Although Henci Goer’s new book, Optimal Care in Childbirth, suffers from serious deficiencies, it does have one important virtue.
I’ve often written that Henci Goer is one of the few (perhaps the only) professional childbirth advocates who actually reads and understands the scientific literature. She may cherry pick the evidence and she may try to justify ignoring scientific evidence that does not support her worldview, but she does not make up evidence nor does she make up theories that have no scientific evidence to support them.
That’s why the book implicitly rejects the nonsense spouted by Ina May Gaskin, Barbara Harper (waterbirth), Debra Pascali-Bonnaro (orgasmic birth) and other NCB and homebirth celebrities, by ignoring it altogether. Gaskin, Harper, Pascali-Bonnaro don’t even make it into the book. The only professional natural childbirth advocates who are mentioned are those with advanced degrees in midwifery, science or statistics (with the exception of Goer herself, who lacks such a degree).
It’s pretty remarkable. Ina May Gaskin, lauded within the NCB community, doesn’t even rate a mention in Goer’s book. That’s because almost everything that comes from Ina May’s mouth or pen is nonsense, unsupported by scientific evidence of any kind.
Goer doesn’t discuss the “Sphincter Law” because she knows that Ina May simply made it up and it has no basis in scientific evidence. She doesn’t talk about birth among animals, the fear-pain-tension cycle, the belief that postdates does not increase risk, etc., because none of it is true. Goer does not mention The Farm, let alone Ina May’s unsubstantiated claims about its low mortality rate. In fact, Goer doesn’t even mention the Gaskin maneuver for shoulder dystocia, which Ina May expropriated from South American lay midwives and named after herself in a striking display of cultural imperialism.
There’s nothing about waterbirth in Goer’s book. Goer doesn’t say that babies can’t inhale the water of the birth pool because they can. All those claims from Barbara Harper about the dive reflex, prostaglandins and hypotonic solutions aren’t in Goer’s book because they aren’t true; Harper just made them up.
Orgasmic birth? You’ve got to be kidding! It’s not in the book because it doesn’t exist.
Breech is a variation of normal? Not according to Goer.
Spinning babies, moxibustion and other techniques to encourage a breech baby to turn? Not in the book because none of them have any scientific support.
Postdates inductions? Goer says that inductions are indicated at 42 weeks and beyond.
Certified professional midwives? Their existence is mentioned but Goer makes no claims about the adequacy of their training or the safety of their practice.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Just about everything out of the mouths or pens of CPMs and other lay advocates of NCB and homebirth is nothing but fabrications and lies, and therefore is not included in the book.
This is not surprising when you consider that Goer, although a biological essentialist, is not an anti-rationalist. If written about this before (Who hijacked childbirth?):
… The difference between biological essentialists and feminist anti-rationalists is primarily in their view of rationalism. Among the true biological essentialists are Henci Goer and Amy Romano. The biolgical essentialists are represented by organizations like Lamaze and the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). They worship the “natural” on the assumption that biology determines what is best for all women. Nonetheless, they believe that science is non-gendered, valuable and the standard by which claims about childbirth should be judged. They freely quote scientific papers and insist that their views of childbirth are “evidence based” even when they are not. They value empirical knowledge and advanced education.
The non-rationalists reject science as male, and unfairly regarded as authoritative merely because it is male. To the extent that science supports their beliefs, they are willing to brandish scientific papers as “proof,” but explicitly reject rationalism when it does not comport with their personal beliefs, feelings and opinions. They do not value empirical knowledge and reject rigorous education.
So I have a question of NCB and homebirth advocates:
If Henci Goer implicitly rejects the nonsense of Ina May Gaskin, waterbirth and orgasmic birth, why do any of you believe it?