No, natural is not better

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There is an overarching belief in contemporary society that natural is “better.”

Advertisers key into into it. Organic food purveyors rely on it. And it is obviously at the heart of natural childbirth advocacy, lactivism and attachment parenting.

Ironically, the belief that natural is better has arisen amidst a society that proves in every possible way that natural is NOT better. The average human life expectancy in nature is approximately 35 years. The average human life expectancy in first world countries approaches 80. What has been responsible for the doubling of life expectancy? It is technology, not nature.

Consider the greatest public health advancements of all time:

Creating a clean environment

  • Clean water is not natural.
  • Food free of harmful micro-organisms is not natural.
  • Sewer systems are not natural.

Expanding the food supply

  • Hunting with even the simplest weapons like spears and clubs is not natural
  • Agriculture is not natural.
  • Crop rotation, weeding and fertilizing with manure are not natural.
  • Domesticated animals are not natural.

Protection from the environment

  • Houses are not natural.
  • Central heating is not natural.
  • Clothes are not natural.

Protection from disease

  • Treatment of disease is not natural.
  • Soap is not natural.
  • Antibiotics are not natural.
  • Sunscreen is not natural.

Simply put, just about everything that makes our lives cleaner, safer, more comfortable and longer is not natural.

So why is contemporary society biased toward the natural?

Why is the mainstream media eager to report that technology (vaccines, bottle feeding, Cesareans, and pitocin, among other bugaboos) causes cancer, autism or any other currently poorly understood disease? The reasons have nothing to do with medicine or technology and everything to do with disappointments, distrust and marketing.

There is no group more disappointed with the fact that vaccines can cause serious side effects than vaccine rejectionists. Even though scientists have been thoroughly above board about the real dangers of vaccine, the anti-vax folks have transmuted their intolerance for anything less than perfection into wildly irresponsible claims about fabricated “risks” of vaccines.

There is no group more disappointed with the fact that hospital aren’t perfect than natural childbirth advocates. They wield the phrase “babies die in hospital, too” like a cudgel, transforming their profound disappointment in the fact that hospitals can’t yet save all babies into a bizarre conspiracy that hospitals are actually killing babies with “interventions.” Between them, Cesareans and pitocin save hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the US alone, yet NCB advocates live in a bizarre mirror world in which life saving treatments are dangerous and dangerous stunts like unassisted homebirth are without risk.

Americans in general are profoundly disappointed that modern business is concerned with making money, and not just with improving lives. They’ve turned that disappointment into reflexive distrust of “corporations” and bizarre conspiracy theories about manufactured products like medications.

But there’s more at work here than disappointment and distrust. Marketing has played an enormous, but largely unappreciated role in promoting “natural” in order to distinguish products in the marketplace. Marketers have woven a fantasy of benevolent “nature” that invariably costs more. From organic produce to supplements to “natural” treatments like chiropractic and reiki, Americans are urged to spend more on products that don’t do more or don’t do anything at all.

Not surprisingly, Americans with the most disposable income have the means to follow these trends. The fact that rich people choose to spend their money on a product makes it that much more desirable to everyone else. Organic food is a status symbol, wasting money on quack “treatments” is a status symbol, membership in a gym is a status symbol, having an unmedicated birth is a status symbol, and breastfeeding is a status symbol.

Breastfeeding is a particularly interesting status symbol. Infant formula became popular in a milieu where technology itself was a status symbol. The rich could afford the “superior” technological wonder of infant formula while the poor had to make do with breastfeeding. Now that most Americans can afford formula, it has become declasse. “Natural” is now the status symbol and that’s why breastfeeding is far more popular among white, well off women than among the rest of society.

From an objective point of view, there is no evidence that “natural” is better. Indeed, just about everything that has improved our comfort, health and life expectancy is not natural. Nonetheless, the bias persists that if it is “natural” it must be good even when there is a massive amount of evidence to the contrary. That accounts for the irony that vaccine rejectionists, natural childbirth advocates and lactivists use every technological method at their disposal (the Internet, advertising, and lobbying) to in an effort to argue that technology is bad and natural is good.

248 Responses to “No, natural is not better”

  1. mandy jones
    August 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    Thank you! Natural isn’t always better, nor is man-made. Both of them have their side-effects. We have meds to help us feel better;however let’s not forget our white blood cells(god/nature’s meds)too.

  2. ngozi
    September 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    This might be a little late, but my husband bought some mosquito repellent that was supposed to be all natural. Well that stuff literally burned my skin!! I had to wash it off, it was so bad. So I thought my previously unsensitive skin was now sensitive because of pregnancy. Wrong!!! My husband, who hardly has a reaction to wasp and bee stings, had the same reaction to this natural product. We had to throw it in the garbage.

  3. Lee G. Leissett
    August 18, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Oh, thank you. I’m so glad I read this insightful article. I’m on my way right now to dispose of all my organic and homegrown food to replace it with mountain dew and McDonald’s. I think you’ve entirely missed the point of the “natural” movement.

    • KarenJJ
      August 18, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      What is the point of the “natural” movement?

      • Lee G. Leissett
        August 18, 2013 at 11:09 am #

        to live with no technology in caves apparently.

        • KarenJJ
          August 18, 2013 at 11:12 am #

          Well then maybe she didn’t miss the point then.

    • Kalacirya
      August 18, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      Firstly, you’ve missed the point of the article.

      Secondly, what has been said here about organic foods that is incorrect? That companies depend on using the “natural” angle to market their products? That’s true, it’s 100% absolutely true. That agriculture in of itself is not a natural process, and in fact subverts nature in many ways, even when it’s organic? That’s also true. That in our country, the ability to afford and consume organic certified foods is a status symbol? Again, it’s true.

      • Lee G. Leissett
        August 18, 2013 at 11:09 am #

        Amish people live just as long as anyone else in our society. But they avoid a lot of technology. How can this be???????

        BTW I grow my own food. No status symbol. Just hard work.

        • Kalacirya
          August 18, 2013 at 11:25 am #

          Having a garden is a status symbol for a ton of people, I would know because I also grow plenty of my own vegetables. You can put your head in the sand all you like, but “natural” food choices are used as a status symbol in the USA all the time, entire industries are built off the premise. I say that as someone who not only has a garden, but also buy some level of organic foods.

          About the Amish, first off, you are wrong. The Amish life expectancy is not as high as the rest of the country. Current life expectancy for the Amish stands somewhere in the low 70s, where for the rest of the USA, with all it’s processed food and obesity, and diversity in race and socioeconomic status, sits a the high 70s for men and over 80 for women. Depending on the sub-population, life expectancy is even higher.

          Secondly, the Amish do not have a particular proscription against medical technology, many of them use medical technology. Given the high probability for rare metabolic disorders in that group of people, the only thing keeping a handful of people alive there is pure medical technology and science-derived information. Although they’re more likely to go to holistic or natural healers than other groups of people, far from all of them do so.

          • Lee G. Leissett
            August 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

            my grandma is 94 and has spend the last 15 years in a home. She sits in a room and watches Gone With the Wind every day, over and over again. She doesn’t recognize her family members and hasn’t for over ten years. But she’s alive, thank god for medical technology.

          • Kalacirya
            August 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

            LOL, so I prove your unfounded statement wrong, and you go off on another tangent. Nice try at misdirection Lee, it isn’t fooling anyone.

          • Gagarin
            August 20, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

            Sounds like your family should have had a better end-of-life plan, or you should have her in your home, where she wouldn’t have lived as long. This is more about your family than it is about medical technology.

        • Clarissa Darling
          August 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

          Organic food and home grown food is a status symbol in the US whether you like it or not by virtue of the fact that most disadvantaged people have neither the money nor the time it takes to pursue these options. I might convince myself that I’m buying a BMW because I like German engineering and not because I want to show off to my friends. The fact remains that that most people don’t buy one because of the cost. Since the cost prohibits it from being accessible to just anyone, a luxury vehicle has come to be seen as an exclusive status symbol. Marketers absolutely understand this is the same for “natural” products. All the world is a business and all the men and women in it merely consumers. This is true whether you’re selling organic apples or luxury vehicles. The sooner people accept that businesses which sell products they like are largely playing by the same rules as all businesses which sell “evil” products like Mountain Dew, the better. Then they will truly be informed consumers.

          • Lee G. Leissett
            August 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

            Does your marketing philosophy hold true with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies? What about the way they market their products and services? The number one reason Americans visit the hospital is to have a baby. Wouldn’t it make sense for the hospitals to market to their target audience?

          • Clarissa Darling
            August 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

            Oh it absolutely holds true for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. As far as I’m concerned they are marketing to their target audience as long as women who would risk their children’s lives in order to have a “better” experience remain the minority. Home birth midwives do a very effective job of targeting the niche market of women who don’t want hospital birth. That niche is small but, for them it’s lucrative. Oh I’m sorry….. were you under the assumption they provide their services in order to benefit humanity rather than make money?

          • Captain Obvious
            August 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

            Lee, stop, take a deep breath, read a few threads here, then comment further.
            People here breast feed and have deliveries without epidurals too. Some even have gardens and probably eat organic foods. Many threads here are against the vitriol some women have against other women who don’t exclusively breastfeed, Homebirth, or other sanctimommious behaviors. Women are being belittled for there choices when there are clearly many suitable options. But some options like Homebirth have increased risks for baby and momma. And some options like sticking to EBF when milk isn’t coming in and baby is losing weight is risky too baby. Are you arguing because you belittle women for Mountain Dew and McDonald’s? If so, then you are part of the problem. If not, then you would probably agree with most of these posts about how ludicrous some women, midwives, LC, and hospitals belittle women.

        • Captain Obvious
          August 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

          More importantly, the Amish have the SAME life expectancy as others in the USA. Others in the USA who follow the American diet. The Amish diet does not allow them to live longer. Don’t get lost in your anecdotes. You just proved our point.

