Most popular pieces of the year

2016 review banner in wood type

This is the 201st piece I’ve posted in 2016, but I’ve been privileged to be able to write for othe publications as well.

These are my ten most popular pieces of the year:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The Skeptical OB blog and Facebook page reached more then 7 million people in 2016![/pullquote]

1. Closing Newborn Nurseries Isn’t Good for Babies or Moms on TIME.com. 68,090 shares

I’m deeply disappointed to learn that the hospitals in my state, Massachusetts, are closing their newborn nurseries. It’s a submission to the entreaties of breastfeeding activists (lactivists), and doesn’t accomplish its stated aim. Most importantly, it’s unsafe…

2. Why is American Home Birth So Dangerous? in The New York Times Sunday Review. 29,825 shares

IS home birth safe? That depends on where you ask the question…

But there are places in the world where home birth is relatively safe, like the Netherlands, where it is popular at 16 percent of births. And in Canada, where it appears safest of all, several studies have demonstrated that in carefully selected populations, there is no difference between the number of babies who die at home or in the hospital.

In contrast, home birth in the United States is dangerous. The best data on the practice comes from Oregon, which in 2012 started requiring that birth and death certificates include information on where the birth occurred and who attended it. The state’s figures show that that year, the death rate for babies in planned home births with a midwife was about seven times that of births at a hospital…

3. Dunning Kruger nation and the disaparagment of expertise. 18,399 shares

We live in Dunning Kruger nation.

What do I mean?

A variety of very loud “confident idiots” — anti-vaxxers, homebirth advocates, climate change deniers — actually think they know more than the experts in the respective fields…

4. How the natural childbirth industry sets mothers up for guilt and shame 11,385 shares

…[F]or today’s new mothers, the expectations for childbirth and breast-feeding are higher than ever. Women are supposed to have the most authentic possible experience: They should reject pain relief; eliminate C-sections; embrace midwives, doulas and childbirth educators; and even defy standard obstetric recommendations when they conflict with those goals.

Two powerful forces have arisen to push this dogma. First, the crunchy natural-birth subculture has slowly morphed into an industry, mainly catering to the most privileged women in society. Second, a cabal of natural-birth activists — online, on the air and even inside hospitals — has formed to shame pregnant women who eschew the right-thinking path. For these forces, childbirth has become less about having a baby and more about having an experience. And those who don’t have “the perfect birth” can’t possibly be good mothers.

5. What if we’re doing breastfeeding all wrong?. 8526 shares

It is an article of faith among them that formula supplementation interferes with breastfeeding, dooms exclusive breastfeeding and causes dangerous alterations to infant gut flora. What if they’re flat out wrong? And what if babies are being injured and even die because we aren’t recapitulating nature? …

6. The ultimate appeal of anti-vaccine advocacy: it flatters the ignorant. 8152 shares

One of the most attractive aspects of anti-vaccine advocacy, indeed of all alternative health, is that no particular knowledge is necessary to declare yourself an expert.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t have even the most basic knowledge of science and statistics. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have any understanding at all of the complex fields of immunology or virology. Your personal experiences count for more than the collective wisdom of doctors, scientists and public health officials. Hence Jenny McCarthy, a B movie actress with no training of any kind in science is touted by herself and others as an “expert” on vaccines. Hence Modern Alternative Mother Kate Tietje and similarly undereducated mommy bloggers parade themselves as “experts” on vaccination…

7. Seeing toxins everywhere is just another form of privilege. 7616 shares

It is axiomatic among quacktivists — anti-vaccine activists, organic food devotees, natural parenting advocates — that our world is filled with toxins.

But toxicophobia, fear of toxins, is really just another form of privilege. Only those in wealthy, industrialized societies who have access to copious food and clean water, and are protected from epidemics of infectious disease have the leisure time and financial resources to indulge in internet fantasies of being poisoned by toxins…

8. The theology of quackery; how pseudoscience has become a secular religion. 7606 shares

…It seems to me that for a large proportion of people, particularly people on the political Left, pseudoscience has become a secular religion, complete with creation myth, demons and ultimate salvation.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of pseudoscience on the political Right, too. But often that is motivated by adherence to standard religious philosophy, the idea that the Bible is the world of God and that anything that contradicts it cannot be allowed to be true. On the Left, where many abjure religion, quackery has become the new religion…

9. Why do anti-vaxxers think “nature intended” for them to survive? 5470 shares

…In reality nature doesn’t “intend” anything. Nature doesn’t “intend” the sun to shine; it shines because nuclear fusion is occurring inside it. Nature doesn’t “intend” the tides to rise and fall; it happens because of the moon’s gravity acting on the oceans. Nature doesn’t intend for people to survive or succumb to infectious diseases; it happens because bacteria and viruses attack people in order to feed and reproduce themselves.

