Big Birth takes a page from Big Pharma and creates a new disease that only they can treat

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Big Birth is the multi-million dollar business of the natural childbirth industry. It involves midwives, doulas, childbirth educators and lobbying organizations. It, like the anti-vax movement, climate deniers, and creationists has created an alternative world of internal legitimacy involving journals, conferences, and letters after names, not to mention blogs and message boards where true believers can never be challenged by actual scientists.

And because Big Birth is a business, it does what all businesses do; it aggressively markets its products in a constant battle for greater market share and more profits. In fact, in its marketing techniques it employs all the tactics of Big Pharma: grossly exaggerated claims of benefit, desperate efforts to hide bad outcomes, and aggressive efforts to besmirch the reputation of competitive products (in this case modern obstetrics).

An now it has taken a new step pioneered by Big Pharma. It has created a new disease that can only be treated by its products. Just like Big Pharma created the disease of “social anxiety” and proposed treating it with SSRIs like Paxil, Big birth has created the disease of “birth trauma” for which the only treatment is, you guessed it, the products and services of Big Birth.

How does Big Pharma create a new disease. Here’s how alternative health guru Dr. Larry Dossey explains it:

The trick [is] to inflate a common, everyday condition to the level of pathology, which, if not attended to, could blight one’s prospects for personal happiness and success.


• Taking a normal function and implying that there’s something wrong with it and that it should be treated

• Describing suffering that isn’t necessarily there

• Defining as large a proportion of the population as possible as suffering from the “disease” …

• Using statistics selectively to exaggerate the benefits of treatment

• Promoting the treatment as risk free

Those are the exact tactics that Big Birth is using to promote the disease of “birth trauma” to promote their own products and service.

Keep in mind that Big Pharma does not create the condition; the condition is real. Big Pharma merely pathologizes it and recommends a treatment that will add money to their coffers. Similarly Big Birth did not create the condition of fear, feelings of helplessness and disappointment that characterize the response of a small segment of women to childbirth. They have merely pathologized it, insisted that it must be treated, and promote a treatment that will add money to their coffers.

Birth trauma is a subset of the trauma occasioned by serious, life threatening illness, pain and feelings of helplessness. That form of trauma is experienced by many people who have felt helpless due to severe pain and frightened for their lives.

Most women are able to examine and integrate their feelings of agonized suffering and fear around childbirth and move on. A small segment are not, and they should be treated … by psychotherapists versed in the treatment of post traumatic stress syndrome.

But that won’t line the pockets of the midwives, doulas and childbirth educators of Big Birth, so they have responded just like Big Pharma would.

Read any natural childbirth book, website or message board and you will find copious references to “birth trauma.” It is now a full blown pathology; “lots” of women are suffering from it and if they are not, it’s only because they don’t realize they are suffering; obstetricians are advertized as the cause; unmedicated vaginal birth as provided by Big Birth is promoted as the cure; and the risks of forgoing obstetric interventions are ignored altogether.

It also explains why Big Birth denigrates anything other than unmedicated vaginal birth (since it can’t provide epidurals, or perform C-sections), and why it promotes unmedicated vaginal birth as “healing.” They’ve created the disease of “birth trauma”; they’ve insisted that anyone who doesn’t have an unmedicated vaginal birth has been traumatized by it, whether women feel traumatized or not; and they offer “healing” through purchase of their products and services.

Why should we care how Big Pharma and Big Birth market their products?

According to Dossey:

Why should we be concerned about disease mongering? There is a huge psychological burden in thinking of ourselves as diseased when we are not. Beyond the psychological cost, there are financial costs, both personal and social. Treating these “illnesses” with pharmaceuticals [or natural childbirth products and services] is not cheap…

How do we resist the tremendous marketing pressure brought to bear by both Big Pharma and Big Birth?

Dossey says:

The way forward may be in immunizing ourselves psychologically against the messages from Big Pharma [and Big Birth] that invade our lives on every hand. We have to learn to stop being suckers.

How? … [I]t may be that the best way to resist disease mongering is not to beat our heads against the fortress of Big Pharma, but to develop the psychological and spiritual maturity that makes us resistant to their efforts to instill fear and dread in our lives.

In the case of Big Birth, women need to immunize themselves psychologically against the messages from Big Birth that only unmedicated vaginal birth is a real birth, that they should feel traumatized by the interventions of modern obstetrics and that they have “failed” if they didn’t achieve and intervention-free, unmedicated vaginal birth.

It may be that the best way to avoid birth trauma is to develop the psychological and spiritual maturity that makes women resistant to the efforts of Big Birth to instill fear of modern obstetrics and dread of not achieving the natural childbirth idea.