Birth of a natural childbirth lie

Rixa Freeze should know better. The woman has a PhD. True, it’s not in a scientific discipline, but the social sciences also insist on corroborating a claim before publishing it. But evidently, some claims are so delicious, comport so well with the fantasies of natural childbirth advocates, that the rules of evidence are discarded.

Rixa wrote a post that made an astounding claim: an extraordinary number of women supposedly died of placenta accreta last year in the state of New Jersey alone. The number is so large that it is the equivalent of all the women in the entire country who died of all possible placental complications in any previous year. What’s the source for that claim? Rixa quotes another NCB blogger who quotes a local TV station who misquotes an obstetrician, claiming that he said that 40 women died of accreta in the past year. The doctor says nothing of the kind in the video, and probably told the interviewer that 40 women in NJ HAD a placenta accreta last year. It is unclear if ANY women died as a result. Evidently, TV interviewers for local affiliates are now sources of “authoritative” knowledge.

The misquoted claim should have aroused Rixa’s suspicions since it is so extraordinary. In the last year for which we have complete mortality data, 40 women in the entire country died of placental complications, of which accreta was only a subset. The entire state of New Jersey averages only 12 deaths a year. If the maternal mortality rate of New Jersey had more than tripled and if primary cause of mortality was a relatively rare entity, that should have set off alarm bells throughout the public health establishment. It should be front page news in publications ranging from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (MMWR) to The New York Times. Yet the claim is made no where else.

No one has reported that New Jersey maternal mortality has risen. No one has reported that the incidence of accreta has risen. And certainly no one has reported that an extraordinary number of women died of accreta in New Jersey last year. But multiple natural childbirth blogs have “reported” this, all citing the video in which the interviewer misquotes the doctor.

I don’t expect the average NCB blogger to know enough about maternal mortality and about science and statistics to question the claim, and to attempt to source it properly. Rixa, though, almost certainly knows better. And if she didn’t know before, she certainly knows now, since I posted that the claim is unsubstantiated and was almost certainly a misquote. Indeed I posted twice, and both times Rixa removed the information. When professionals realize they have made a mistake, they correct the error. But evidently NCB advocates don’t worry about professional ethics. If a lie is appealing, they publish it, and if someone tries to tell the truth, they delete it.

This is an object lesson on why it is impossible to become “educated” about childbirth by reading NCB literature. NCB advocates write bald faced lies, either deliberately or inadvertently. What’s worse is that when evidence comes to light that they have made a false claim, they delete the evidence instead of the claim.


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