More comedy gold from Sarah Pope, The Healthy Home Economist

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I admit I was wrong. I thought Sarah Pope, whose nom de quack is The Healthy Home Economist, had reached the apogee of idiocy with her advice to lie to your child’s pediatrician about raw milk. But Pope has now outdone her previous efforts in her new piece Toxic Effects of Water Birth on Mom and Baby. Strap on your tin foil hat and prepare for a hilarious ride.

What’s the problem with waterbirth? According to Pope:

A concern rarely if ever mentioned about water birth is the significant chlorine exposure that both mother and baby experience during the labor and delivery process. Many mothers who are careful to filter their drinking water during pregnancy to remove chlorine and other toxins seem to give little to no thought about soaking for hours in the very same water or giving birth to their precious newborn in it.

Bathing or showering in treated water is known to expose a person to a significant amount of outgassed chlorine that is absorbed via inhalation and the skin.

Really? Says who? Says Joe Mercola, quack shill extraordinaire.

But wait! There’s more:

The most insidious result of exposure to treated water during the water birth process is the adverse effect on gut flora… The compromise to bodily flora comes at a time when baby’s gut needs to be seeded properly with the beneficial microbes that will guard health and bolster immunity for a lifetime. Any beneficial microbes present in Mom’s birth canal will be either weakened, destroyed, or severely damaged by exposure to the chlorinated water by the time baby passes through.

Pope references herself for this claim.

It’s a sobering thought:

Think about it … all that work you have done with your diet for 9 months limiting sugar, consuming fermented foods and taking probiotic supplements to optimally prepare the birth canal for baby’s entrance into the world potentially wiped out by the decision to have a water birth.

And that’s not all:

In addition, exposure of the baby’s skin to the treated water in the birth pool destroys the healthy biofilm on the baby’s skin called the vernix caseosa. The vernix is protective of baby’s delicate skin and has anti-infective and antioxidant properties. It should never be wiped or washed off until it comes off naturally some days after birth.

Moreover, the warm moist air in the delivery room from the birthing tub water is the first air that baby breathes, and it is contaminated with chloroform, disinfection byproducts, and VOCs like trihalomethanes. Not exactly the optimal air to be filling baby’s lungs with at birth, don’t you think?

The horror!

Vernix is not a biofilm, and much of the rest of this is utter nonsense, but who cares about accuracy when fabricating fear-mongering for the gullible? Not Sarah, that’s for sure.

At the risk of gilding the lily, Pope goes all out and adds the real dangers of waterbirth:

… A study in 2004 of the water in a birth pool that had been filtered and thoroughly cleaned found high concentrations of the pathogens E. coli, coliform, staph, and P. aeruginosa.

Just recently, a baby in Texas died from contracting Legionnaires’ Disease from a contaminated birthing pool. The infant was born in a tub full of well water that hadn’t been chemically disinfected and died after 19 days in the hospital…

In addition, a 2004 review of the medical literature found 74 articles and 16 citations of infants who experienced serious complications from water birthing. These included death, drowning, near-drowning, waterborne bacterial infections, cord rupture and fever (11).

What’s going on here? Why has Pope attacked a practice beloved of the alternative birth crowd?

Remember that alternative health is almost entirely reflexive defiance of standard practice and authority figures. It is a testament to the popularity of both waterbirth and midwives that Pope see waterbirth as “standard” practice and views midwives as authority figures.

Moreover, popularity in the alternative health blogosphere depends on finding and railing against ever more ridiculous “risks.” Food Babe complains that there is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice lattes (Duh! It contains pumpkin spice, a mixture of spices typically found in pumpkin pie). And she was horrified to discover that airlines pump less than 100% oxygen into airplane cabins. She was apparently unaware that the air we breathe contains only 21% oxygen. The Health Home Economist is similarly trying to garner attention by making ever more outrageous claims.

Even a clock that is stopped is right twice a day. Coincidentally, she’s correct that waterbirth is dangerous but it has nothing to do with outgassing of chlorine, the microbiome or vernix. The danger is that babies do breathe as their heads emerge and can aspirate fecally contaminated water into their lungs.

In general, when it comes to health advice, Sarah Pope is an ignorant amateur. But when it comes to creating comedy gold from blithering nonsense, Pope is a real pro.

  • anon

    You know, when people were claiming that it was illegal for authorities to consider adding fluoride to our city’s pure water supply to serve public health, I pointed out that they were already legally adding chlorine to the pure water to serve public health. And I immediately regretted it. You could practically hear their mental wheels grinding – and not in favor of all the diseases we avoid with a clean water supply.

  • namaste863

    Dear God, I feel like I’ve crash landed on Planet Idiocracy!

    I mean because of what’s-her-name’s woo-soaked drivel, not because of you guys! You guys are awesome.

  • Nick Sanders

    OT: Normally I quite enjoy Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, but after what I’ve learned here, this one from the other day kinda rankles me:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3737

    • Daleth

      Wow, me too. The crazies are so anti-c-section that it is somehow simultaneously (1) MAJOR SURGERY to be avoided at ALL COSTS because omigod it’s SO hard to recover from; and (2) a cop-out for mom because it’s “the easy way.”

  • yentavegan

    Now that consumer savvy hospitals have added soaking tubs to their amenities to attract otherwise healthy well cared for women to their labor and delivery wards, water is now potentially poisonous. There is nothing a hospital can do or add or change to make themselves the right place to give birth. The only safe space for a laboring woman is her own home, or a free standing non-hospital affiliated birthing center, or the forest near a babbling brook, or in the ocean with dolphins.