        • PollyPocket
          August 25, 2013 at 9:42 am #

          Um, no they don’t have an aversion to technology. If someone in the community needs surgery, they pool their resources and pay for it, at a much greater cost than most Americans. They typically do not have insurance and will not take state insurance, because of the stigma against accepting charity.

          A couple of years ago, I had a little Amish boy who underwent calvarial vault reconstruction at 12 monsts old, which requires lots of special CTs, intracranial pressure monitoring preoperatively, 10+ hours of surgery, extended ICU stay, and lots of follow up visits. The only way we could have used more technology is if we did all that on a space shuttle.

    • Gagarin
      August 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      The natural movement is designed to increase marketshare and raise the price points of commodity-priced basic goods.

  4. I don't have a creative name
    August 18, 2013 at 9:42 am #


    I didn’t find the article particularly amusing, but it was clearly an attempt at humor and I didn’t find it offensive, either. Some of the responses are pure gold, though. Check out this one:

    “As a father and AP parent I can’t relate to any of this. Like most
    modern practices parenting has been taken from its natural form of
    simplicity and beauty and corpratized for profit at the cost of
    millennia of perfection. Chemical formulas, chemical filled diapers,
    chemical laden mattresses, cages and surveillance for infants,
    prepackaged gmo processed foods, hormone antibiotic laden cows milk on
    and on. There is no substitute for an involved set of parents. No
    shortcuts. No products. No convenience. Bringing life into the world is
    meant be an all consuming endeavor. Not a part time convenience of
    schedule. From nutrition to education it is our responsibility as
    parents and creators of the future.”

    Is sanctidaddy a word? I actually don’t disagree with the last few sentences of his diatribe, but CAGES AND SURVEILLANCE??? Sheesh.

    • LibrarianSarah
      August 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      This is one of the many reasons that I don’t comment on Huffpo anymore. The lunatics are running the asylum over there.

    • PollyPocket
      August 25, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Years and years ago, the janitor on scrubs kept referring to cribs as “babycages” and since them my husband and I have too. Because we are sick human beings.

      “Honey, the baby is fussing, and I can’t figure out what he needs, I’ve tried everything!”

      “Just put him in the babycage and get a drink.”

      • Gene
        August 25, 2013 at 11:50 am #

        We have a BCU, now called the CCU. The family room in our house has a baby gate and is child proofed. We’ve called that area the baby or child containment unit since our kids could crawl. IE: text to spouse could be “Jusy got home, fixing dinner, kids in CCU.”

        We also called an electric swing the “Neglectomatic” (Simpsons ref) and the exersaucer the “Ring of Neglect”.

        Add me to the list of proud sickos.

  5. ngozii
    August 16, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I have gone through birth 5 times. Each time I tried to labor and deliver with no drugs. I have never had an epidural, the most I have ever had was Stadol or Demerol. I feel that the 2 delivers I had without any drugs at all were better for me AND my baby.
    I don’t think that every birth can or should be “natural” but I don’t think nurses and doctors should badger mothers who at least want to try a natural birth. I have actually been yelled at by a nurse because I didn’t want an epidural. She was convinced that I was one of those mothers who was going to be screaming for one. By the time that witch knew anything I had delivered my son!
    BTW, every time, and I mean every time I received pitocin, my children were seriously jaundiced. I’m not saying that is scientific, but that is my personal experience.

    • BeatlesFan
      August 16, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      I hope you filed a complaint on the nurse who yelled at you. I’ve actually been on the other end, where my CNMs refused to let me have an epidural for hours, then talked down to me before I was able to get it. Care providers should be respectful of women’s choices regarding pain meds whether they agree with the choices or not.

      • Ngozi
        August 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

        No I didn’t file a complaint. I really should have because I have experienced more than my share of dumb things from this hospital while I have a labored and delivered. Maybe Dr. Amy should realize that so many women wouldn’t go for dangerous (not saying all are dangerous) homebirth or labor at home until the baby is about to crown if so many hospitals and hospital staff didn’t trample on women. Just saying…

        • realityycheque
          August 17, 2013 at 1:49 am #

          This frustrates me. Women have a bad experience in the hospital system, they don’t bother to file a complaint for whatever reason and then opt for OOH birth because apparently there is no other option (though they could try finding a different doctor next time around, request that a particular nurse not be included in their care team or move to another hospital).

          If these women are legitimately concerned about the condition of care in their hospitals, they should rally to make a change; fight for women to have good, compassionate care within an environment were the necessary emergency services are available to them. Shifting to a hazardous out of hospital setting isn’t the solution and creates a whole host of other problems.

          I’ve had bad experiences with care providers before, so what did I do? I filed a complaint. When my complaint was brushed aside, I took it a step higher; when it was ignored on that level I got myself a patient advocate, had my case heard and fought until I was offered an appropriate level of care. The doctors who mismanaged my case have now been punished accordingly and my health is back in check after having been moved to an appropriate treatment centre with a different set of clinicians.

          Homebirth isn’t a decent alternative following a poor hospital experience, and frankly I find “Women are moving to home birth because hospital staff aren’t listening to them” to be a pretty slack, cop out of an argument.

          • Ngozi
            August 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

            There is only one hospital in my area that delivers babies, the 2 other ones are about 40 miles away. But I agree, I should have filed a complaint.

    • AmyP
      August 16, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      What is the deal with the British thing of thinking that Demerol is somehow less of a big deal than an epidural? I don’t get that at all.

      • PJ
        August 17, 2013 at 11:16 am #

        I don’t think it’s known as Demerol in Britain. That brand name indicates someone in North America.

      • MichelleJo
        August 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

        Demerol is not as effective as Epidural in relieving pain. More pain good, less pain bad.

        • ngozi
          August 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

          I didn’t want an Epidural because I didn’t feel I was experiencing pain enough for one. But that is the kind of person I am; I only take as much medication as I feel I need.
          When I accepted the Demerol ( I later found out I was allergic to it) I just wanted to relax some, I wasn’t going for being pain free.

  6. Mel
    August 16, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    When I was first dating my husband, I asked him if his family ever thought about switching over to organic dairy classifications. His exact words – “I will never agree to a set of standards that does not allow me to treat a sick cow with antibiotics. That’s just sadistic.” I thought I understood him then, but after 18 months on the farm, I realize I didn’t fully appreciate what that statement meant.

    I had always thought organic meant no antibiotics for non-medical purposes. It actually means no antibiotic treatment for medical conditions. In the dairy business, we have three major infections to worry about – foot rot, metritis and mastitis. Foot rot can be prevented by keeping the barns clean and frequent hoof trimming. If foot rot is caught early, our awesome foot trimmer can treat it with topical copper sulfate. If a cow has foot rot that has reached the top of the hoof and moving into the leg, you have two choices for that cow – antibiotics or waiting for the cow to die a slow and painful death. Mastitis can be limited by keeping the barn clean and proper miking techniques, but eventually some cows pick up an environmental bacteria that leads to an infected quarter. Options: antibiotics or a slow death. Metritis – uterine infections after birth- it’s really a crap shoot. We keep the barn clean, watch the cows to prevent too long labors, and be sure that the cow cleans (releases the placenta) after birth. Options: antibiotics or a slow death.

    Like most sensible people, we try to limit antibiotic usage. You can clean the barn about 3 millions times for the the cost of a single course of antibiotics for an infection. The cows hate having their feet trimmed but we found a great trimmer and he trims each cow multiple times a year. We don’t want superbugs. We don’t add antibiotics to the feed. We try and use antibiotics that only work in ruminants first before using any that overlap with humans. I know, however, that I could not live with letting a cow die slowly without trying to use an antibiotic to stop an infection.

    • AmyP
      August 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      We humans often get mastitis, and we don’t have poop splashing around near our nipples.

      • amazonmom
        August 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

        Babies get mastitis sometimes. Try explaining that one to a family!

    • fiftyfifty1
      August 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      “You can clean the barn about 3 millions times for the the cost of a single course of antibiotics for an infection”
      Seriously? That seems very unlikely to me, even if you said 3 times instead of 3 million times. Even if you only pay yourself minimum wage, it seems to me like the hours to clean the barn would add up pretty fast. And antibiotics for animals are generally inexpensive when compared to human antibiotics….

      • VeritasLiberat
        August 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

        maybe the needed dose is a lot higher. cows are huge.

      • Mel
        August 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

        Mea culpa – 3 million is hyperbole. However, barn cleaning isn’t very expensive either if you design the barn well. The costly part of antibiotic treatment isn’t the antibiotics but the loss of milk. Let me demonstrate:

        Cleaning the milking cow areas three times a day costs half a shift of one milker’s wages. Assuming the average rate of pay on our farm and a 12 hour shift, that’s $84 dollars a day in barn cleaning. (I’m assuming $12.00 hourly for 4 hours; $18.00 overtime for two hours and a total of 6 hours cleaning. It’s also a bit high because I’m using total time out of the parlor. Some of that time would be used for moving the groups up to the parlor and checking on the calving pens but I don’t think that would change the total outcome by much.) In a five day period, that is $420 dollars.

        Poly-Flex is $45.00 for 25g which is $1.80 per gram. The dosage is 2-5mg/lb in a lactating cow. Assuming a cow weight of 1500 lbs and a 2 mg/lb dosage, the cow needs 3g daily for a minimum of 3 days. So a three day treatment costs $16.20. When treating with Poly-Flex, milk from the cow must be discarded for the duration of the treatment plus 48 hours afterwards. Milk is recorded in hundred-weight (cwt). Average cow production: 150 cwt per day. We’d have to discard 750 cwt of milk from that cow across the five days. July milk prices were 19.10 per ctw. We’d lose $14,325 in milk money for the five day period. That includes the cost of feeding the cow etc. So using the minimum possible costs, one sick cow loses $14,341.20. We have an average of 6 mastitis cows in the herd at once. So we lose $86,047.20 per 5 day period in milk loss + antibiotics.

