Let’s review: Where are the female obstetricians?


Decades after I first learned about natural childbirth and homebirth I am still shocked that anyone believes in it.

Natural childbirth was invented by a racist, sexist white male (Grantly Dick-Read) who wanted to encourage women of the “better classes” to stop fearing labor and have more children. It has been perpetuated by a cadre of Western, white, male physicians (Lamaze, Bradley, Odent) who subscribe to the notion that pain is women’s heads, or failing that, should make them feel “empowered.”

The “grandmother” of midwifery is Ina May Gaskin, a hippie from a bizarre commune who has no training in anything, AND let her own baby die rather than seek medical care for him. The foot soldiers in the NCB and homebirth armies are women who have no formal education in science, medicine or obstetrics and seem to think that is no problem. They are women without college degrees who enjoy attending other women’s births as a hobby and who couldn’t be trusted with any professional responsibility, let alone one that involves life and death.

The current “thought leaders” in the NCB and homebirth world are all Western, white men like Michel Odent, the late Marsden Wagner and Michael Klein.

Did you notice that there is rather important group missing from the movement? I did, because I’m one of that group: women obstetricians.

Women obstetricians routinely favor high levels of interventions for themselves. They are open to C-section on maternal request and often have C-sections for maternal request. They love pain medication and freely use epidurals when they have children of their own.

Why aren’t they on board with NCB and homebirth, like some of their male colleagues? Let me count the ways.

1. They have personally experienced the pain of labor.

2. They have personally experienced the pain of labor.

3. They have personally experienced the pain of labor.

And having personally experienced the pain of labor, they recognize Dick-Read, Bradley, Lamaze and Odent for the sexist blowhards that they are.

There are additional reasons:

They have a wealth of knowledge about childbirth and its dangers. They have more experience and skill in handling childbirth than any CNM, CPM, doula or childbirth educator. They know that most of the NCB/homebirth trope is nothing more than made up nonsense.

They do not believe their personal value resides in their breasts and vagina. They recognize that their value lies in their intelligence, insight, professional accomplishments and actions in the world. They are empowered by knowledge, not by what passes through their vagina.

They don’t risk their children’s lives to prove a point because they have nothing to prove. Their accomplishments speak for themselves; they don’t have to create faux “accomplishments” out of bodily functions over which they have no control in any case.

I find it quite ironic that while women without formal training in science and male doctors with strong ideas about how women should react to pain prattle on and on of being “educated” about childbirth and interventions, they don’t seem to notice that women obstetricians, the people with the MOST education and personal experience of childbirth, are not on board.

Who the hell is Marsden Wagner to tell me how I ought to give birth?

Who the hell is Henci Goer to tell me that obstetricians ignore scientific evidence?

Who the hell is Michael Klein to tell me how much pain in labor I ought to endure?

Wake up NCB and homebirth advocates! Women obstetricians are not on board. We don’t need men to tell us how we should experience childbirth and we don’t need women who could barely finish high school to tell us their pretend “facts” about childbirth.

If we don’t believe their nonsense, why should anyone else?


This piece first appeared in June 2011.