Jen Kamel and the arrogance and ignorance of the birth blogger buffoons

woman with noisemaker on the party

Are you gullible?

Would you take flying lessons from a stewardess?

Would you get legal advice from legal secretary?

Would you take cardiology advice from someone whose qualifications are 3 heart attacks?

If you’re getting your childbirth advice from Jen Kamel and her fellow birth blogger buffoons, you ARE gullible. What’s worse is that you may be so gullible that you are actually paying for that “advice” in the form of “work shops,” courses, web subscriptions, etc. And what’s even worse is that your babies may be paying for your gullibility as you risk (and lose) their lives by following the bloggers’ “advice.”

Who are the birth blogger buffoons? They are women with no training in obstetrics who have the temerity to believe that they know more about obstetrics than obstetricians. They are walking, talking illustrations of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which Wikipedia defines as:

Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.

How can you identify the birth blogger buffoons? In most cases, it’s pretty easy. All you need to do is consider their role in the provision of obstetric care.

Doulas are the equivalent of stewardesses; their role is the comfort of clients (passengers). Doulas don’t know any more about childbirth than stewardesses know about safely flying the plane.

Childbirth educators are the equivalent of legal secretaries. The job of a legal secretary is to assist the lawyer; they may know legal terminology but they are unqualified to practice law or to evaluate those who do. Similarly, childbirth educators may know obstetric terminology, but they are unqualified to practice obstetrics or midwifery and incapable of evaluating those who do.

Lay birth bloggers are like lay people everywhere. They have no specialized knowledge, only their own experience, which they often don’t fully comprehend, and which may be irrelevant to your personal situation. Looking to a woman like Jen Kamel for advice on VBACs simply because she had a successful VBAC is like taking oncology advice from someone who survived cancer. It is confusing luck for knowledge.

There are many, many birth blogger buffoons out there, but some are more popular than others. Some of the biggest birth blogger buffoons, in addition to Jen Kamel, are:

Ricki Lake of The Business of Being Born and My Best Birth

January Harshe of Birth Without Fear

Gina Crosly-Corcoran of The Feminist Breeder

Doula Teri Shilling, former president of Lamaze International, of My OB Said What??!!

The childbirth educators of the Lamaze blog Science and Sensibility

The folks at ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network)

Journalist Jennifer Margulis

This is hardly an exhaustive list; there are many more.

How do you recognize a birth blogger buffoon? By what they are selling and by the fact that they are selling it. Their primary product is always distrust of modern obstetrics. Although modern obstetrics is probably the most spectacularly successful of all the many successful medical specialties (dropping the neonatal mortality rate 90% and the maternal mortality rate 99% in the past 100 years), the birth blogger buffoons never acknowledge the many, many, many lives saved by obstetricians each and every day. The secondary product is the services, books, workshops, and paid advertising from which they profit. They are not giving their “advice” out of the generosity of their hearts; they make money from it.

For example, both Jen Kamel and Gina Crosly-Corcoran run VBAC Workshops and charge steeply for them. You have to be some kind of stupid to spend money on a doula VBAC workshop from someone who has no experience managing VBACs, grossly deficient knowledge of the risks and benefits, and no obstetric knowledge at all. On the gullibility scale, that’s right up there with paying a stewardess for flying lessons!

I think this person sums it up best:

Every practitioner … has likely witnessed the problems that occur when lay people cross the line of giving information and feel competent to dispense actual medical advice despite the absence of any clinical training or education… A doula is not a medical expert, and medical advice is outside a doula’s area of practice.

My objective is to issue a warning: There are a lot of people out there who have no idea what they are talking about. And it is downright shocking to me how many parents and professionals are willing to just accept something as truth simply because they read about it on a blog … A little bit of knowledge is not enough to understand any complex subject including post-cesarean birth options.

Who said it? Why Jen Kamel, of course. Now if we could only get her to take her own advice.