        So the break-even point is 19.9 – I’m gonna round that to 20 – cleanings. I would have thought it was closer to 100. I’m also not including the worse case scenario – 2,000 lb cow producing 200lbs a day who needs 7 days of treatment then dies on day 9 because that just doesn’t happen very often.

        • fiftyfifty1
          August 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

          I’m no dairy farmer, but could maybe your math be wrong? Or maybe my numbers are wrong? The reason I ask is that wiki says that the average cow produces about 6 gallons of milk per day (9000 kg/year divided by 365 days per year assuming 1kg/liter and approx. 4 liters per gallon). So a cow out of production for 5 days loses 30 gallons. And you say those 30 gallons are worth $14,000? (in other words each cow brings in over a million dollars a year in milk money!?) Holy buckets farm subsidies!

          • Mel
            August 20, 2013 at 10:39 am #

            Let me see: 6 gallons a day x 8.6 pounds per gallon is 51.6 pounds production a day.

            Wiki’s number is very low – when a cow drops below 60 lbs of milk a day average, we either dry her up until her next calf is due or sell her if she’s not going to be re-bred.

            I didn’t make one thing clear enough – $14,000 isn’t net profit. Milk prices for July in the Great Lakes area of the US were around $19.10 per pound. The cost of feeding the cow, running the parlor, breeding and all the other day-to-day expenses run around $14.50 per pound. So, just looking at possible net profit, the cost per pound of lost milk is $4.60 per pound. The lost profit is $3,500 to $1,380 per five day period from a high producing cow to a low producing cow.

            The part that eats into net profits is the “not” average expenses. With the cows, we call it a “Yeti” situation. We had a great cow I nicknamed Yeti because she looked like a Yeti. She was producing right around 200lbs of milk a day on 3x a day milking. She was never got sick and produced good milking heifers and small, genetically awesome bulls. She was pregnant with twins when they died at about 7 months gestation. She didn’t go into labor so we had no way of knowing about the death of the calves until we noticed she wasn’t throwing feed on her back like she usually did. The vet delivered the twins and estimated that they had been dead for at least three days. We started treating her with antibiotics since dead calves retained that long lead to metritis. She was treated for 6 days before she died one night. Replacing her cost over $6,000. She was such a good cow that we needed to buy three heifers to make up the difference.

            Plus, equipment dies, barns need structural work, and crops fail. Our farm usually has a net cash flow of $300,000 on a good year and the last bad year had a net $6,000 cash flow.

          • fiftyfifty1
            August 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

            Wow, so you sell your milk for $164 per gallon? ($19.10 per pound x 8.6 pounds/gallon). Like I said, holy buckets farm subsidies! I wonder what’s to keep people from buying milk at $4/gallon at the grocery store and re-selling it at a huge profit? Who is taking the loss here? The Government?
            Or is there any way you could be off by a factor of 100 somehow?

          • Mel
            August 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

            Yeah, I am. I forgot to follow my units. *hanging head in shame*

            Let me try again.

            It’s $19.10 dollars per 100 pounds of milk (cwt) There are 8.6 pounds of milk in a gallon.

            Taking the math step by step – and watching the units:

            $19.10 dollars divided by 100 pounds of milk is 0.191 dollars per pound of milk or 19 cents per pound of milk.

            One gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds. The cost that we sell milk at is 8.6 pounds per gallon times 0.191 dollars per pound which equals $1.63 per gallon of milk. That seems reasonable to me considering it is raw, bulk milk.

            So if a cow loses 750 pounds of milk across five days, we’re out $143 dollars. With the antibiotic treatment, that’s $159 dollars. With an average of six cows in treatment per 5 days, we lose $954 dollars.

            The other important bit is that barn cleaning isn’t only important for mastitis and hoof rot prevention. It cuts way down on injuries to workers and cattle from slip & fall situations or loss of balancing when cows mount each other.

    • Karen in SC
      August 18, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Isn’t there a chance that some of the cows would recover from these infections without antibiotics? Though I understand trying to prevent suffering – just curious about bovine health. 🙂

      • Mel
        August 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

        Yes, but it would be unlikely.

        Complicating the situation is that cows don’t act sick unless they are really, really sick. They’re herd animals who have an instinct that some carnivore is gonna charge the group and try to eat them. Each cow tries to look as healthy as possible so the predator decides to target a different cow. By the time visible signs appear, the cow is pretty darn sick. When you are around them a lot, you get better at seeing the early signs – listlessness, restlessness, not responsive to other cattle or humans, too skinny or a little bloated but it’s still hard to explain and easy to miss. I’ve gone to my husband before and said ‘1825 looks off. Like, not….I mean…. just not right.’ He smiles and checks on the cow.

        Untreated hoof rot that gets into the leg is often a death sentence for a few reasons. First, cow legs don’t have great circulation and don’t have much room to expand to accommodate swelling. This makes it hard for the cow’s immune system (and antibiotics) to reach the infection. The next problem is that as the cow becomes lame, she eats less and lays down more. This can cause all sorts of metabolic problems like a displaced stomach and acidosis. When the cow reaches the point that she cannot rise, she will die because the pressure of her body on her abdomen will lead to rupture of her gastrointestinal tract and pressure sores on her hocks. Either will lead to sepsis and a slow, lingering death. We don’t use cattle prods on our farm very often, but we will to see if a cow can get up. If a cow cannot get up to avoid painful stimuli, we put her down.

        Metritis and mastitis have the same problems as each other. Unlike hoof rot, m&m both are in highly vascularized areas. Antibiotics generally get to and treat the infection. In the absence of them, the big risk is bacteria crossing into the bloodstream and septic shock. In fact, we lose a few cows every year to both.

        • Karen in SC
          August 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

          thanks for the short lesson on keeping cows healthy.

        • Beth
          October 16, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

          But couldn’t they avoid everything with proper clean places to live and proper normal care and milking techniques. Not saying I dont like cows ro anything. In fact I fucking love cows. #jerseys I mean the constant cleaning may cost of man hours but having a clean safe place for your cow should be super important.

    • Archer81
      November 21, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      I’ve always wondered about the use of antibiotics for treatment of farm animals. This is a very interesting account, thank you for posting.

  7. Sue
    August 16, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    Then there’s the anti-vaxers and ”natural” immunity. They mean the type of immunity that might develop if you survive a full-blown infection.

    Except, the immune reaction is just as ”natural”, in fact, identical, to reacting to the same antigens in a vaccine – except that you don’t have to survive the full-blown (natural) infection. Neat, isn’t it?

    • Tim
      August 16, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Except vaccines contain CIA MONARCH PROJECT mind control chemicals, and the only reason you people don’t know about it is because you’re already under their spell. WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

    • Sullivan ThePoop
      August 19, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      While it is true that the immunity from a vaccine is the exact same reaction to the same antigen, natural immunity is stronger because it is to all the antigens that a pathogen may carry. Though, people do not understand that a lot of infections, like the flu, leave you with a weakened immune system because they activate antibodies that are not needed and the cells that activate antibody producing cells and the antibody producing cells die from neglect because they have no target antigen. Infections can also leave you with chronically infected neutrophils and macrophages. They can also destroy external barriers. Again a bad influenza infection can kill 90% of the epitheleal cells in the throat leaving you more susceptible to other infections.

  8. Sue
    August 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    OK, but hang on….placenta encapsulating and then blogging and FBing about it HAS to be natural, right?

  9. courtney
    August 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    There has to be a middle ground. Using technology and nature together should be the focus. Nature isn’t superior it is our source and our environment it is the model – everything from water, to silica for computer chips, to our air, to the coal for creating electricity, right down to the human eggs necessary to make IVF work are nature. Technology isn’t superior it is a tool for advancing and creating – if there aren’t stars there is no point in a telescope, without illness there is no need for medicine, without elements we have no basis for molecules to copy, without technology breastfeeding wouldn’t be a choice to view as superior.

    I love both nature and technology. I am most impressed when we use technology to improve the state of our natural environment and promote health and well being for humans and the earth. I can’t see this as technology vs. nature – I am not choosing rather or not to wash my clothes because it is natural to be dirty; I am choosing if the packaging of my detergent is biodegradable and trying to minimize the environmental impacts of that action by looking at how I do laundry. Antibacterial agents save lives and the miss/over use of them also leads to resistant infections – it isn’t nature or technology it is the wise application of both that appears to produce optimal results.

    I agree the moms who act superior because they breastfeed and it is natural deserve a good shock from their overpriced, electric, plastic breast pump. It also saddens me that people consume and dump and use nature without any thought to the long term affects of their actions. Neither technology or nature are conductive to life as most of us here know it without the other.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      It seems that you are talking about something a bit different: the impact that technology has on nature. There is no question that the impact is not always benign, but that’s because what’s good for us isn’t necessarily what’s good for the environment. That doesn’t change the fact that technology is what’s good for us.

      • Ducky
        August 16, 2013 at 1:01 am #

        Dr. Amy, I have to argue that you are missing half of the OP’s point, which is that a balance of “nature”/technology is good both for people and the environment. I feel that is an overly optimistic and simplistic point of view, but the idea that “technology is what’s good for us” is also overly simplistic. There is some evidence for both ideas.

        Technology is not always “good” for “us”. It may be good for the majority of people when its application is supported by research, especially in the medical field, or supported by biological/cultural evolution, in the case of innovations like clothing, shelter, cooking, etc. Is it not important to draw that distinction? It’s easy when we can measure a net benefit on lifespan, health, happiness, but if not (e.g. screen technology), who’s the arbitrator of what’s good and for whom?

        I find both attitudes “pro-nature” and “anti-nature” to be overly simplistic and potentially deleterious. We are continuously exchanging energy with our surroundings and other living things in ways that we can never entirely control with our technology. This exchange both benefits and harms us, and we would do well to understand and respect the nuances of that exchange.