Nature no more “intends” for people to survive infectious diseases than it “intends” for people to survive having a limb bitten off by a tiger. True, your survival might be aided by blood clotting factors that staunch the bleeding and antibodies that combat infection, but it’s equally likely that you’ll die in spite of your body’s defenses against traumatic injury and hemorrhage…

10. Vaccination is far more baby friendly than breastfeeding. 4344 shares

There’s a simple thing that every mother can do to keep her baby as healthy as possible. That’s why we should have a ten step hospital based program to support it.

No, it’s not breastfeeding; it’s vaccination, which saves a thousand times more lives in practice than breastfeeding ever could in theory.

This post also generated the most comments of the year, 2711 and counting.

My most popular meme of the year was this:

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It reached 733,100 people on Facebook.

Overall the blog plus The Skeptical OB Facebook page reached more than 7 million people in 2016!

Of course, the most important thing I wrote this year was my book PUSH BACK: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, published in hardcover, kindle and audio editions. The paperback version will be out on January 10, 2017.

It was a very good year!

  • Sean Jungian

    Great year, Dr. Amy! Keep up the great work!

  • May you go from strength to strength, Dr. Amy!

  • Madtowngirl

    Also OT: Anyone here have experience with recurrent miscarriage and subsequent blood panels? I’ve just finished up my third miscarriage and I’m getting a great deal of woo advice, which is driving me nuts.

    • Anion

      I don’t have experience, per se, but–if it helps–a friend of mine had three (or four?) miscarriages, but went on to deliver three beautiful, healthy boys (pre-eclampsia with the second, if memory serves, but still a successful c-section delivery of a healthy baby).

      I’m very sorry you’re dealing with this, and have my fingers crossed for you in future.

    • I would find a reputable fertility specialist or clinic and get expert advice. The causes of recurring miscarriage can be simple, or extremely complex, but only a specialist can determine exactly what is going on and what sort of treatment is appropriate. Don’t listen to the woo.

      • Madtowngirl

        Thank you. Luckily I have a relationship with a fertility clinic already, since my daughter was conceived via IUI. I’ll likely head there after I get the blood panel, because of insurance.

    • Mishimoo

      I don’t have any advice except to ignore the woo, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      hugs That sucks. My youngest aunt had several before her daughter. My father’s adoptive parents also lost several.

  • Mel

    OT: Spawn’s getting his first vaccine today!

    He’s over a month old now so he’s up for the first shot in the HepB series.

    I needed the emotional boost from that news today. Spawn had a rough few days just before Christmas; the ventilator wasn’t working very well and the neonatologists thought that Spawn had un-expanded areas in his lungs that might need a few days on a high-frequency oscillating ventilator to open them up. I was ok with that, but they needed to try a bunch of different settings on the traditional ventilator….and Spawn was visibly miserable which was making me miserable.

    Well, in true preemie and Spawn of Mel form, he really liked the last setting change when they switched from constant volume to constant pressure. He was a much happier baby; he was back to his usual antics of trying to remove his ET tube and manged to remove his OG tube on Christmas Eve.

    On Monday, the neonatologist told me that his vent leak had gotten bad enough they wanted to try him off the vent to see if he’s ready for NIPPV. The neonatal nurse practitioner called to let me know they were going to try it today if he keeps doing well on lower base respiratory rate settings. Spawn’s never done well on NIPPV; I hope he’s ready this time, but watching his stomach swell up while he gets visibly uncomfortable as his % O2 goes from 30-40 to 80-100 absolutely sucks so I’m a nervous wreck right now.

    • niteseer

      Thank you for the updates that you give us on how Spawn is doing, and how you are doing as well. I hope he can work out an amicable deal with the ventilator, or the NIPPV, and get most of his attention focused on the important work of growing up and going home.

    • cookiebaker

      Hoping it goes well! It’s so hard to sit by when the baby is uncomfortable.