    • FrequentFlyer

      If giving birth in a forrest or with dolphins ever came anywhere near acceptable or popular the ncbers would decide they were wrong and come up with some other way to show how much more natural(special) they are than the sheeple. They would always have to come up with crazier stunts. Where on earth would it end?

      • Nick Sanders

        What about giving birth with dolphins in a forest?

        • FrequentFlyer

          As nature obviously intended! I guess that will do for now, but I just had a vision of the future. The Ultimate Warrior Mama having an unassisted birth on the moon. None of that common, old fashioned water birth for her. She will push her baby out in 0 gravity! Lack of oxygen won’t be a problem for the prop, er baby, because she won’t cut the cord until they’re back on earth.

        • Oh! River dolphins in Brazil as doulas? LOL!

      • namaste863

        Giving birth on the top of Mt. Everest?

      • Azuran

        Go back to how it all started: Give birth in the African Savannah, surrounded by lions and hyenas.

    • Medwife

      There are gorgeous rivers where I live. Sure, they’re cold, but then at least you’d have the dive reflex working for you, which would PROBABLY put the risk of aspirating the blue-green algae filled water at a bare minimum.

    • Ardea

      Dihydrogen monoxide, don’t you know. 100% of dead people have been found with it in their tissues. At hospitals, too.

  • just me

    OT: update on California vax bill. http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_28115461/bill-restricting-vaccine-exemptions-overwhelmingly-passes-state-senate

    I’m disappointed that the senate compromised my kids by agreeing to compromise and grandfather in the already unvaxxed kids. Almost all the repubs voted against the bill…on to the assembly

    • Bugsy

      Glad it passed, but I also wish they hadn’t grandfathered in current unvaccinated kids. At the very least, it will pave the way for change to happen (albeit slower than we’d like).

      I noticed some anti-vax parents of preschoolers commenting how unfair it was because their kids are counting on starting school in the fall….and now what will they do?

      • LibrarianSarah

        Well I have a suggestion but I doubt they will like it

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I have several suggestions, as it happens…

    • Amy

      You know what, party affiliation might (I hope?!?) be a wakeup call for some people neck-deep into woo. I’m pretty liberal myself, and a big factor in getting me to reject a lot of the woo was realizing how many of its loudest cheerleaders were far-right libertarians, and how much I agreed with people like Dr. Amy on political and gender issues.

  • sdsures

    Maybe FoodBabe’s bizarre writings can be explained by oxygen starvation/intoxication. (Sorry, brainfog, can’t work out which way it goes.)

  • sdsures

    It sounds like Pope is changing from one side of her “argument” to the other regarding the “effects” of treated water vs untreated water. Even she doesn’t know what she’s saying.

    Overall her entire article screams “jumping the shark”.

  • RMY

    Completely OT: I’ve got a friend whose partner wants her to eat more garlic and vitamin C so that she can beat a Strep B infection and have a birth without antibiotics on IV. Also, she thinks that because her mom wasn’t tested for Strep B and she and her siblings all came out fine she shouldn’t worry about it even if garlic doesn’t beat it. Any recommendation for specific facts I can throw at them? I know vague “babies die of this” isn’t helpful but a number would be. The gestational mom is kind of of the edge about it, but her partner is deep in the woo and she feels a need to acquiesce to her partner’s ideas.

    • DaisyGrrl

      Send her Wren’s story from Hurt by Homebirth. Wren’s mother tried garlic and wasn’t properly informed of the risks by her midwife and baby Wren died as a result: http://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspot.ca/2011/03/wrens-story-on-1st-anniversary-of-his.html

      It’s written by the father, and is a very moving account of what he now realizes was a completely preventable tragedy.

      • RMY

        Yikes. Well, her mom is a midwife, so the blog’s name would probably not go over well. That is very moving though.

        • Gatita

          The father has blogged about it on his personal blog. He owns an internet hosting company and the family lives in Santa Monica so I always use them as an example when I’m dealing with crazy California crunchies:

          http://www.dreamhost.com/blog/2011/03/09/wren-jones/

    • Anna

      I believe the stats are 1 in 200 babies born to mothers who are GBS+ and do not receive antibiotics will contract group B strep whereas 1 in 4000 babies born to GBS+ mothers who do receive antibiotics contract it. Also, you could tell them that GBS is the leading cause of neonatal meningitis and sepsis during the first week of life, which definitely means a NICU stay, and as you already know, possibly death. If you check out the CDC page on group B strep, these and other risks of infection are outlined. You might find something that appeals to your friend. Also, maybe you could suggest that they ask about getting one of the IVs (the word for it escapes me) where you’re not connected to the IV pole the whole time, only intermittently to get the antibiotics, and then they disconnect it so you can go about your business again. That’s what I had when I had my daughter and was GBS+. It was a minor inconvenience at best. I didn’t even notice it the last couple times they did it, so if that whole wanting to be able to move around thing is part of their concern, getting antibiotics does not exclude the possibility.

      • RMY

        I recommended a more free IV situation. I hope that’s a good enough compromise. It boggles my mind, that’s an IVF baby on the second round of IVF, you’d think both parents would be like “any amount of risk is too much” since they spent so much getting pregnant.
        Also, the purer than thou lesbian crowd boggles my mind with how little they mind chemicals/modern medicine when they’re trying to get pregnant, but then when they are, they’re very anti-modern medicine.

        • Bugsy

          I’m an IVF parent – one IVF toddler, one failed IVF cycle and now pregnant from IVF #3 – and I also can’t understand their logic. Spending thousands of dollars and countless resources to creating a child, and then not wanting to do anything you can to ensure the best possible health outcome for that child? I truly cannot understand it.