        Nathanael Johnson has an interesting and balanced take on this debate (including an entire chapter on childbirth):

  10. Zornorph
    August 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Mother Nature can suck my b@lls. If it were up to her, I wouldn’t have a child. He’s here because of science – the ‘natural’ people can go hang. What I really don’t get is people who have IVF and then want to go all ‘natural’ for the birth. Hello, if you trust Mother Nature, you wouldn’t have to have help to get pregnant.

    I guess it’s ’cause I’m not a woman. I never expected to give birth out of any orifice, with or without medication nor breast feed. I just wanted a baby.

    • rh1985
      August 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      I also did IVF and am quite happy to be expecting my “unnatural” baby.

      Also, you can have my central air conditioning when you pry it from my cold dead hands…..!!!

      • Older Mom
        August 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

        Congrats on the IVF working! When is your “unnatural” baby due?

        • rh1985
          August 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

          February 27 🙂 Had my NT scan today and the baby would not stop moving around – so cute!

          • KarenJJ
            August 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

            If we think like that I have one ‘natural’ and one ‘unnatural’. Both of them are drawing dinosaurs (or trying to) while I get the older one ready for kindy.

    • auntbea
      August 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      I’ve always imagined that Mother Nature was into women.

      • LibrarianSarah
        August 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

        If that’s the case she has a pretty fucked up way of showing it.

      • Zornorph
        August 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

        So was my ex-wife, as it happens.

    • R T
      August 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      I still have 9 snowflake babies! Love IVF!

    • R T
      August 16, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      To answer the why, from personal experience I think it’s the irrational need to feel like your body can do something “right”. It comes from a life long not so subtle condition by society that a fertile woman is more worthy. The same goes for a lot of men with fertility issues! I thought my husband was going to have a complete mental breakdown when he found out he had a low sperm count and 100% abnormal morphology. It was crazy listening to this very successful man lament, in tears, he couldn’t do the one thing that would make him a real man! Its a common theme in my IVF support groups, all these successful men and women feeling worthless for having fertility issues. Thankfully he’s over it now and so am I!

      • Zornorph
        August 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

        I guess I can understand that. With me, I never had to deal with personal fertility issues. My ex-wife had some, but my sperm count was actually on the high side when they tested it. I don’t know that having a child made me feel ‘like a real man’ but I’m certainly enjoying the experience.

  11. Lisa from NY
    August 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I have a crunchy neighbor who keeps asking me to split a case of organic chicken with her. I always say no, because it’s expensive. But are there studies that say organic is not better?

    • Zornorph
      August 15, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

      Why did the organic chicken cross the road?

      • Older Mom
        August 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

        To get to the pasture on the other side.

    • Older Mom
      August 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      Doubt it. But I do find the local, grass-fed chicken to be so much tastier. I also try (when financially possible) to support the most humane animal farming possible. My husband recently learned how to slaughter chickens at home so we could acquire unwanted roos from fellow chicken keepers and turn them into dinner. Admittedly, being older, they are much tougher than the older birds, but made into the right recipe, it works

      • Antigonos CNM
        August 16, 2013 at 8:45 am #

        My first husband, who was French, once said to me, in a giant US supermarket “Look, here’s an aisle with over 50 brands of cheese and all of them taste like soap”. He was exaggerating — a bit. But over time, US producers have learned that US consumers want “big” and “cosmetically attractive” and “long shelf life” over taste, and breed accordingly. “Taste” is NOT paramount.

        One of the joys of Israel is our wonderful fresh fruit and veg — I do my weekly marketing in an open air Jerusalem market early in the a.m. as the trucks are being unloaded. While some fruits are grown almost year round in greenhouses, most are still seasonal, and this is also true of some vegetables. It may be an illusion, but those first cherries, or strawberries, or artichokes taste wonderful because it’s been a while since they were available, not because they’re organic [because they usually aren’t]

        • An Actual Attorney
          August 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

          There were lots of things I did not like when I lived in Tel Aviv, but Antigonos you aren’t playing fair. The fruits and veggies were the most delicious I ever had and you are making me weep with the memory.

          • KarenJJ
            August 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

            Apparently there are many flowers grown in Israel too. The flowers that you could get in the UK at the end of winter were stunning and apparently imported. I received a bunch and tried to work out where they’d come from as they were amazing and the answer was that they were likely from Israel (I worked at a florist while studying and was curious).

    • Antigonos CNM
      August 16, 2013 at 12:42 am #

      My fairly senile brain does not remember the actual sources, [Science Based Medicine? Respectful Insolence?] but there are definitely studies which show that organic whatever has no real benefit beyond that intrinsic to the same non-organic product.

  12. yentavegan
    August 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head, breastfeeding is a status symbol. It goes well with my birkenstock sandals, my tie-dyed skirt and my triple pierced ears.. Breastfeeding is a form of snobbery.

    • Bombshellrisa
      August 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

      Look at the young woman last week who wanted to “advertise” breast feeding. Young, white and I am guessing privileged-she had the means to fund a photography shoot of herself breast feeding and had time to attend a baby fair at a local mall (dressed up in a costume).

      • Older Mom
        August 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

        I’m not sure how much privilege is takes to have a friend with a cell phone snap your picture. Even the relatively poor moms I know all seem to have cell phones, and I have yet to see a cell phone that doesn’t take photos.

        I’m also not sure if picking some flowers and making a wreath of them denotes privilege.

        We *might* be able to say that she has the luxury of not working during the day. But who knows? Maybe she has a night job. I know a few moms that do that. Or maybe she works part-time and this was her day off. Or maybe she recently got laid off her job and can’t find work in this crappy economy. Or maybe she’s in a profession where your tax-home is less than the cost of daycare–not impossible in some larger metro areas where daycare is through the roof. Where I used to live, it was well over $20K/year for daycare.

        But yes, young and white and probably saw breast-feeding as a status symbol.

        • Clarissa Darling
          August 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

          One of the comments on the other post said Elicia works at her Daddy’s law firm. Assuming that’s true, I’m guessing she grew up far from poor unless Daddy is a non profit lawyer that only takes pro bono cases. Also, I grew up in MN. I’ve never seen flowers like that just growing on the roadside much less in the metro area. If you look at the picture they are all very uniform and perfect looking. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were artificial. So much for the “all natural” image.

        • Kalacirya
          August 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

          Yes, as someone else said she does work at her father’s law firm, has money for nicer clothes than I can afford, and the money and time to go clubbing with her friends.

        • Bombshellrisa
          August 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

          Her husband said the reason she and the baby were dressed up like that was she had come from a photo shoot (breast feeding pics). The cell phone pic was after that.

  13. ModernMedicinePlease
    August 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    You’re making the argument about organic vs conventional a little to short term for my taste. Local organically grown food is better for everyone long term.

    I do agree that organic food does not mean it is better for your body in the short term. I’ve never found it to taste better, either. All else being equal, I have seen no statistical evidence that either is better for your body. If you are thinking about your budget, then you likely will go for conventionally produced food, which, thanks to the Haber-Bosch process that gave us lab-made fertilizer, supports a large amount of the population of the world, for now.

    However, all else is not equal. The use of nitrogen rich fertilizers–be they cow, pig manure, or made in a lab– have a huge impact on ecosystems (dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and other estuaries where fish don’t survive, eutrophication in lakes, nitrates in groundwater at levels toxic to infants, etc.). It just so happens that conventional farming as it is these days produces these things in very large, concentrated quantities because industrialization allows huge lots of land to be used for farming or livestock operations. If you take into account the environmental impact of large-scale industrial farming, and what that means for those who like to eat fish and drink clean water (almost everyone) the cost of that food increases, even if we don’t pay for it at the supermarket. Organic farming used to be considerate of that issue, trying to conserve resources. Obviously this has started to change since it became big business.

    I happen to live in a semi-rural area. I can be sure to choose locally grown anything which means eating seasonally. I still try to get organic, because at least where I live, they haven’t started shipping cow and pig manure across the country and it can be found locally in abundance, so going organic means additional fertilizer isn’t being dumped into the region. Though, thinking about it, most of the organic food here isn’t certified organic because it is a waste of money for the small farms to bother. I choose local organic because it is good recycling, better for the environment long term (so better for me). There is nothing status symbol about that. It’s just being practical and thinking ahead. In my mind, it is a bit like realizing your child needs a c-section and delivery in a hospital, because the improvement it will make in their lives long term is more important than your desire for a great birth story.

    • Kalacirya
      August 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      People absolutely use organic food as a status symbol. You have a significant level of privilege to even be able to consider buying organic, there’s a significant amount of our population that doesn’t have the privilege to consider other factors other than the personal financial reality of paying for the food.

      So no, for many if not most people, it’s not really a matter of being practical. I can respect that it’s your experience, but you’re clearly extrapolating far past yourself given that you started with “Local organically grown food is better for everyone long term”. Preventative health care services are better for everyone in the long term, if they could get them, but for those not covered by insurance, getting a basic physical with the accompanying blood work is out of reach.

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

        Privilege indeed-WIC doesn’t cover organic milk, eggs or cereal (you can pick organic produce though).

        • Older Mom
          August 15, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

          She knows of what she speaks. I was on WIC the first 10 months of my son’s life due to husband’s unemployment. I was bummed about the lack of organic eggs, because I do actually find them much tastier and also prefer not to support factory-farming chickens, which is how those cheap eggs get produced.

          We raise our own eggs now, happy chickens that eventually become dinner. But that required both hubby and I to have more income so we could buy a home and therefore have space for the chickens.

          There is no way around it–good, local food, especially humanely-raised meat/eggs/milk, requires a level of privilege that not everyone has.

        • melindasue22
          August 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

          Can’t do organic produce either in Michigan. States work out their own little details on stuff like that I think. It was eggs and apples I wish I could have gotten organic but I wasn’t about to argue with free. It helped soo much.

    • Jessica Nye
      August 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Locally grown, organic food is not better for “everyone”- that viewpoint is a typically first-world-country assertion that ignores the fact that many, many people who live in countries without arable land (or with a shortage of arable land to support their populations) depend on conventional, large-scale farming for their survival.

