Wren’s story on the 1st anniversary of his birth and death

Wren’s story, as told by his father Josh, has been posted on Hurt by Homebirth, today as his Dad requested, on the first anniversary of his birth and death. Just hours after his beautiful and uncomplicated homebirth, and without his parents even being aware that he was ill, Wren died of Group B Strep (GBS) pneumonia.

Months later … we finally got the definitive answer from the autopsy (the police required an autopsy). Wren had died from pneumonia due to an invasive Group B Streptococcus infection. Everything else about him was perfect.

By the time we received the report we had a pretty good idea that’s what it was. You see, in our very first checkup at the OBs GBS showed up in Tweeny’s urine sample. They prescribed some oral antibiotics and she took them. Later, as we were approaching the time to take our 35-37 week GBS test, our midwives recommended Tweeny start putting a garlic clove in her vagina nightly to try and kill the bacteria. Tweeny followed the regimen faithfully.

But what Wren’s parents didn’t know at the time is that homebirth midwives and natural childbirth advocates recommend garlic even though it has NEVER been tested.

Josh explains:

We’ve learned a lot about GBS since then. Here are the things that went wrong in our case:

If GBS ever shows up in your urine during a pregnancy, you must get the antibiotic IV when you go into labor, end of story. It means you are heavily colonized and far, far, far more likely to infect your baby during childbirth.

There is no scientific evidence of any sort that garlic or any other homeopathic remedy will offer any protection from a GBS infection…

We focused all our worries and attention on the pregnancy and the delivery itself. We subconsciously believed that if we just got Wren out and he was healthy, we were home free. Unfortunately, GBS-infected babies will show no signs of the infection for several hours after birth. They’ll have lusty cries and high apgar scores and be perfectly normal. There’s nothing genetically wrong with them, they just get sick. And you need to treat a sickness with medicine.

There is so much to worry about when you’re pregnant, and unfortunately, most of it is out of your control. Preventing GBS is one of the few things that is. All you have to do is get the test, and if you’re positive (and 30% of women are), get the antibiotic IV as soon as you go into labor, and you’ve just (provably) decreased your baby’s chance of getting infected and dying by 99.8%…

Wren’s story made me wonder how and why homebirth midwives (CPMs and some CNMs) recommend an untested “treatment.”

As far as I can tell, it can be traced back to a single article that appeared in Midwifery Today International Midwife in 2004, by the infamous Judy Slome Cohain (who has also claimed that epidurals are akin to drug abuse.) Amazingly, Cohain’s recommended garlic regimen rests on nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

Garlic kills GBS, but because no profit can be made from its use, no research exists on the use of garlic to prevent GBS in newborns. Women are encouraged to consider following the protocols described in this article at 35 weeks and culturing for GBS at 36 weeks, as a proactive way to research the use of garlic to prevent newborn GBS disease.

Cohain acknowledges that garlic for the prevention of GBS disease in the newborn has NEVER been tested, not even once. In fact, her protocol for use of vaginal garlic is just a way for women to “research” whether garlic works. But that’s not how she and others have promoted it. It’s been promoted as a “treatment,” not as an untested personal theory of one individual. In other words, women have been encouraged to risk their babies’ lives based on nothing more than Judy’s defiance of medical authority.

Wren’s father came to a painful conclusion:

It eventually dawned on me that real smoking gun in this situation was our decision to do a home birth. My wife had gotten interested in home birth partly through seeing “The Business of Being Born” and because she didn’t like going to hospitals. She really just liked the comfort of being at home. I was skeptical about the risks at first, but after we went to a couple different providers around Los Angeles, I came up with a mental model that made me comfortable with the idea: home births were like whole foods!

His regret is palpable. Anyone contemplating homebirth should heed his powerful words:

Overall, I just feel like a fool. My entire focus throughout the pregnancy was on the labor, the delivery, Tweeny’s experience, and maybe the first few minutes after birth. Once he had ten fingers, ten toes, and a lusty cry, I figured we were in the clear.

I was wrong, and our poor defenseless baby boy Wren paid for my ignorance. I thought I had everything figured out, I thought we would glide right through it all, I thought we were so cool.

I learned so much on March 9th, 2010. But it wasn’t worth the price.

  • Haj
    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Guess what? You could kill GBS in a Petri dish with bleach. Does that mean that douching with bleach is a good idea or would have any effect on the incidence of neonatal GBS sepsis?

      This is what I mean when I refer to the gullibility of natural childbirth advocates. Show them a paper and they don’t read it, don’t understand it, don’t investigate the issue further and wave the paper around as “proof.”

    • fiftyfifty1

      Do you know the difference between in vitro and in vivo and why it matters?

    • Young CC Prof

      Remember when everyone said using nonoxynol-9 with condoms would reduce the risk of AIDS? Why? Because it worked really well in a petri dish.

      Then, after over ten years of public healthy authorities spreading this nice little hypothesis, someone tested it on actual people and discovered that it INCREASED the spread of AIDS. A lot. The nonoxynol-9 was doing more damage to the woman’s natural defenses against infection than it was to the virus.

      I wonder how many thousands died because they believed it.

    • Stacy48918

      So you parachute in 3 years after the last comment to post an article showing in vitro activity of a garlic extract against GBS to prove, what, exactly? That it doesn’t work? Because Wren’s mother put ACTUAL GARLIC in an uncomfortable place and her baby is DEAD – or did you not bother to read the post and the baby’s story at all.

      Doesn’t make you look very informed or intelligent at all.