          • demodocus

            I’m with you, only we’re not sure we can afford round 2, despite having several frozen eggs. If you’re trying for a child so much that you’re willing to give someone $15,000+, why on Earth wouldn’t you take every precaution?

          • RMY

            I don’t know. At first I thought home birth/refusing interventions was (no offense) a thing for straight women who were very fertile and believed life started at 1 month or something crazy like that. Not lesbians who go through IVF multiple rounds and drugs out the wazoo just to get pregnant.

          • Bugsy

            One of the reasons why I left my birth board a few months ago was because some of the IVF moms were touting the benefits of midwife-assisted hospital births over OB births; “the midwives are just so much kinder and treat you as the whole person.”

            Granted, they were still aiming for hospital births, but my personal pet peeve is the false dichotomy so many moms buy into that because OBs are medically-focused, that they aren’t focused on the whole patient. (My OB during my pregnancy with my son was absolutely amazing – patient, reassuring and kind.) Hearing this sentiment from other moms who have also relied so heavily on medicine/science to get pregnant, it seems particularly bizarre to me.

          • RMY

            What does “treat you as a the whole person” even mean? I think some women almost see childbirth/pregnancy as a religious experience.

          • Bugsy

            Yes, a religious experience and a stamp of approval/validation for how awesome their mommy skills are for having the all-natural delivery they believed was the end-all, be-all.

          • demodocus’ spouse

            I was all for the obs. (There were several who all worked for the same group) I’m still not sure why some nurse/nurse-midwife was the one to actually catch my kiddo. I remember wondering at the time why she was there, rather than Dr. K., who was 5 feet away.

          • demodocus’ spouse

            I’d think the vast majority of straights who have to do IVF also go to the hospital to give birth. Certainly we did.

          • Daleth

            Frozen eggs or frozen embryos, Demodocus?

          • demodocus’ spouse

            Oops, Embryos. I was really tired yesterday.

          • Daleth

            Oh, ok. So that’s way cheaper to deal with than frozen eggs, since the fertilization part has already happened. Here’s hoping things work out for you.

          • RMY

            I’ve had 5 IUIs and two artificial inseminations done at home, nothing came of it and it was getting too expensive to continue, it was only a few thousand dollars, under 10k but over 5k. Had I gotten pregnant, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to risk having to go through all that again to get pregnant to just have a child, much less risk the grief of losing a very wanted one.

          • Bugsy

            Hugs, RMY. Infertility sucks.

          • RMY

            Thank you. I’m still in the process of accepting it.

          • Daleth

            I’ve been there and know a lot about it. Now have twins after six years and several failed IVF attempts. Did you know you can do IVF in Europe for much less money than it costs here ($4k-$8k), at clinics that have success rates on par with good clinics here? You have to go there for about 10-14 days, so it means using your vacation for that, but you can find surprisingly cheap accommodations and even cheap plane tickets if you go at the right time of year.

            IVF destination countries have arisen in Europe because every European country has different laws, some of which are very restrictive in terms of what you can do (e.g. in Germany it’s not only illegal to use donor eggs or sperm, but even illegal to freeze embryos made with your own eggs and sperm!) or what the maximum age for treatment is. The Czech Republic and Spain are the two main places I’ve heard of people going. The CR is a little bit cheaper than Spain but they have a few laws that are stricter, e.g. no treatment for anyone but married straight couples. Spain is much more liberal in that regard.

            I wish you the best possible luck in whatever path you choose.

          • Daleth

            PS: I just checked some prices and I stand corrected–you can do IVF in the Czech Republic for $2500 (2200 Euros) plus the cost of drugs, and donor sperm only costs 200 Euros (about $225). You might be able to get the drugs from the clinic for European prices, but would have to ask them about that. Here’s a link to a couple of Czech clinics:

            http://www.ivf-zlin.com/24825-pricelist – that’s the pricelist at one of the best known Czech clinics

            http://www.reprofit.cz/en/ivf – another really well known Czech clinic (and i imagine their price list is on there somewhere, and similar)

          • RMY

            That’d be interesting and certainly affordable (the clomid + progesterone IUI costed only a little less), but I’m a married lesbian, it sounds like they only allow straight couples. I think IVF is great for many families, but my wife and I both have feelings about it being wrong for us (we don’t think it’s wrong as a concept though!). My wife has no interest in carrying for genetic reasons (one first degree schizophrenic relative and two with bipolar in addition to alcoholism being rampant in her family tree).
            A lot of people have happy, fulfilling lives without children.

          • Daleth

            Yes, the CR unfortunately still has antiquated laws (about which clinic employees tend to be very apologetic). Spain doesn’t, though–they’ve had gay marriage in Spain for a decade already and fertility clinics will serve gay couples no problem. The price is a little more than in the CR but not much.

            Given your wife’s desire not to pass on her family’s genetic issues and your difficulties so far in getting pregnant, have you guys looked into donor embryo? If you go through a clinic, as opposed to a quote-unquote “embryo adoption agency,”* it’s very cheap–since it’s illegal to buy/sell embryos, all you pay is the cost of an FET (frozen embryo transfer), plus meds, which are of course much cheaper than IVF meds, so on the order of $3000-$4000. Sometimes the people who donate their embryos request that you pay the cost of storing the embryos for the year in which you get them (which adds maybe $300 to the cost). You can also do donor embryo in Europe for like $2000.

            * The agencies that do this are usually extremely faith based, discriminate against gays and charge through the nose. IVF clinics are none of those things.