    • theNormalDistribution
      August 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Not sure what your local farms’ practices are, but this might interest you:

    • Antigonos CNM
      August 16, 2013 at 12:47 am #

      If you ignore the yield question, you have a point. Unfortunately, if the entire world went organic, yields would drop to the point that would cause mass starvation [I suppose it could be argued that the best single way to improve the state of the planet would be if half its population simply died]. In fact, that is what is happening today: those parts of the third world which do not have access to non-organic methods of agriculture have the highest rates of subsistence farming, with malnourishment, if not actual starvation, a constant factor — and the slightest change can tip them into starvation.

  14. Ashley Wilson
    August 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I will admit that I buy organic apples. It’s because I live in the middle of a desert and so almost all fruit has to be shipped in. Except, we have one small apple orchard up north, that just happens to be organic. They don’t have that waxy coating on them and they didn’t have to sit on a truck for hours and hours.

    They are the best god damn apples you can get here.

    Problem is they are only available during September and October. I practically eat myself sick during those months. My husband gives me crap for “buying organic” but these apples are so worth it. Do I do it because they are organic, hell no. It’s because they are local, fresh, supporting a still family owned farm, and because the are tasty. So god damn tasty.

    • Kerlyssa
      August 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Well, sounds more like you are buying locally, the organic is irrelevant. Or even just that you have a particular ‘brand’ of apple that you like the taste of. I tend to like organic yogurts because I dislike the texture of yogurt fillers, and stay away from from artificial sweeteners because they have an off taste for me, not because I think those things cause metastatic gut autism.

  15. Zornorph
    August 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Sex is natural, sex is good
    Not everybody does it, but everybody should.

    Sorry, just had a little George Michael moment, there.

    • kumquatwriter
      August 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      I love that you’ve always commented the same random pop-culture references that I am thinking! Btw hows the boy?

      • Zornorph
        August 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

        He’s asleep on my chest at the moment. Already starting to grow out of the smallest of his clothes.

        • R T
          August 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

          Awww, don’t you love the chest sleeping! My little guy is 9 months old and already too big to sleep on my chest! He just started trying to take steps! I already want another tiny baby, lol!

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            August 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

            Personally I think he’d have an easier time if he tried walking on the floor first then the wall, but maybe gravity will make an exception for a baby that cute.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

            Lol! He stands in the middle of the room for minutes at a time, just chilling, looking around or drinking from his cup. I’ll walk out of the room, walk back in and he’s still standing there. He’ll occasional attempt a set or two and fall down and cry hysterically! I tried to get him to hold my finger and take steps, but he slaps me away. I feel like he could think this out better haha! To get down from standing he squats its really funny!

  16. R T
    August 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    It is natural to build shelter, animals of all kinds do it! Animal take hundreds, possibly thousands, of years to fully domesticate so at that point it’s part of an evolutionary process. Protection from disease is also a natural process we have simply expounded on. As we know Sickle Cell was developed by nature as a natural defense against Malaria. The Cystic Fibrous gene developed as a defense against Typhiod Fever. There are many other natural protection mechanisms. Honey and garlic have been used for centuries. It’s natural for animals to seek out protection from illness, it’s natural for animals to build homes. We are not the only animal to use tools. Primates use tools and so do many of the extremely intelligent Corvidae family of birds. I understand what you’re trying to do here, but I think it’s inaccurate. I strongly feel a distrust of corporate monopoly and regulation of corporate political campaign funding is not only a good idea, but intrical to maintaining a free society! I agree the “green” campaigns are ridiculous and that’s why my organic food comes from my garden and my meat comes from the deer my father kills or my friends free roaming bison or beef ranches! Whether or not it is better for me, I know it tastes better and the living conditions of the animals I eat are much more humane than the CAFO I have visited.

    In my life, I feel I have struck a balance between being conscious of my health and the environment, and still appreciating and utilizing the best of modern technology and medicine! I think it’s possible to do! Sorting your recyclables and growing your own food doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate antibiotics, csections and a boxed cake mix from time to time, lol!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Death is natural. That’s why death rates are so high in nature.

      Natural is NOT better.

      • R T
        August 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

        No of course not always! Just pointed out building shelters, seeking protection from illness and using tools are not exclusive to modern humans!

      • Kerlyssa
        August 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

        I was unaware there was a difference in death rates between natural and domesticated humans. 😉

        • Something From Nothing
          August 16, 2013 at 2:43 am #

          Death rate, maybe. Everything must die, but life span? Now that’s another matter…

          • Kerlyssa
            August 16, 2013 at 10:16 am #

            Yeah, I was just being a smartass. It’s like the story about the cursed doorway that has inscribed, ‘All who pass under this arch shall die’.

    • Anon
      August 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      Actually they domesticated foxes as part of a study in Russia in less than 50 years.

      • R T
        August 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

        They are still foxes though. It’s not true domestication. They are starting to display different behavioral and genetic traits, but its only the beginning. Domestication eventually changes the animal completely…wolves to the mind boggling array of domestic dogs, wild fowl to modern day chickens, wild aurochs to say the Holstein Friesian. The foxes in Russia are only tamed. If the program were to continue for hundreds of years the animals would be so completely different from the original foxes they would almost be unrecognizable as originating from those wild fox. The wolves bred and raised in captivity are significantly larger than their wild counterparts, but they aren’t domesticated. Controlled breeding can change those particular animal quickly.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      As we know Sickle Cell was developed by nature as a natural defense against Malaria.

      Works nicely too…if you have one sickle gene. If you have two…not so good. That’s evolution for you: good at tactics, bad at strategy.

    • LibrarianSarah
      August 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      If you really think about it everything that we do is natural. We are just animals trying to get the most out of our environment just like all the animals. We are just better at it because we are so intelligent. The thing is people see themselves as super-natural (or sub-natural) being even though you are not.

      You could be in the middle of Manhattan or the middle of the words and you are still “in nature” just like a termite in the middle of it’s mound is still “in nature.” Sure we altered the environment to suit are purposes but so does every other species on the face of the planet.

      When people say “I want to be ‘in nature'” what they really mean is “I want to be away from humans and human created things.”

      • R T
        August 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

        Very true! I think pain relief and medical advances are natural because its natural to not want to feel pain and to increases the health and survival of your own species!

    • Playing Possum
      August 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      The genes for cf and sickle cell were not ‘developed’. They were random mutations that conferred a slight survival benefit in one area but a huge disadvantage in other areas. Nature is a ruthless, arbitrary force not a benevolent one. And making the most of its occasional benefits is hard, and often unrewarding when all else is equal (ta bofa!!). Justifying your food source choices is the same as justifying your baby feeding choices. It is a non issue until it is made an issue by competitive, judgmental people.

      • R T
        August 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

        Agreed on the last part, but not so sure about the randomness of sickle cell. What does that even mean? Are you saying it was a completely random trait development and then accidentally passed down because people with it were more likely to survive? Do you not think evolution and nature are more calculating than that? Accidental medical discoveries on the other hand lol!

        • Amy Tuteur, MD
          August 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

          No, nature and evolution aren’t calculating at all. That’s the point of survival of the fittest. It is genetic accidents that make some individuals fitter in a particular environment. They have more descendants and their genetic mutations spread. There is no purposefulness about it at all.

          • KarenJJ
            August 15, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

            It is completely random. Genetic mutations can ‘just happen’. It happened to one of my relatives and which introduced a genetic mutation to my family and gave a bunch of us a very rare genetic disease. There are NO benefits to this. It causes harm to a bunch of things in our bodies and also can cause infertility. It is a dominant inheritance – no doubt if it was helpful it might have been able to spread through a population. But it’s not helpful and therefore stays rare.

            People have said my grandmother must’ve done something ‘wrong’ – eaten the wrong thing or whatever. I don’t think so. I think this stuff is just random most of the time and chronic diseases and disabilities are often not anyone’s ‘fault’. Our genetic counsellor actually said that most people have a couple of spelling mistakes in their genes – some mean that the baby doesn’t live (miscarriage for example), some mean that the baby is born but has ongoing issues and some are just a nuisance that people live with.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:01 am #

            That not true at all! Evolution is not random and it is purposeful! It’s a common misconception, but its simply not true!

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 2:55 am #


          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 3:28 am #

            Sorry, my phone died and I had to boot up the laptop. Maybe I should be more clear. I mean purpose as

            1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
            2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.

            The goal being better/continued survival of a species.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            August 16, 2013 at 7:12 am #

            There is no goal.

          • Durango
            August 16, 2013 at 9:01 am #

            You are almost talking about evolution like it is a thinking thing, when it’s just a description of a process. Being a process, it has no goal and no purpose. Via evolution, living things with beneficial random mutations can have a slight edge and thus slightly out-reproduce living things without the mutation in the specific environment they are in.

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 11:39 am #

            Everyone keeps repeating the same thing to RT and its not sinking in. RT must believe in creationism in the sense that God engineered evolution, and oversees the whole process. It’s become clear to me over the course of a few posts that she/he isn’t listening to what anyone else is saying, nor has she/he read and understood the links she posted. I think it’s time to give up.

          • S
            August 16, 2013 at 11:45 am #

            Intelligent design would’ve been way better than what we ended up with. Really unfortunate that it doesn’t exist.

            I thought RT was an atheist. Am i remembering wrong?

          • LibrarianSarah
            August 16, 2013 at 11:58 am #

            If the “goal” of evolution was the survival of a species than how do you explain all those mass extinctions?

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

            Are you talking about indiscriminate mass extinction of all animals on land and in the sea or mass extinction of only one particular set of living things? Mass indiscriminate extinction, isn’t the current widely excepted theory those were caused by some outside catastrophic event like an asteroid hitting the Earth? I really don’t know how to explain it, but does anyone with anything other than theories? Maybe if the system isn’t working the slate gets wiped clean and starts over? Maybe everything in the universe is going through some cycle we aren’t aware of and one cycle comes to an end before the other begins!

