to screw over their stockholders by insuring things that will ultimately cost the company more than it makes.

Marsden Wagner says “The insurance companies, are part of the establishment, and so when the obstetricians who are giving the advice to the insurance companies say that home birth is dangerous or that midwives are not as safe as doctors and all of this nonsense, the establishment CEO in the insurance company believes them.”

Things really do not work that way, but that is beside the point. The assumption is that OBGYNs say home birth is dangerous because they have a bias instead of because they actually know what they are talking about. The questions brought up earlier about specific problems that require emergency c-sections are still hanging heavy in the air, and no one has answered them. I’ve been tracking home birth fatalities enough to answer the question- depending on the problem that occurs at a home birth, someone either dies, is injured, or disabled. There are far too many complications that cannot sustain life between home and the hospital, even if it is minutes away.

A woman says “I’ve interviewed many nurse midwives who noticed that once their practice reaches more than 30 percent of the patients in a hospital the doctors will start firing them, because that is too much competition.”

We are again inundated with gossip from the point of view of midwives with no opposing viewpoint given from the people who are (supposedly) firing nurse midwives. No one knows if this is actually happening or why. OBGYNs do much more than CNMs ever will. It isn’t as though every OB’s bread and butter is delivering babies. Here is a list of specialties that OBGYNs can branch into if delivering babies isn’t their preference. CNMs can do almost nothing that OBs can on that list.

A woman says “The AMA as the trade organization for physicians, has a very clear and public position that holds that they will not allow non-physicians to do anything that physicians do. You wanna talk big lobbies, big dollars, they can call a lot of shots.”

The name of the statement or any reference of it isn’t provided so that it can be verified.

The AMA has a lobby like every trade organization. They are infinitely more ethical than trade organizations like MANA, that had horrendous perinatal mortality rates on the books for several years before privileging the rest of us with them. The period of time between the collection of those numbers and the release of them was the period of time I was pregnant. I was not allowed to make an informed choice because MANA wanted to keep the data secret.

The biggest difference between MANA and the AMA is that the AMA changes its policies based on data. MANA does not. MANA only cares about protecting the legality of home birth instead of the safety of patients. They refuse of even define what constitutes a low-risk pregnancy, despite insisting left and right that home birth is only for low risk pregnancies.

The attempt to smear physicians and their organizations is pretty rich when its coming from midwives. They have very little room to speak.

stay tuned for part 10.


Home birth gurus on facebook part 1

ina may

We start today with the home birth guru Ina May Gaskin and her advice about the vaccine, Gardisil.

Ina may says “Here’s a vaccine that should have never made it onto the market. I’ve read too many of these reports.”

Too bad she hasn’t bothered to fact check the reports she has read, as the source material says that the girl’s autopsy was inconclusive. There is no evidence that the shot killed her. No one knows what did. All we have is one data point of correlation. Oops! I just hope no one ends up with cancer because they listened to her quackery.

Secondly, we have Gloria Lemay:

gloria lemay

“One of the big problems that we have in sorting out cesarean birth stories is that doctors lie to the family/midwife about the “justification” for the c/section in order to avoid criticism and/or lawsuits. The stories always have to be highly dramatic.”

It isn’t as though Lemay is talking about sorting out the data from the doctors or reports, she is talking about sorting out the details based on what the family says. She figures if there is a lot of dramatic explanation the family must have been lied to by doctors.

This is an occam’s razor situation- the likely explanation is that if they are talking to Gloria Lemay and said they had a c-section, she is going to criticize them for their medical decision and therefore the details might get fudged a bit just to get her to shut up about it. I know I would be tempted. Its really none of her business, until she gets an adequate education and presents some type of actual need to dissect if a c/section was “really” needed or not.

The homebirth controversy: Informed consent and a child’s right

Informa Insights

According to Homebirth Australia, the latest Australian data shows homebirth rates have increased by 56% in one year; there were 863 homebirths in 2009 and 1345 in 2010. Following this, there have been inquests around the country looking at homebirth deaths in recent years. We had the opportunity to hear from Ann Catchlove* on informed consent, a child’s right and the rate of deaths and injuries as a result of homebirth prior to her presentation at the upcoming Obstetric Malpractice Conference in June.

What are the major changes that you’ve observed during your time working in the homebirth area?
Ann: I have been involved as a consumer representative in maternity services since 2009. The big change that has taken place in that period in relation to homebirth has been the introduction of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme with its requirements for registered health professionals to hold professional indemnity…

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A must-read for families considering home birth

Safer Midwifery in Utah

A co-owner of a birth center who let her license lapse has written a chillingly honest account of out-of-hospital birthing and CPM (certified professional midwife) attended births.

