Five bald-faced homebirth lies

One of the things that amazes me about homebirth advocates is that they casually utter bald-faced lies, and persist in doing so even after it has been demonstrated to them that their claims are false.

They are not alone, of course. Anti-vax activists, creationists, and believers in other forms of pseudoscience do the same thing. They boast that they are “educated” but their education consists of what I call pseudo-knowledge, labeled by author Damian Thompson as counter-knowledge:

… [W]e are witnessing a huge surge in the popularity of propositions that fail basic empirical tests. The essence of counterknowledge is that it purports to be knowledge but it is not knowledge. Its claims can be shown to be untrue, either because there are facts that contradict them or because there is no evidence to support them. It misrepresents reality (deliberately or otherwise) by presenting non-facts as facts. (my emphasis)

For example:

Bald-faced homebirth lie #1
Childbirth is inherently safe.

This is without a doubt the greatest bald-faced homebirth lie, and the lie at the heart of all the other lies. Childbirth is inherently dangerous. Childbirth is and has always been, in every time, place and culture, a leading cause of death of young women. For babies, the day of birth is the single most dangerous day of the entire 18 years of childhood.

It is a bald-faced lie that can easily be disproven by even the most cursory examination of the historical record, or by the most basic awareness of the death toll in countries that lack access to the interventions of modern obstetrics.

Bald-faced homebirth lie #2 The countries with the greatest use of midwives have the lowest mortality rates.

Though nothing more than a bald-faced lie, no less an “authority” than Cathy Warwick the general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives has uttered it publicly and then been forced to publicly retract it.

In an interview with a major British newspaper, Warwick railed against those who argue that homebirth is not safe:

Mrs Warwick is determined to prove the critics wrong. She pointed to the Netherlands, which has the lowest perinatal mortality levels for babies in Europe.

It is also a country where a third of women have home births. In the UK the figure is just 3 per cent.

But not only is that untrue, it is the exact opposite of the truth. The Netherlands has the HIGHEST perinatal mortality in Western Europe. The paper was forced to retract the claim from the article.

Bald-faced homebirth lie #3 The US does terribly on measures of obstetric care.

Actually, the US does very well on measures of obstetric care. According to the World Health Organization, the best measure of obstetric care is perinatal mortality (late stillbirths plus deaths in the 28 days of life). In fact, the US has a lower perinatal mortality rate Denmark, the UK, and The Netherlands.

Natural childbirth advocates deliberately misrepresent reality by routinely quoting infant mortality (death from birth to 1 year of age) a measure of pediatric care, not obstetric care.

Bald-faced homebirth lie #4 The World Health Organization recommends an optimal C-section rate of 5-15%.

When homebirth advocate Marsden Wagner headed one of the World Health Organizations divisions of maternal and childbirth health, the organization did make such a recommendation. But now that Wagner is gone, the WHO has withdrawn the recommendation, acknowledging that there was NEVER any evidence to support it.

In last year’s edition of its handbook Monitoring Emergency Obstetric Care, the WHO wiithdrew the recommendation and acknowledgd that was not based on solid evidence.

Although the WHO has recommended since 1985 that the rate not exceed 10-15 per cent, there is no empirical evidence for an optimum percentage . . . the optimum rate is unknown …

Bald-faced homebirth lie #5 The Johnson and Daviss BMJ 2005 study demonstrated that homebirth with a CPM is safe.

This is a bald-faced lie perpetrated by the authors of the study themselves. Johnson, who fails to inform readers that he is the former Director of Research for the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) and Daviss, his wife, who fails to acknowledge that she is a homebirth midwife, pulled a deliberate bait and switch.

They compared the death rate of CPM attended birth is 2000 to … a bunch of out of date papers on hospital birth extending to 1969. They should have compared homebirth in 2000 to low risk hospital birth in 2000, and that data had been published more than 2 years before they submitted their paper. But that would have shown that homebirth with a CPM in 2000 had a mortality rate approximately triple that of comparable risk hospital birth in 2000, so they just left it out.

Far from demonstrating the safety of homebirth, the Johnson and Daviss paper actually demonstrates the opposite.

I often say that homebirth advocacy is based on mistruths, half truths and outright lies. The five bald-faced lies detailed above are at the heart of homebirth advocacy. They have been repeated so many times by homebirth advocates that credulous women have begun to believe them and the mainstream media has begun to repeat them.

Homebirth advocates like to boast that they are “informed,” but you can’t be informed if you believe in bald-faced lies.