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            August 16, 2013 at 7:12 am #

            Evolution is not completely random. The mutations that it works with are random. Natural selection is not random, though not purposeful either.

          • LibrarianSarah
            August 16, 2013 at 11:57 am #

            Evolution is neither random nor purposeful. Saying that evolution is purposeful assumes that their is an ultimate “goal” in mind. There isn’t. It’s a jerry-rigged system in which whatever helps a member of a species reproduce is what is selected for even if it shorten it’s life expectancy. Evolution can happen solely as a result of something that happened by random chance a.k.a. genetic drift.

        • auntbea
          August 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

          “Are you saying it was a completely random trait development and then
          accidentally passed down because people with it were more likely to

          Yes. That is exactly what natural selection IS.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:02 am #

            No it’s really not!

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 11:32 am #

            You are! No, you are! No, you are! No, you are!

            That’s how my kids argue. Do you have any valid points?

        • Sullivan ThePoop
          August 15, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

          This is what we know about mutations, they are a change in the genetic code due to errors during replication. Some bacteria have a system for survival that allows more mutations to get through in times of stress. Multicellular animals do not have such a system. In both cases the mutations are random, but can cause some kind of survival or reproductive advantage that allows it to be passed on to future generations. Malaria and CF though well understood are horrible examples of beneficial mutations. The help is small and the disadvantage huge.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 4:17 am #

            What are your thoughts on epigenetics? I just ordered a couple books by Jablonka and Lamb and am excited to learn more about it.

        • An Actual Attorney
          August 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

          I’m actually curious. What do you think evolution means?

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:10 am #

            Evolution is not random chance and natural selection and evolution are not interchangeable terms. It’s interesting to me how so many very well educated people have such misconceptions about the topic! Instead of paraphrasing I’ll just hook you up with other more eloquent and knowledgeable people’s work



          • An Actual Attorney
            August 16, 2013 at 7:16 am #

            Did you read those? From the first article: “The process of mutation, which generates genetic variation, is random, but selection is non-random. Selection favored variants that were better able to survive and reproduce (e.g., to be pollinated, to fend off pathogens, or to navigate in the dark). Over many generations of random mutation and non-random selection, complex adaptations evolved. To say that evolution happens “by chance” ignores half of the picture. To learn more about the process of natural selection, visit our article on this topic. To learn more about random mutation, visit our article on DNA and mutations.”

            In other words, (yours actually), “a completely random trait development and then accidentally passed down because people with it were more likely to survive”

          • Amy Tuteur, MD
            August 16, 2013 at 9:30 am #

            You appear to have misunderstood what you read. The appearance of mutations (which is what we were talking about) is random. The appearance of the sickle cell mutation was completely random.

            It was selected because the conditions at the time and place it appeared gave the holder of the mutation an advantage. Therefore, those with the mutation produced more descendants and the mutation spread through the population.

            The same exact mutation may have occurred spontaneously in many other times and places, but if malaria was not endemic, it was NOT selected and it did not spread into the population at large.

            When the authors you cite state that evolution is not random, what they mean is that mutations SELECTED are not random. The mutations themselves are entirely random and the conditions that exist at any time (which mediate the selection) are entirely random.

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 11:29 am #

            That link is ridiculous. Unless, of course you believe something like god orchestrates evolution. In that case it makes sense, is probably ‘your truth’ so carry on. Dice in a box. Give me a break. Shit analogy.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

            I was raised by Atheists and don’t subscribe to any religious doctrine. I do think there is more to evolution than random chance and think eventually we will discover Darwin only got it partly correct. There is a lot of preliminary evidence to suggest environmental exposures of an animal can effect the DNA of generations to come and this can alter the evolutionary trajectory. Like any science, evolutionary science isn’t stagnant. Its going to evolve lol! I don’t believe in creationism or intelligent design from a religious background, but I do think there’s more to it than what Darwinism can explain. There are other much smarter and more educated people than me who agree and that’s why science is cool! Scientist questioning the status quo and challenging what they already know to learn what they might not.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD
            August 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

            Again that is a misinterpretation. Epigenetics affect the EXPRESSION of genes. It does not affect the genes themselves. The basis of evolution is RANDOM genetic mutations and nothing you have cited or said changes that.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

            Can you please explain the difference to me! Not being facetious. Does that mean its already there, but dormant until affected by an outside influence? I just started reading about DES exposure in the 3rd generation of people. Also, is this what was behind the BPA scare? These exposure can’t cause mutations, only cause existing ones to be expressed? I’m thoroughly confused obviously lol!

          • auntbea
            August 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

            Yes. Some genes in your body are skipped over as your body translates the DNA into protein. Different environmental cues can cause new parts to be read (or skipped), but do not cause new genes to be created or deleted. It does change the genetic code that is passed on to the offspring, ergo, not evolution.


          • KarenJJ
            August 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

            ” It does change the genetic code that is passed on to the offspring, ergo, not evolution.”

            It does or it doesn’t? I’m thinking ‘doesn’t’ from what you’ve said but just wanted to clarify.

          • auntbea
            August 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

            Oops. Fixed.

          • R T
            August 17, 2013 at 4:24 am #

            Makes sense! I read more about it today and understand. However, DES exposure is still causing issues for the children of the children who were exposed to it in utero. Couldn’t this sort of gene expression due to environmental influence change the evolution of a species? I mean if the influence contributed to a new gene expression carried through generations?

          • auntbea
            August 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

            As far as I know, there is some evidence that the markers that turn genes on and off can be be passed down (even though most get wiped.) BUT, the effect seems to be temporary, a few generations at most, and a change in environment could undo the change again. So, it’s sort of like the difference between fluctuations in temperature from year to year and long-term climate change.

        • Something From Nothing
          August 16, 2013 at 2:32 am #

          You clearly have a poor understanding of evolution. I suggest Richard Dawkins book The Greatest Show on Earth for illumination on the subject.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:45 am #

            And how do you figure that? I’m familiar with Dawkins. Even he knows evolution as a whole is not completely random!

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 2:54 am #

            I didn’t suggest it was completely random, but don’t suggest that sickle cell was purposeful in some way. In what way could it have been calculated? by whom? god? mother nature? To repeat actual attorneys question, what do you think evolution means?

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 3:06 am #

            Mutations can be random, but selection isn’t! Evolution is deterministic! I answered the question already!

          • auntbea
            August 16, 2013 at 9:43 am #

            “Mutations can be random, but selection isn’t!”

            Duh? How is that different from 1) a random mutation 2) increases in the population 3) because it confers a benefit for survival? How is that different from what ANYONE here has been saying? (I will admit that I used natural selection interchangeably with evolution. But I suspect you knew what I meant.)

          • Something From Nothing
            August 16, 2013 at 11:24 am #

            You didn’t answer the question at all. In what way, and how is evolution “deterministic” as you say? I usually try hard not to get sucked into frustrating conversations on this blog, but I have to say, your foolishness got me!

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:46 am #

            P.S. neo-Darwinism is outdated!

          • auntbea
            August 16, 2013 at 10:01 am #

            Have you been hanging out with Michael Behe?

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

            Lol! No! I’m thinking more along the lines of epigenetics not intelligent design.

        • Playing Possum
          August 16, 2013 at 5:05 am #

          There is no evidence that any organism can ‘develop’ a genetic mutation. Even bacteria need to borrow their mutations from each other. Many factors influence the expression, survival or heritability of genetic traits, making the the organism ‘fitter’, but if a mutation does not exist, it cannot be manipulated. We are lucky that (mostly harmless) genetic drift has given us a crazy and massive genome for epigenetic mechanisms, environment, selective pressures and time to play with. Evolution massages an existing organism to its fittest phenotype, that’s all, but there is no intent. The examples of cf or sickle cell are curious schadenfreude side notes of cruel natural and random processes.

          • KarenJJ
            August 16, 2013 at 7:05 am #

            “There is no evidence that any organism can ‘develop’ a genetic mutation. ”

            I’m probably misunderstanding the conversation here, are you saying that an organism can’t say ‘I wish I was taller therefore I need to modify xxx gene’?

            That makes sense to me.

            Or are you saying that random genetic mutations don’t happen? How it was described to me is that my relative’s DNA had a spelling mistake in a specific gene during the replication in the very very early days of conception and one of the ‘t’, ‘c’, ‘g’, ‘a’ (can’t remember which) was substituted with the wrong letter and it is what caused the problems we have.

          • Playing Possum
            August 16, 2013 at 8:21 am #

            An organism can’t induce its own mutations is what I meant. Not very articulate there … Sorry!

            I can’t even imagine how one would do that, especially by human ancestors- eat mutagenic material? Find yourself somewhere with high background radiation? It’s easy for us modern folk to screw with our genome – rub your belly on a microwave, use a cell phone, have a csection and then feed your baby formula. /sarcasm/

            Not very many diseases are as elegant in their genetic origin as sickle cell or cf – it really is mutation/s = disease. Diseases with multi factorial etiologies and variable penetrance/ expression are probably better examples of the non-random elements of evolution. But still not intentional.

          • KarenJJ
            August 16, 2013 at 8:48 am #

            Thanks for the explanation. That makes sense.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          August 16, 2013 at 9:32 am #

          The sickle cell mutation occurred at least 5 times, independently. It confers a huge survival advantage versus malaria in its heterozygous state. So a couple with sickle trait (one sickle, one normal beta-globin gene) might have one child die of sickle cell anemia, one die of malaria, and two survive-versus the zero survivals among a couple with only hemoglobin A (“normal” beta-globin.) In a non-malarial area, it has no advantage and the same parents would likely lose one child out of four* and so be at a disadvantage. So it’s got a selective advantage in places with malaria, a selective disadvantage in places without malaria.