          • RMY

            Yeah, I looked into that some, there was a lesbian couple who were looking to give away some of theirs, but they wanted to match the ethnicity, which my wife and I weren’t a match for.

            Most of the people who want to adopt out their embryos seemed to be religious types who didn’t just destroy them because – Jesus. They also tend to want the embryos to be raised in a religious environment which we’re not willing to provide as we’re agnostic/atheists. Unlike with infant adoption, there’s no aging process to encourage genetic parents to be less picky.

          • Daleth

            Yeah, that sounds like what you deal with through an “embryo adoption” agency or through some online communities where people offer their embryos but have a long list of requirements you have to meet to get them.

            That’s why I suggest contacting clinics directly–not just your own clinic but any large clinic that you think is feasible to travel to. Some people check the “donate” box on the forms when starting IVF, and the clinic is then free to donate them to any patient after X amount of time has passed. This is anonymous 99% of the time. Your best bet may be clinics with large and successful donor-egg programs, since they will have donor embryos made with donor eggs, which by definition are more likely to work than those made with the eggs of older IVF patients. So, CCRM (Denver), AFCC (Chicago), ORM (Portland), SDFC (San Diego), RMA-NJ (someplace in New Jersey).

          • Amy M

            I’m sorry, as another IVF alumnus, I can empathize. I did have children from the IVF, but I know its not for everyone, nor will it work for everyone. I hope you feel at peace now, or will soon.

      • JfromNYC

        The IV where you’re not connected to the pole and tubing all the time is called a saline lock.

    • demodocus

      If garlic and oranges fixed it, I should not have tested positive in the first place. (heck, I didn’t wash the cutting board after dinner and then cut my oranges on it, ’cause I liked garlicky oranges…ah, pregnancy)

      • RMY

        If garlic and oranges fixed it, the doctor would prescribe that instead.

    • WREN’s story on hurt by homebirth. Wren died from the garlic advice.

      • RMY

        It sounds like she’s going to do the IV if she still tests positive thankfully! The partner linked to this blog which is a blog that links to HHE http://thecontrarianmom.com/2010/09/10/group-b-strep-simple-treatments-for-group-b-strep/

        • Bugsy

          Glad to hear she is coming around. The link her partner referred to is horrifying, including one of the comments that for a strep B – positive newborn, you can use a bit of raw milk kefir. What on earth?

          • RMY

            That horrified me. I didn’t want to rant on my friend’s blog, but giving a neonate cow milk period is a bad idea from what I’ve heard (they need formula or breastmilk only at that age). Raw milk is even less fit. Part of me wonders if the second trip to the hospital was for an infection caused by the raw milk.

          • Bugsy

            If you can stay in your friend’s life and be a voice of reason through the woo she’s otherwise receiving, more power to you. The raw milk thing drives me nuts, too…I knew someone who was feeding it to her young child and (I assume) drinking it through her pregnancy. If an adult wants to drink raw milk and understands the risks, fine. Giving it to a child or fetus when there are such known health risks? Not cool.

          • RMY

            Because of my infertility, I find it hard to keep in the lives of people who are lucky enough to get pregnant who embrace the woo too much. It just irritates me that they get, what I see as a special gift and are willing to risk it for some pie-in-the-sky ideology. This friend seems more reality grounded, while her partner doesn’t. A natural intervention-free birth is something you’re lucky to be able to have, not a goal you can really work towards (beyond just by taking care of your health), and certainly not something that everyone can have.

          • Bugsy

            I’m with you on that. The gal I knew who got into the woo had become the sort who would throw it into your face, however inadvertently. (“Oh, I’m _so_ sorry to hear of your ongoing infertility struggles. I had some infertility years ago, too…but I’ve since adopted a GMO-free diet, and, you know…I’m just that awesome.”)

            I agree with you that if someone wants and can have a natural birth, great. Sadly some people naively have bought into the idea that it’s 100% in our control. It’s not.

          • Wren

            I understand where you are coming from, but I ended up in a fair bit of birth woo (not this particular issue though) after years of fertility treatment. I think it was largely wanting to believe that my body would work “right” after being so wrong.

  • Trixie

    I can’t believe Sarah didn’t come up with the obvious, Weston A. Price Foundation solution to this problem: give birth in a vat of raw milk! After all, raw milk full of cow fecal bacteria is great for babies, plus there’s no added chlorine!

  • KL

    An NCB friend of mine (yes we are still friends and no I don’t buy any of her silliness) refused penicillin during labour for her Group B Strep because “I don’t want to diminish my GI flora” yes that really happened. Luckily (and it really was luck) her baby did not contract it. Some things just make me shake my head.

    • And because the baby did not contract Strep, she is vindicated for the “informed” choice she made.

      It reminds me of a woman I knew who refused anti-D after each of her first three pregnancies and boasted to me, when she was tested for Rh titers the next time and was negative, how the shot was “so much overkill” — until, with her 4th pregnancy, she tested positive. That baby was her last. It was very sick, and the next was stillborn, and after that she miscarried twice more.

      • Dr Kitty

        There was a patient of one of my colleagues who had unusual antibodies after her first pregnancy and it became clear after multiple hydropic stillbirths that she couldn’t carry her husband’s child.
        She solved that the old fashioned way though…
        She finally had a completely uncomplicated pregnancy to the surprise of everyone, including her husband…
        Her youngest child didn’t look much like her husband, but apparently it was “a miracle” and the doctors were all mistaken.

  • Nick Sanders

    Chloroform?

    • Mishimoo

      Yup! Because magic.

  • lilin

    Um. Is she aware that table salt has chlorine in it?