    • guest

      Fingers crossed things improve. It is the worst feeling seeing your baby unhappy/hurt/miserable, when you know it’s what they need but they can’t understand it. Big hugs to you and Spawn.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      Big big hug. They will try and in case he is not ready they will try again. I know it is hard. My son had moderate bronchial dysplasia. He needed oxygen when he came home for about a month. After that we have had no breathing problems AT ALL. We were terrified with his first cold and nothing bad happened. We were worried with his second cold and again nothing happened. We are now on cold number two hundred, he started daycare this year and still nothing has happened. I know every child is different but those little preemies are usually very healthy children that needed to be out earlier. His lungs will develop and he will breath normally.

      Once they were changing my son’s vent settings and O2 sats were all over the place. My husband was getting really upset. I am used to those situations at work and I trusted his doctors completely, so I was still quite calm. I took my husband’s hand, took him outside the NICU and we went for a coffee. When we got back he was perfectly fine and his sats were great.

      • Mel

        I like Spawn’s doctors a lot. They clearly take their jobs very seriously and are amazingly good at what they do.

        While I dislike watching Spawn on the NIPPV, the doctors have seen and cared for thousands of preemies while I’m on my very first preemie so I trust their instincts on treatment.

        His docs thought he was having lung problems before the last set of changes to the vent. After the settings got settled, his neonatologist said that she thinks that problem was actually with the machine, not the baby. Time will tell either way and we’ll figure out the next step as it goes.

        I keep reminding myself that my twin and I were in much, much worse shape at the same age and we did absolutely fine.

        My sister was such a train wreck of a preemie that when she came to visit Spawn, many of the nurses wanted to meet her simply to see that a baby who had severe jaundice on the verge of needing a total blood transfusion for three weeks and spent another eight weeks on the verge of needing a shunt grew up into the first female college graduate on my mom’s side of the family and the first person on that side of the family to get a Master’s degree.

        By comparison, Spawn’s a very boring preemie…. 🙂

        • Montserrat Blanco

          Boring preemies are GREAT preemies! I declare myself a Spawn fan.

          • Who?

            One of my rules for life-I don’t have many, but the ones I have serve me well-is to always seek to be the boring patient, medically speaking. This can involve finding the correct specialist, for whom my issue is their everyday bread and butter, or more often, believing my gp’s advice that whatever is going on is In Hand.

            May Spawn remain boring.

    • Who?

      Sounds like he is in good hands, and I hope you have some good hands to care for you as well.

    • maidmarian555

      Not having been the mummy of a preemie, I don’t really understand the specifics of all the things you are speaking of. My nephew (who was a teeny tiny 27wk old twin when he was born) was on oxygen for some weeks after his birth. He’s now a strapping boy. Well over a year since his (frankly quite scary) birth. Different situ and different country but you’d never know what a scary start he and his sister were having last year. I have my fingers and toes crossed for both of you. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

    • Elizabeth A

      The best thing about the NICU is the part where you leave with your baby. He sounds like a fighter. I totally understand being a wreck – hang in there!! Does your NICU have social work resources?

      • Mel

        They have phenomenal social workers including our worker.

        I have seen a psychologist since I was in my early twenties for depression and anxiety and she’s been an awesome resource along with the members of my group. She stayed in frequent contact with me during my hospital stay after Spawn was born and my first priority for me once I was released from the hospital was figuring out what I needed to get to and from my individual and group appointments.

        I do feel like a wreck sometimes right now – but she assures me that feeling like a wreck is a very normal and healthy reaction to having a sudden severe illness leading to a premature baby. My group includes women who have had kids and they shared that a lot of my feelings are pretty normal for having a term baby and not to be surprised that the feelings are stronger when the baby is even smaller and more helpless than a term kiddo.

        The trick is not letting feeling like a wreck cause me to make choices that will end in a wreck. I felt awful today – so I went for a walk, ate healthy lunch and dinner, blew off some steam with a friend on the phone and took a nap.

        Then I started working on my most recent Spawn costume. I made him an elf hat for Christmas. Now, in honor of his fourth blood transfusion, I’m making a very tiny vampire cape. After that….something dinosaur themed, I think….. 🙂

        • My granddaughter’s first Purim costume was a red onesie with a red felt hat with what looked like green leaves, and she was a Red Hot Chilli Pepper.

          Hang in there.

    • sdsures

      Fingers and toes crossed for Spawn!

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Preemie and NICU grad fist bumps.
      i tease my asthmatic best friend that breathing is fun and she should try it sometime. Then she smacks me

  • Cartman36

    Congrats Dr. Amy! Love your work!