          OTOH, there is some evidence that the rise of malaria may be on some level the “fault” of technology: the sickle gene became more common at about the same time agriculture did. Possibly because irrigated fields increased the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

          *All estimates are “baselines” and do not include deaths equally likely in people with and without sickle hemoglobin.

          • S
            August 16, 2013 at 10:27 am #

            I think alpha-thalassemia carrier state also confers some protection against anemia. (Entirely separate disease.) Also a shitty “solution,” as inheriting two copies of the gene causes the baby to die before or shortly after birth.

          • S
            August 16, 2013 at 10:35 am #

            Typo, protection against MALARIA, duh. (Alpha-thalassemia IS a type of anemia.)

          • Niemand
            August 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

            There are a number of red blood cell abnormalities that are essentially anti-malarial phenotypes. Most of them have badness in the homozygous form.

            My personal favorite is G-6-PD deficiency. In this condition, the enzyme G-6-PD is low or absent. This can lead to problems if the affected person takes certain medications or eats certain things but usually is otherwise pretty harmless. If the person gets infected with malaria, their red blood cells start having G-6-PD in them…but it’s parasite G-6-PD. In other words, the mutation protects the person by working the parasite to death.

          • R T
            August 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

            Yes, it was my understanding from what I have read it actually provides a huge amount of protection. I actually discovered this interesting phenomenon while obsessively reading about seaweed, yeah, seaweed! I became fascinated by seaweed for some reason and learned it was in the same family as malaria and then my reading took me to sickle cell which took me to genetic mutations protecting against disease. Then I discovered the new frontier of epigenetics and that’s what I’m into reading about now! This is what I like to do for fun, lol! I clearly have no life!

        • LibrarianSarah
          August 16, 2013 at 9:53 am #

          You’re anthropomorphizing both nature and evolution. A random trait development being passed down because people with it are more likely to survive and/or reproduce is practically the definition of natural selection which is one of the primary means in which species evolve. Nature and evolution are not sentient. They cannot be calculating.

  17. slandy09
    August 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I love this post with all my heart. I used to think natural was always better, but then I developed cholestasis with my daughter and had to be induced at 37 weeks to ensure her survival. If I had let nature take its course, she could have died.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with this joke: What do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.

    • Older Mom
      August 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      Wow. I never even heard of cholestasis. I wonder how many midwives would catch it?

      • slandy09
        August 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

        Not very many people have heard of it–it’s pretty rare and often goes undiagnosed.

        I actually went to a group of hospital-based CNMs, and they were the ones who diagnosed me. In fact, they knew exactly what tests I needed, which is pretty unusual from what I’ve been told.

        But about the time I was diagnosed, I watched a birth video on YouTube where the mother was diagnosed with cholestasis, but her home birth midwives just put her on a special liver diet and let her start labor on her own…at 39 weeks. I was livid. It appears her baby was fine, but statistically speaking, the risk of stillbirth goes up dramatically after 37 weeks, I was very, very angry.

        • amazonmom
          August 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

          I have a friend that has had cholestasis with all three pregnancies. 37th week inductions for all of the kids. I didn’t realize it wasn’t all that well known as an issue.

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

            It’s only been in the last ten years or so that they’ve realized that it can cause things like stillbirth. My mom had cholestasis with three out of four pregnancy, but back then, it was considered benign.

          • amazonmom
            August 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

            Ah I see, I started my nursing career 9 years ago .

        • amazonmom
          August 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

          A special liver diet? A magical diet that the homebirth midwives had that OBs wouldn’t know about… Gag

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

            Tell me about it. My woo-filled SIL has told me that I should do a liver cleanse before I get pregnant again, to “strengthen” my liver and hopefully prevent ICP from happening again. My words: “What if I do all of this stuff to supposedly prevent myself from getting cholestasis again, but STILL get it?” She feebly said something to the lines of, “Well, it’s still good to strengthen the liver.” Um, where is the scientific proof that a liver cleanse will strengthen my liver, hm?

            Besides, a lot of the liver cleanses say to eliminate meat, and if I go more than a few days without a little meat, my husband has reason to fear for his life.

          • Laural
            August 16, 2013 at 4:58 am #

            Um, I don’t know if you meant it the way I read it, but, I’m lol’ing.

      • R T
        August 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

        I wonder how many OBs would catch? I belong to a 2nd and 3rd trimester loss board and became very close to a woman who lost her 3rd child to it at almost 37 weeks. When she went in scratching her itchy legs bloody, her OB told her it was dry skin. Her daughter died in utero less than a week later. I guess because her legs were itching and not her palms and feet he didn’t think it was OC.

        • slandy09
          August 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

          Not nearly enough. I belong to an Itchy Moms group on facebook, and there are so many women who have to battle their OBs to give them the right tests, and then there are the ones who won’t induce until 38-39 weeks, never mind that all the current literature on the subject says inducing BY 37 weeks, if not sooner.

          I was very, very lucky to get the care I did. I didn’t have to fight for a diagnosis at all. As soon as I told them my symptoms, they ordered the right blood tests, gave me medication, and had me come in for extra monitoring.

          I have been working to increase awareness of this condition because of the care I got–every women deserves to have such good care and not have to fight for a simple blood test.

          • Dr Kitty
            August 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

            I do LFTs on any pregnant woman with an itch or a rash in the third trimester.
            The test is cheap and easy, the diagnosis is serious, what’s to lose?

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm #


            And thank you for being proactive with your itchy moms. We are grateful for providers like you who take us seriously 🙂

          • R T
            August 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

            I don’t understand why it’s such a battle! Why wouldn’t their OB want to do a simple blood test to make their patient feel better and possibly diagnose a dangerous condition? Weird!

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

            Because they aren’t informed. One woman’s OB told her that she didn’t have it because she wasn’t jaundiced! Jaundicing is a symptom, but it’s pretty uncommon.

          • Gator
            August 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

            I had ICP as well. My OB started treatment as soon as the itch started at 33 weeks. My liver had already been showing signs of stress though as she suspected HELLP a couple of weeks before (tests negative).
            From what I have read and been told about it, induction should happen by 37 *completed* weeks. I was induced at 37+6 and had my baby bang on 38 (by c -section after induction failed) and I was comfortable enough with that. My OB told me when I was diagnosed that she’d just delivered an ICP baby at 34 weeks from a mother diagnosed at 28 weeks as the Urso stopped working, so I had full faith she knew what she was doing.

          • wookie130
            August 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

            I had obstretric cholestasis as well during my pregnancy…and I had no difficulty being diagnosed. I was seen in L & D by my doctor right away, blood tests were ordered, and medication prescribed immediately. Several days later, I had my c-section. The blood bile levels seem to be enough to diagnose this, and I can’t believe women have to fight to get tested.==

        • Amy Tuteur, MD
          August 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

          It’s not rare. A competent OB should have seen and diagnosed it several times.

          • R T
            August 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

            I would hope so! Didn’t happen for her though! Her first pregnancy was with twin girls and she had no such complication!

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

            Currently, about 1 in 1000 women are diagnosed with it, although it probably is more common. Too many women go undiagnosed because of health care providers who don’t know enough about it. It shouldn’t be that way at all.

      • Anon1
        August 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

        My nurse-midwife checked me for it when I developed funky symptoms last pregnancy. I had never heard of it. But, she had a a master’s degree, of course.

  18. Bombshellrisa
    August 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Anyone who insists “natural” is better hasn’t seen me drive without my contacts in.

    • auntbea
      August 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      Well, the car isn’t natural, so you could walk. Right off a cliff. Totally natural.

  19. Anon1
    August 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    My immune system “naturally” tries to kill me. I prefer beating the *&^% out of it with drugs rather than allowing it to take its natural course.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

      My uterus made a good attempt at killing me, but lost the knife fight with the surgeon. I’m quite happy about that.

      • Older Mom
        August 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

        Tim, you have a uterus?

        • Tim
          August 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

          That wasn’t me – Is Disqus acting up?

    • Kalacirya
      August 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      If we let things go the natural course with my partner, he’d be both blind and covered with even more psoriasis scales.

  20. Steff
    August 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    This is one of the best posts you’ve had in a long time – fantastic!

  21. quadrophenic
    August 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    My favorite thing to do is point out to someone that the water they’re drinking isn’t organic 😉

    • R T
      August 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      We had a well for water growing up.

      • Karen in SC
        August 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

        Quadrophenic is referring to the chemical definition of organic: a molecule containing usually containging carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms and various functional groups. By that definition, water H2O is an inorganic compound.

    • Tim
      August 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      And yet gasoline is!

  22. August 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    The one thing that might be “natural” and yet has been wholly rejected is critical thinking and problem solving.

  23. Lucy
    August 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Hispanics and Native Americans are the least likely to receive epididurals during labor. Most people who have “natural” childbirth don’t have access to 24 hour on call anesthesiolgists.

    • Older Mom
      August 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      So true. Even in the large metropolitan area where I live, there are hospitals that actively market their supposedly fabulous maternity ward and yet lack 24-hour on-call anesthesiologists. Even some educated white professional women I know were burned when they discovered they couldn’t get the epidural they desired in the middle of the night.

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

        Or the staff exaggerates the wait time to make it sound like you have to tough it out anyway, just deal. Or worse (what happened with me) the staff listens to your concerns about the risks and your feelings (in my case, terror of not being able to feel my legs) and plays those things up until you are so scared you dont speak up until another nurse comes in and then you have missed your window.

        • Older Mom
          August 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

          OMG…I thought I was the only person who was terrified of not being able to feel my legs. It was my BIGGEST reason for not wanting an epidural. And actually, it DID suck a lot, though not quite as much as I had feared. What sucked a lot worse was that the epidural didn’t work against the pain (just paralyzed my legs) and the male anesthesiologist totally blew me off about it.

          • Bombshellrisa
            August 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

            My biggest fear! The nurse (NCB advocate from hell) fed into it. I was triggered and terrified anyway, and she kept saying “you are right, you won’t be able to move your legs, so you really want that?”. I was so scared.
            Your epidural didn’t work? Ugh, my other fear!