    • KarenJJ

      In the same way that thimerosal has mercury in it! Beware people!

      • WAKE UP SHEEPLE

        Pull your fillings, give birth in a pool of colloidal silver!

    • just me

      Well table salt contains chlorine in the form of chloride ions vs. hypochlorite in bleach. NOT the same thing. One is a strong oxidant one is basically inert. I’m not saying chlorine in water is bad–it’s not–but they aren’t the same.

      • lilin

        Oh yeah, it’s not the same thing. It’s just that she says “chlorine and other toxins,” which strikes me as pretty vague and odd. Chlorine isn’t really a toxin.

  • just me

    Yes that 1 ppm of chlorine us so dangerous…

  • Sue

    She out-quacks the quacks! Hilarious!

  • Gretta

    I labored in the tub and got out and gave birth on dry land… With no drugs. And everything went swimmingly. (Ha!)

    So if you are reading this and thinking about a water birth maybe consider that as an alternative.

    • I think they do it so that babies don’t emerge in a cold room from the warmth of their little swimmy holes. Seeing as though we who are down with hospital birth do so in meat freezers.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I always find the idea homebirthers have of hospital birth really funny. I had my daughter in 1994, I labored and gave birth in one room, It looked a lot like a bedroom, comfy chair for my husband, Plenty of blankets for me, music when I wanted it. And bonus points, an NICU team and resus equipment down the hall if things went south(and they did).
        They asked before the birth what we wanted (wait a few minutes to give her the Vit K shot and eye drops, let my husband hold her first, etc) and this was 21 years ago!

        • Amy

          I think they seriously think nothing has changed since the 1950s. It’s actually rampant in all of the woo advocacy. La Leche League’s BIBLE, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” has this long screed about how working outside the home isn’t worth it because of all the money you spend on day care, restaurant lunches (apparently brown bagging it isn’t a thing?), business attire (leaving aside the fact that most jobs that require expensive wardrobes also pay REALLY WELL; as a teacher I spend maybe $100 a year on work clothes tops), and hiring household help (because doesn’t everybody who works outside the home do that?). And of course keeping up your professional skills and not losing out on raises and salary steps shouldn’t be a consideration, right?

          If you look at some of the things they say about hospital birth, you’d conclude that hospitals are still using twilight sleep and tying laboring women down to beds, doing enemas and shaving, and using silver nitrate in babies’ eyes.

          • nomofear

            Okay, fun aside to add to that – my grandmother had four babies during the morphine/scopalimine (sp?) era. When I was deep in the NCB woo, I asked her about it, fully expecting to hear about how awful it was. I was shocked when she told me it was GREAT, it was a party, she didn’t remember a thing, etc. Deep in the woo as I was, I told myself she was probably just making the best of a horrible situation. Only today – especially after having had one drug-free birth – do I get it. Screw that. If twilight sleep was the only other option today, I’d happily do it instead of the conscious option!

          • Susan

            My grandmother said something similar. But, I have talked to doctors and nurses who saw Twilight Sleep and no one has ever said it was humane. What they say is that the women were out of control but just didn’t remember the experience.

          • nomofear

            That’s a sticky point, in my opinion. It’s not fun for the doctors and nurses, no, and surely felt wrong at some level to them – but as a patient, I’d choose it if it was the only option versus unmedicated. My grandmother had a friend who was a nurse on the ward during at least one of these births, and, probably for that reason (feeling like it was inhumane), she didn’t strap my grandmother down. Of course, my grandmother remembered nothing, but her friend told her that she was cracking them all up, running around like a nutter, climbing shelves in the linen closet, and generally having a grand old time of it. My first thought was oh gosh, what if you’d fallen and broken a leg when you were doing all that? At that point, being strapped down is far more humane! After all, even lifesaving open heart surgery would feel terribly inhumane if we didn’t have the ability to knock people out first.

          • Nick Sanders

            There was actually on article on Cracked a few days back about a guy who needed open heart surgery to remove cancer that had surrounded it, but it had made his pulse so weak that anesthesia would have killed him. Intensely scary stuff.

          • namaste863

            Isn’t that what the heart/lung bypass machine is supposed to do?

          • Nick Sanders
          • Medwife

            They weren’t strapping down women on scopolamine for giggles, I don’t think. Women would take off running down the halls. They endangered themselves. I have to say it would be VERY disturbing to me to wake up with a baby and no memory, but see strap marks on my arms and legs. No thanks.

          • nomofear

            Granted, informed consent may have been very different back then, but I think most women knew what they were in for. Sure, if you had no idea that’s what was going to happen, it’d be frightening, but, again, my grandma, for one, knew what was up and happily took it four times. She’s not one to mince words, either. If she didn’t like it, or if she’d felt violated, the world would know. Obviously many women objected to it – it seems that the modem NCB movement has its roots in a reaction to it, no? My mother says that she had us without drugs because she hated seeing other women in that condition – but I don’t think my mother thought past her experience of administering it as a L&D nurse to the fact that the women under the influence didn’t remember it when they woke up, and were, on the whole, probably happy to have avoided labor pain at whatever cost.

          • Sarah

            I’d have gladly chosen twilight sleep over my first, forcibly inadequately anaesthetised marathon of a delivery.

          • Fallow

            Ah, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. A relative sent me that book when I was pregnant. I literally threw it across the room when I read a section about something like… one bottle of formula will ruin a kid’s life, something like that. At the time, I planned to do EBF but I wasn’t naive. I knew formula was fine, and this book was obviously cruel, sanctimonious, garbage.