Here are some choice quotes that families may want to see before choosing these lay people to attend their birth:

I am certainly guilty of allowing my memory to lead me down a primrose path. My memory lingers over moments when I was heroic, times when I saved the day, and events that make me seem, in my own mind, like a smart and responsible caregiver. I have to force myself to see things differently, and it is uncomfortable. That time when I expertly resuscitated that breathless baby? I didn’t know he was in distress until he was born; I had missed any warning signs of that. The time I successfully helped a mom avoid the hospital when her blood pressure was…

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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

There is no way for natural child birth advocates to accept criticism. There are two main ways that NCB advocates dodge criticism, and it is by formulating lazy ad hominems based on the critic’s history with NCB.

When a critic was hurt by NCB

Wow, I read your story and I am *so sorry* that you had such a *terrible, horrible* experience. I hope some day you can heal from what happened and move on with your life. I sense that your anger and trauma has made you lash out against midwives and home birth, but that isn’t fair to those of us who experienced them as a sacred, positive experience. I am praying for you to find peace.

When a critic was NOT hurt by NCB

I don’t know why you are so angry, these women and their choices have literally NOTHING to do with you and I wonder what kind of mental health problems you must have to obsess about what other people choose to do during their births. I could listen to you if you had actually attended home births or had one yourself, but you just really don’t know what you are talking about!

There is no way to win. Its the mark of a group of people who are uninterested in actually learning anything, only reinforcing what they already believe.

midwives vs reality

I got a comment today from the author of a Babymed piece about the petition for safer homebirth. She wrote about it too, and I went to check out the article. The petition is for very basic precautions, namely licensing and insurance for home birth midwives, something I am advocating for in my state. How could anyone object? Well, like this…

choice limited

Ingrid Anderson commented

“It’s really difficult to tell who exactly the “Coalition for Safer Homebirth” is. Smart marketing for a petition that at its core is anti-homebirth and entrenches confusion and obstacles to caring for women and babies well and safely at home.

Calling for the eradication of midwives is ugly political history repeating itself (this time led by privileged white women?)….

A privileged white CNM in a state that, thankfully, recognizes the tremendous contribution of CPMs!”

Ingrid thinks that requiring licensure and insurance “entrenches confusion and obstacles to caring for women and babies well and safely at home”. How? Being licensed as a CPM is a joke, all you need are 40 births and to pass a single exam, but midwives still oppose those very basic measures.

Next she says the petition calls for the eradication of midwives, and claims that the proof of that is in that “privileged white women” are calling for it. The petition absolutely does not call for the eradication of midwives. The even more stringent laws that physicians and nurses must obey have not eradicated the profession of medicine, and has actually improved it significantly since the days of unlicensed, rogue medicine.

What is funny to me about this is the fact that home birth midwives serve predominantly privileged white women, like Ricki Lake. Your race, sex, and income level are only relevant if you oppose home birth, it seems! In reality the coalition is mostly home birth loss parents, so they are likely to be white and upper class just like most women that home birth. It would be downright strange for the demographic of those harmed by the profession deviated wildly from the demographic of the population they serve.

The other thing that the midwife ignores is the reverence for white males in the natural child birth movement. Grantly dick reed wrote Birth Without Fear, and was an outspoken white supremacist. Marsden Wagner is another dead white patriarch who is worshipped in home birth circles despite being a pediatrician instead of an obstetrician or a neonatologist.  Michael Odent is revered, despite spouting damaging lies about the mode of birth ruining the bond between mother and child (I suppose people find his accent charming?). Someone is probably thinking “WHAT ABOUT INA MAY GASKIN???!!!” right now, and the truth is that she was in a patriarchal sex cult when she learned midwifery. Her husband, stephen gaskin, is the one who decided unmedicated birth on their compound was the law of the land. He also decided having sex with anyone you felt like was the law of the land, and hence so many pregnancies. Ina May just did her wifely duty in delivering the babies and trying to spread her beliefs to other people. The natural child birth ideology that started in soviet russia was borne out of necessity- they didn’t have enough pain relief to go around, and they couldn’t say anything bad about the government failing to provide, so the lie that unmedicated birth was superior was born to keep women in line. That’s an uglier history than the migration to hospital birth.

I also need to address the exploitation of women of color in developing nations by natural child birth workers like CPMs and some doulas. Anyone who is trying to be a CPM knows its damn hard to find someone to study under to get your 40 births, and so some have resorted to going to different nations to help poor people give birth. They can’t offer much real help because they lack equipment and knowledge, but instead of say fundraising to help bring actual obstetric help to developing nations and then studying there, they simply send worthless helpers who fly back home and start delivering babies as “professional” midwives. They are delivering anyones baby without the hope of hospital transfer, normalizing dangerous situations for the midwives that decide to do an international externship. I’ve documented time and time again that sometimes a negligent midwife is worse than giving birth alone, and the stories of women in other countries who suffered under an ignorant or cruel midwife are unlikely to ever be heard. The midwife international scandal is enough proof of how dirty this type of “training” really is.

This is the kind of off-the-wall opposition you get when you try to make home birth midwives meet a minimal standard of professionalism. You are suddenly racist and eliminationist, despite just asking for a license and insurance.

…a space for people who left NCB