          • Older Mom
            August 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

            I can’t lie…it ever so slightly took the edge off the pain, but I was still cursing with every contraction and screaming at my husband to push on my back (I had to be positioned on my side for this very reason). I suspect I needed a much higher dose of whatever magic stuff they put in the line–and I *know* that the anesthesiologist said their policy was to start you on an “intermediate” dose–not too strong,not too weak. But the couple of times he checked on me, I told him it wasn’t really working and I wanted to go to the strong dose, and he kept saying no.

      • amazonmom
        August 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        That’s horrible. Usually the only thing delaying availability of epidural where I am is simultaneous emergency C sections or a higher than usual number of women laboring. Even in those cases you will get the epidural but you may wait longer.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      I’m not sure about NA, but I suspect that Hispanic women don’t get epidurals as often at least partly because they are perceived by (Anglo) medical personnel as being “overly emotional” and their pain isn’t taken seriously.

      • Hannah
        August 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        That’s a thing??? I’ve heard a variety of racist things about Hispanics, but never that the women are “overly emotional”. At least not with any greater frequency than women of any other race.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          August 16, 2013 at 9:42 am #

          I’m afraid it is a thing. There’s a perception that Hispanic women are overly dramatic about pain and that they complain more than the supposedly stoic Anglo women (and, of course, men never complain about anything so their pain has to be taken completely seriously /snark).

          I’m part Hispanic but look “white” so people feel free to express their anti-Hispanic prejudices to me on the grounds that I must know how “they” are. This scares the crap out of me because I don’t know what they’d do if I told them my background…sorry, wandering off topic.

          • Dr Kitty
            August 16, 2013 at 10:03 am #

            Chinese and African ladies where there is a cultural expectation of being very quiet in labour (screaming or shouting is seen a shameful) may have their pain underestimated, because they aren’t “vocalising”.

            Pain scales are not very helpful- people who are sore look sore. Some people don’t want pain killers no matter how bad their pain is, others want any pain immediately eliminated.

            A good question is not “are you in pain?” but rather “I imagine you are in pain, I can offer you pain medication, would you like some?” and then working your way up the analgesic ladder as appropriate until the person feels that their pain has been relieved to the extent they can cope with it.

            This, of course, is not the NCB model where even mentioning “pain” is a no-no.

          • Hannah
            August 25, 2013 at 1:42 am #

            Geeze that’s ridiculous. Weird I haven’t heard that one, I’m among the palest of the white people, and live in an area with a very large Hispanic population. Then again, it’s Southern California, so it’s also an obsessively-politically-correct area.

  24. Jenna
    August 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    You didn’t mention my favorite un-natural improvement: air conditioning. I am fairly certain that I would have had a “weak constitution” and died early if I lived in a time of heavy clothing and no AC.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      The antebellum South does not bear thinking about. For any number of reasons, but that’s one of them. All those clothes and no AC-no wonder southern belles were “delicate” and fainted all the time.

      • LibrarianSarah
        August 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

        I thought the fainting was due to the corsets restricting women’s oxygen supply.

        • Kerlyssa
          August 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

          That certainly would help. Heat and humidity are bad enough for healthy lungs and hearts, much less already stressed ones…

          • LibrarianSarah
            August 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

            I read an interesting article once that hypothesized that the initial causes of “hysteria” had to do with women suffering from oxygen deprivation among other health conditions caused by corsets. The spread of the “disease” was probably due to a “madness of crowds” thing though. I could understand how the extreme heat in the summers could cause delirium though.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          August 16, 2013 at 9:45 am #

          That too, but if you lose enough water to sweat you’re going to faint even without the stress on the heart and lungs from the corset.

          It just occurred to me…dear god, they must have smelled terrible!

        • LovleAnjel
          August 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

          Corsets won’t restrict breathing that much (tight lacing was not a thing back then, most corsets only knocked a couple of inches off your waist). The fainting was often just an excuse to rest or be left alone (notably women somehow managed to keep their ankles modestly covered during a dead faint).

  25. LibrarianSarah
    August 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    I was just thinking about this topic this morning. I was reading a beauty blog that was recommended to me by a friend and their was a post called “why cetaphil is the devil” that just listed all the scary sounding chemicals in at and asked “Do you really want to post this on you face? There many all natural alternatives!” I was horrified and thought that their really needs to be more skeptical and critical thinking resources for women. At that point I thought about starting a skeptical beauty blog but then I remembered that I don’t even wear make up or know anything about it so I’d be talking out my ass as well.

    As for people who say things like “Of course it’s safe! It’s all natural!’ I always respond by saying “So is poison ivy. Try rubbing it on your genitals.”

    • Tim
      August 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      Do people think plants don’t contain “chemicals” ? Just because you don’t know all the compounds that are in aloe vera, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

      • quadrophenic
        August 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

        I think we should start straight smoking of opium for pain relief. It’s a plant after all!

        • LibrarianSarah
          August 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

          I know someone who says that it is OK to smoke Native Spirits or whatever that particular brand of cigarettes is called because it only has “natural” tobacco so it won’t give him lung cancer.

          • Tim
            August 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

            Nitrosamines are very natural!

      • LibrarianSarah
        August 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        My personal favorite is when people say “We live a chemical-free lifestyle.” I don’t know what happened to make people think chemical=bad. When I mention that the human body is nothing but a giant mass of chemical wondering around interacting with other chemicals I always get a response like “I know it is impossible to avoid all the chemicals we have spewed into are environment but we try.” At that point I want to shake them and scream “STOP BEING SO STUPID! BE SMART!” but I manage to contain myself.

        …so far.

        • Older Mom
          August 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

          Ask them to define “chemical”.

          • Bombshellrisa
            August 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

            And then have them define “toxin”.

          • LibrarianSarah
            August 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

            You just stumbled upon my secondary bugaboo. I hate when people use the word “toxin” to mean “poison.” WORDS HAVE MEANINGS PEOPLE!!

            Sorry I couldn’t contain myself.

        • Tim
          August 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

          Translation: “I think is a valid source of hard hitting information that the establishment is trying to hide to me. “

          • Older Mom
            August 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

            I clicked on that link. All I can say is “wow”. I know that sometimes it’s hard when you read journal articles that suggest that the Dutch midwife system is great or acupuncture works for something. But that is such obvious insanity. Much better off creating a fake academic journal to fool us non-phd types.

          • tim
            August 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

            It’s the internets premier “I’m a complete lunatic” site. The guy who operates it literally thinks everything is a giant conspiracy.

            It even has it’s own internet law!


        • Jocelyn
          August 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

          I just have to say that you are cracking me up today. 🙂

          • LibrarianSarah
            August 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

            I aim to please!

        • Sullivan ThePoop
          August 16, 2013 at 7:27 am #

          So no water then.

    • Older Mom
      August 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      Good grief. I have rosacea and cetaphil is one of the only face cleaners I can use. That and one hand-made all-natural thing I can mail-order that costs $50 for a couple of ounces and only lasts a few months. I can get more than a year’s worth of cetaphil from Costco for about $15.

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

        A lot of the “natural” stuff has so many essential oils and other stuff it burns my skin. I am with you, Cetaphil is my beloved chemical laden favorite. At least it doesn’t leave me all blotchy and “natural”.

        • Lucy
          August 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

          Don’t even get me started with essential oils. Those things can be extremely dangerous! Which is the one that can cause sever birth defects or something? Grapeseed extract maybe?

          • slandy09
            August 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

            One of my friends put a drop of undiluted essential oil on my daughter’s nose when she was a little congested. It burned and made her scream! My daughter has very sensitive skin and eczema to boot, and I was absolutely livid. My friend was very apologetic. I don’t really blame her, I blame the DoTerra people who don’t tell people that you’re supposed to dilute the EO in a carrier oil!!!!!

        • Older Mom
          August 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

          Totally. I was exactly those essential oils that were irritating my skin. With rosacea, I found that cucumber water, rose water, and rosemary extract were actually helpful, but the rest of it left me splotchy and miserable.

        • theadequatemother
          August 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

          Agreed! Burt’s bees all natural baby wash made my son scream. I put it on my arm to test it and it BURNED! Damn essential oils. Now I test on myself first.

    • Young CC Prof
      August 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      I have many severe skin allergies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked a saleslady or beauty salon worker “What’s in this product?” only to be told “Don’t worry. It’s all natural!”

      Because no one is ever allergic to plants or animals, right?

      • Sullivan ThePoop
        August 16, 2013 at 7:26 am #

        I’m allergic to salicylic acid and some salicylates. My doctor told me not to buy anything unless I can see the chemical names. A lot of all natural products list essesence of raspberry or other things like that and you have no idea if it will break you out.

    • Jocelyn
      August 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

      Bahahaha! I usually say something about hemlock being natural, too. But I like your poison ivy example better. I think I’ll use that in the future.

    • Jennifer2
      August 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      When I was little, maybe 12 or so, I took a bunch of stuff from the kitchen cupboard and mixed it together and smeared it on my face. I don’t know if I intended it to help with pimples or what. But all it did was make me look and feel sunburned. Everything I used was natural, but apparently the “invigorating” foaming action of vinegar and baking soda doesn’t do much for your complexion. Who knew?

      • auntbea
        August 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

        Actually baking soda makes a pretty good exfoliant. Don’t know about the vinegar, though.

        • Jennifer2
          August 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

          I don’t recommend it. I mean, it’s not harmful. You can use straight vinegar on mosquito bites to reduce the itch. But leaving the combination on my face for a while definitely left me blotchy for a couple hours.

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        That is terrifying, I use that same combination followed by boiling water to clear a drain when we don’t have draino!
        I have used white vinegar in my hair as a rinse to combat the effects of hard water, and before I get highlights (gets rid of product build up and I refuse to pay extra $$ for stuff at the beauty supply). My skin doesn’t like it though.

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