            Then my husband took it to the used book shop to try to get rid of it. The book shop clerk said sharply, “No, we have way too many copies of that, sorry.” I like to fantasize that everyone in town had the same reaction to that book that I did, and they filled the store with their discarded copies of it. That’s probably not what happened, but I like my fantasy.

          • Monkey professor for a head

            My sister sent it to me. If it wasn’t an Ebook it would have been thrown across the room, but I like my iPad too much for that.

          • demodocus’ spouse

            Get 3 more, put under the feet of your bed, and voila! More storage!

    • Inmara

      This is the default option in many hospitals here, so women can labor in the tub to better cope with pain, and any midwife or OB can catch a baby in this case – whereas “full” water birth is attended by fewer midwives who may not be available at the moment. Definitely plan to give this a try, if tub will be available (and write in my birth plan big, bold “No baby in water!”)

      • Gretta

        Yes! It was in a hospital (for real!) and under the care of some very competent CNMs…. And get this… It was a VBAC…. So anyhow, if someone is reading this and they think their only option is someone of dubious credentials or a place with no ability to provide emergency services…. think again. Look around. 🙂

  • Susan

    I think 28% should be changed to 21% ?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks! I fixed it.

  • Beth

    so she doesn’t want the chlorine to wash off or kill the special germs the baby needs. In other words, the problem with waterbirth now is that it’s **too clean.** That’s hilarious.
    And now we’re not supposed to wash off the vernix until it falls off on its own. I can’t wait for one of these people to say that we can’t wipe off any blood, meconium, or poop that happens to be adhering to the baby. And of course we should leave the placenta attached til it rots off on its own. Why not just roll the poor baby in feces and refuse to let anyone wash it til its two years old?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      But animals lick their newborns clean. Isn’t that what she should recommend?

      • LibrarianSarah

        Of course! It’s a humane, organic, all natural source of protein!

        • yugaya

          I’m sure someone out there has done that and has probably even made a blog about the benefits to the motherbaby bonding. Let me google it.

          • yugaya

            Yup, multiple hits like this one: http://daniellaberge.com/grooming/child1.htm

            “Post-natal lick-grooming

            A very special grooming is expected to occur right after birth.The mother is supposed to lick her baby clean.That’s what all primate moms do.The newborn’s skin is coated with «Vernix caseosa», a waxy white substance.It may serve for skin protection in the womb and its lubricating properties may help the baby’s exit. It has to be removed completely. As it is done now, the nurse, wearing rubber gloves, bathes the newborn lightly in lukewarm water or simply uses a face cloth. The job is incomplete and unnatural for the baby, possibly cruel.

            What better treatment would you want than having your mother’s soft, warm tongue greet you into this world? Making you nice and clean.It may take one or two days to complete the task. I’m convinced that Vernix caseosa is good tasting.”

          • JJ

            NOOOOOO! Why do people want to be animals? Licking the babies and eating the placentas?

          • yugaya

            Meh. This blog is full of mean mainstream science shills. I’m gonna read the very informative natural suggestions of Daniel Laberge ( notice the suggested *pecking* and his expert advice on microbiome) and wait until REAL experts like MODERN ALTERNATIVE MAMA and HEALTHY HOME ECONOMIST weigh in on the subject of licking off the vernix.

            I’ve “done my research”, but one book says it was never documented in human history, while another says our ancestors did it for thousands of years.

            Google can be so confusing these days. I like it how these two REAL EXPERTS solve such dilemmas for me with their blog posts!!!!!

            /exit sarcasm mode

          • DON’T EAT THE BIRTH CHEESE
            WHY DO WE HAVE TO TELL PEOPLE NOT TO EAT THE BIRTH CHEESE

          • just me

            Honestly it kind of grossed me out, on my OWN kids. Not gonna eat it…

          • Mishimoo

            Yeah, it’s pretty gross. I was so glad that mine all came out without it. (The CNMs actually commented on the lack of vernix – “You always make such clean, pretty babies.”)

          • Try giving birth a week or two earlier. The closer one is to term, the less vernix.

          • It is SO gross and most of the time, when something strikes us as being gross, IT’S TO PROTECT US FROM PUTTING IT IN OUR MOUTHS D:

          • Kq

            I just choked on my latte. LOLOL

          • Joy

            Not that it is good tasting, but that this person is convinced of it. Not quite the same thing.

          • Sue

            Do those primates who “lick their babies clean” also blog about it?

            it’s a bit like “Paleo” – they didn’t have the internet back then.

          • Squillo

            I’ve never tasted human vernix, but I’ve attempted mouth-to-snout resus on newborn puppies. Let’s just say birth juice won’t be on the menu at my house anytime soon.

          • An Actual Attorney

            That was a poe, right? Racial differences like Asian eyes are caused by lack of baby licking? Has to be a poe. Please tell me it’s a poe.

          • LibrarianSarah

            Either way, it’s racist as shit.

          • yugaya

            There are some rather creepy videos on that page that suggest the author is practicing what he preaches on himself. Luckily no baby grooming videos and he seems to be stuck for now with that part of his madness being just a theory.

          • Bugsy

            Not what I needed to read while facing a touch of morning sickness this morning!

      • Amy M

        Well, some animals also eat their babies, if they are overly stressed. That must be why some women want homebirths—they will be too stressed in the hospital and might eat the baby.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      Actually the placenta bit has already been posed as the best thing ever. Just google “lotus birth”. I strongly advise you to do not drink or eat anything at least two hours before that and of course not during reading it.

