Kudos to Mama Birth

I don’t hesitate to call out natural childbirth bloggers when they disseminate misinformation, so it is only fair that I compliment them when they go out on a limb to make brave pronouncements.

Check out the latest post by Mama Birth, Why the Natural Childbirth Community Must Not Ignore Her Critics. It does, of course, start with the expected denigration:

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…

But then comes the unexpected:

… [S]ometimes 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…..


Mama Birth explains that there are two main claims that we make that ought to be heeded:

1. Homebirth midwives can behave in ways that are dangerous to babies and mothers

There are bad 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 talked to midwives who … inflate their abilities in order to get clients.

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. (my emphasis)

2. Many claims of homebirth and NCB advocates are not supported by the scientific evidence.

… [S]ometimes 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. (my emphasis)

I admire Mama Birth for having the courage to speak truth to power. The celebrities within the community and their acolytes wield power in that community and they do not hesitate to use it harshly to suppress dissent and to marginalize any midwife or homebirth advocate who does not follow the party line. It takes bravery to speak up for babies and mothers and risk condemnation by one’s peers.

What might have precipitated Mama Birth’s post? Only she can tell us, but I wonder if the publicity given to the recent homebirth deaths has been a factor. Many babies have died in the past few months, generally when midwives were violating the law, and usually because the midwives themselves were unsafe practitioners. Instead of investigating, though, the NCB and homebirth communities closed ranks behind the midwives without even bothering to determine if they were at fault, and without offering any support to the bereft parents.

I also wonder if this is one of the first glimmers of dawning realization in the NCB and homebirth communities. What might they be realizing? Finally, NCB and homebirth advocates may be recognizing that the public positions they have taken don’t benefit mothers and babies. They benefit homebirth midwives AT THE EXPENSE of mothers and babies.

The reality is that no law can take away a mother’s right to give birth at home, and no law can take away her right to be attended by whomever she chooses. Laws that regulate homebirth midwifery don’t impact these rights, and therefore, they don’t threaten the choices of mothers who wish to have a homebirth. However, they do impact the ability of homebirth midwives to get PAID for attending birth.

Even a cursory inspection of current and proposed laws about homebirth midwives reveals that every single legal effort is designed to increase the chance that a homebirth midwife will get paid, and to decrease the education and skills that she must have in order to qualify for payment.

A very simple example is the sad case of Margarita Sheikh and her baby Shazhad. Midwives in Oregon oppose mandatory licensure. But if mandatory licensure had been in place, it wouldn’t have prevented Margarita from having a homebirth and it wouldn’t have prevented Darby Partner and Laura Tanner, two unlicensed midwives, from attending her. What it would have prevented is Darby Partner and Laura Tanner CHARGING MONEY for attending Margarita’s birth. And it certainly would have prevented Darby Partner and Laura Tanner from getting away scot-free after presiding over Shahzad’s completely preventable homebirth death.

No doubt Mama Birth is going to take a lot of criticism for speaking out on behalf of mothers and babies. It’s only fair that she also gets some praise for bravely doing so.