    • Sarah

      Funny, my 3 month old seems pretty up for that last suggestion of yours.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    So, does Pope want people to give birth in unprocessed water or just use that goop we put in the fish tank to remove the chlorine that really could hurt the goldfish.

    • Sue

      She should fill the birth tub with homeopathic magic water. It might cost a fortune, but there won;t be much in it!

  • prolifefeminist

    If I read one more frantic article ignoring the obvious while sounding panic over “The Gut!!!” I think my head might explode. I’m envisioning an apocalyptic event, with death and chaos and destruction raining down…and Sarah Pope appears among the wreckage, herding a tribe of babywearing mamas clutching their jars of kefir and amber teething necklaces…”Chug your kefir and follow me!” she yells, as she leads them in a large circle, oblivious to the safe shelter sitting a few yards away…”keep marching and drink your kefir for protection!” she screams, as another meteor slams into the ground right next to them. “Don’t look at it!! Only positive thoughts!!” she admonishes them. “Teething necklaces – get out your teething necklaces!! Swing them above your heads – their auras will protect you from falling space debris so you can keep drinking your kefir and keep yourselves and your babies safe!!”

    “Ignore the meteors and explosions – it’s the gut, people!! THINK ABOUT THE GUT!!!!”

    Ina May suddenly pops up out of the rubble…”Rub your buttons, mamas – RUB YOUR BUTTONS!”

    One mama stops, confused, and says “But I can’t rub my button, swing my teething necklace, AND drink my kefir all at the same time…it’s impossible! I only have two hands!”

    The tribe huddles around her to “encourage” her…”Your body isn’t a lemon! It was DESIGNED to rub, swing, and chug simultaneously! Use your feet!! That’s what primates do in nature!! You can dooooo ittttt mamaaaaa!!”

    (yes, I’m bored this afternoon…heh heh).

    Talk about missing the point…!

    And BTW…nothing against kefir – I make it and we drink it all the time…but our family is also fully vaccinated. 🙂

    • Fallow

      If you can draw, you need to make a comic out of this right now. I’m serious. I would frame this comic.

      • yugaya

        Or blog post with series of memes and gifs.

    • Megan

      Thanks for the giggle.

    • JJ

      LOL! I feel like I am going to have a panic attack every time Ina Mae and rub are in the same sentence.

      • attitude devant

        THAT made me really laugh out loud

    • Sue

      We already know that baby intestinal flora is a moving feast – so to speak – until a solid diet is established in toddlerhood. So, meh.

    • Kq

      This reminds me of a joke I heard in my stand up comedy class (aside – hardest class I’ve ever taken and I’m a college graduate). “Kombucha: an Chinese word meaning, “shit, I thought I threw that out.”

      • Bugsy

        If that’s the case, I’m pretty sure we have a darn lot of kombucha hiding in the back of our refrigerator!

    • Sue

      Beautiful, Prolife – loved it!

  • Amy M

    Yeah, I thought this was a riot, but simultaneously sad that there are people out there who will believe all that crap. Is she admitting then, that she never bathes/showers? Or does she only bathe with water from the nearby lake, all full of giardia? She’s certainly earning the dirty hippie label for that one.

    Also, the gut flora and the vaginal flora are not the same. If someone ingests probiotics, for example, if the flora that’s in that survives, wouldn’t it just stay in the gut? How would it get to the vagina? I can’t see how mom’s diet would affect vaginal flora, but maybe I’m just ignorant. If there is a way, someone please explain it to me.

    And sure the vernix isn’t a biofilm, but if the baby hangs out in the tub long enough, maybe a biofilm could grow on it (the baby).

    • Azuran

      Maybe they put the probiotics directly up their vagina?

      • Amy M

        Wouldn’t shock me.

      • Inmara

        That’s actually doctors recommendations for yeast infections – to put there some yogurt or kefir in order to get bacterial flora back into balance. But shouldn’t be everyday practice, of course.

        • Medwife

          Just for gods sake pick one with no added sugar!! You just know someone out there has tried it with vanilla Yoplait or something.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Heh. When I was in high school, I spent a couple of nights a week volunteering in the local ER. I have no doubt whatsoever that someone has. None. By the end of that two years, I was fairly convinced that if it could fit up there, or even if someone had just thought it might fit up there, it had gone up someone’s vagina at some point. Ditto someone’s rectum.

          • Nick Sanders

            Reminds me of this. Years’ worth of anecdotes from ER/A&E physicians and nurses about their patients.

            http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/things-i-learn-from-my-patients.257985/

            Far, far too many are of the “You shoved a what in your where?” category.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Oh my gosh! I used to read that a long, long time ago, and had totally forgotten about it. Yay for rediscovery! Thanks!

          • Cobalt

            Someone posted that here a long time ago. It’s grown since then, and is a fantastic way to spend a weekend.

          • Nick Sanders

            I’m spending some time rereading it. I had forgotten how loaded some of the posts are with racism and anti-poor sentiment.

          • Inmara

            OMG, how could they be so oblivious?

          • Medwife

            Oh to have your worldview! Lol

    • Medwife

      Probiotics meant to establish healthier vaginal flora get there by way of cross contamination between the vagina and rectum, if I’m understanding it correctly. Then there’s the old yoghurt up the hoo-ha remedy.

      • Charybdis

        What about the woman who made yogurt with her own vaginal flora?

        Seriously. Let me go find the link…

        • Charybdis

          Google Cecilia Westbrook, vaginal yogurt”. There.Are.No.Words.

          • Liz Leyden

            Vaginal Yogurt would be a great name for a band.

        • Azuran

          Wait…..is the yogurt for her or for the baby?

        • Nick Sanders
        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          No, no, please don’t, I’m good.

        • Bugsy

          No more of this!!! I don’t need anything exacerbating my morning sickness!!!

      • Inmara

        I once asked in SBM what are actual research regarding probiotics intake for treating yeast infections. Turned out that there is significant enough improvement, but the actual process was still confusing for me – thanks for clarification about cross contamination, that really makes sense! Though, then it seems that direct application would be more effective.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          When I got yeast infections post-C-section (vaginal, in my breasts, around the incision…all sorts of fun), my OB suggested a) using the prescription creams/suppositories he was writing for me and b) taking a strong probiotic for a while to get things sorted again. He’s not at all into the woo, and I will say, FWIW, that that was my first and last yeast infection.

          • Inmara

            I didn’t mention that per doctors orders prescription creams are the first and most important to be taken; probiotics (either oral intake or application on infected areas) are supplementary measures (so, if a doctor would recommend to stuff my lady parts with yogurt but not prescribe anything else, I would run to a better doctor ASAP!)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Hear, hear!

          • Nick Sanders

            In your breasts?

            Meep.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            It was high on my list of “things that turned me off nursing.” That, and the attitude of the local lactivists that the sensation of having broken glass being pulled through your milk ducts wasn’t really that bad. *stabby stabby*

          • Nick Sanders

            I had one yeast infection once, and it was external. I don’t want to imagine an internal one.

          • Medwife

            Well that sounds like a special kind of hell. There’s enough evidence backing up probiotics for vaginal health that I recommend it for people with recurrent yeast or bv, but it’s not a short term solution. It takes about 6 weeks to shift the flora. In the meantime you definitely have to nuke the existing infection.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            It was *delightful.* And you bet I used every drop of that cream and every last suppository, thank you very much, in addition to those probiotics. 😉

      • Nick Sanders
  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Oops, I accidentally published this before it was finished; I guess that’s what happens if you try to write on an iPhone in a taxi. It’s now complete.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      You wrote this on an iphone in a taxi. That’s it. No more denying that you have superpowers. I have yet to be able to manage correct grammar on a phone, much less writing an article.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        There’s so much material here that the post practically wrote itself!

        • Monkey Professor for a head

          One small correction – the oxygen content in air is 21%, not 28%

        • Kesiana

          The article is still impressive given how/where you typed it; autocorrect is NOT a good co-author! XD

      • Squillo

        All that surgical training must have been good for Amy’s dexterity. Whenever I try to type on my phone, it comes out as “Xkhhhjo8iryn.”

  • momofone

    So we should worry about the exposure to chlorine in the birthing pool water, but it’s fine for the baby to be born into water contaminated with fecal matter? They’ll be fine–they’ll be COVERED in gut flora!

    • KarenJJ

      But fecal matter is natural and chlorine is a chemical…

      • *whimper* And salt isn’t natural because it has chlorine in it which is clearly an artificial chemical. Oh my poor brain. I know you’re being sarcastic but I can definitely see someone making that argument.

  • A

    Hey, if this leads to less waterbirths…

    You know, maybe “natural immunity” wouldn’t be such a big deal to you if you vaccinated your kids.

    I’ll never understand why having your gut flora changed is the end of the world to them, either.

  • demodocus

    If even a sip of beer gets you roundly criticized, how do they think other fermented foods are beneficial?

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I was wondering that myself. Alcohol is alcohol whether eaten or drunk. Maybe you cook it to let the alcohol evaporate?

      • Nick Sanders

        Alcohol isn’t the only possible product of fermentation. Generally, food fermentation results in lactic acid.

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    *sigh* I’ve met people who think just like this. One particularly stellar example is a couple I know slightly. They have a *lot* of kids (nothing wrong with that, just adding context), dad is intermittently employed, and the mom is obsessed with filtering Teh Evil Toxins from their water with whole-house filters, removing the omnipresent toxic mold spores (tested by someone who knows how to test? Certainly not! Two of the kids had runny noses, so OBVIOUSLY, mold overgrowth!) from their house by diffusing essential oils, and by avoiding anything that isn’t organic or that contains gluten or GMOs like the plague because They’re Bad For You. In her spare time, she rants about the evils of anything but homebirth and sells these filters and oils (Young Living, natch), while homeschooling lest the kids come in contact with–horror!!!–people who aren’t exactly like them. Naturally, they’re antivaxxers, too.

    • Kelly

      How do these people have time for all of this crap? It is too much.

    • Mattie

      we filter our tap water, but only because the water in our area is really hard and it kills kitchen appliances with limescale and also makes a gross ‘film’ on top of tea…but if I’m drinking water I’ll get it from the tap, it’s colder and tastes better, people are so weird about certain things *eyeroll*

      • just me

        Technically you’re softening it, not filtering…(former water treatment chemist)

        • Nick Sanders

          Water is plenty soft already! Why, they even make beds out of it!

          • Sue

            Boom boom!

        • Mattie

          oh…we use a filter jug figured it filtered 🙂

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I’d totally understand water filtering for taste or the kind of things you describe. My water here gets really foul-tasting in the summer; I’m not sure why, but it does. Ergo, water filter. It’s when you hit the point of “you not only have to filter your water, but use a whole house filter because FLUORIDE IS A CHEMICAL WEAPON!!!! EEEEEK!!!! that my eyes start aching from rolling them so hard.”

        • Ours does too. It’s from a limestone aquifer and apparently ‘turns over’ in the summer, which makes it taste foul. So we get water through our fridge which filters it for us. There’s nothing wrong with filtering or softening water, just in being paranoid about stuff.