Hannah Dahlen and Sheena Byrom think dead babies are “fake news”


Scores of babies died preventable deaths, nearly £2bn was paid out in compensation in the past year alone, and multiple investigations have put the blame squarely on the midwives’ “Campaign for Normal Birth.”

How have midwives responded?

Australian midwife Hannah Dahlen made this repugnant claim:


For all those UK midwives feeling hammered this week by Fake News remember “thinking is difficult which is why most people judge” #ENOUGH!

Not to be outdone, the utterly reprehensible Sheena Byrom piled on with this:

I see more ‘fake-news’ coming through this am about women’s bodies and birth …

Byrom included an image blaring, “yellow journalism.”

I’ve often remarked on the fact that no sooner do I write a post then its targets rush to prove my point for me. Such is the case with my recent post What the UK midwifery leadership has in common with Donald Trump: they’re bullies.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I’d ask Dahlen and Byrom if they have any shame, but what’s the point? Anyone who dismisses dead babies as “fake-news” is beyond reasoned argument.[/pullquote]

I wrote that UK Midwives, forced to shutter their Campaign for Normal Birth, were copying our execrable president in the following ways:

  • Although they purport to care about the people they are supposed to serve, they care only about themselves.
  • They smash things up, refuse to accept responsibility, then blame everyone else for their own failings.
  • They exist in a bubble, surrounded by sycophants, banning anyone who disagrees.
  • They are bullies.

In the wake of multiple preventable infant and maternal deaths, multiple investigations ascribing them to midwives’ insistence on privileging the process of birth (“normal” birth) above the outcome (healthy babies and mothers), and skyrocketing liability claims and payouts approaching £2bn in the past year, UK midwives have demonstrated no interest in those preventable deaths, refuse to accept responsilbity, hide away on Twitter where they endlessly praise themselves, and continue to bully anyone who disagrees.

Now they are copying Trump in his insistence that any news that doesn’t make him look good is “fake news.” It’s an ugly look for him and its an even uglier look for midwives who are ethically responsible for the health and safety of the babies who died.

Dahlen and Byrom are poster children for the moral depravity and self-dealing at the heart of contemporary midwifery. I know they read what I write so I have a message for them and their colleagues:

Dead babies aren’t fake news! Desolate parents aren’t fake news. £2bn paid in compensation is not fake news. It is all tragically real and I don’t have enough epithets to fully convey my moral outrage at midwives who wish to bury dead babies twice, first by letting them die on the altar of “normal” birth and then by trying to erase the fact that they ever existed, are still loved and will forever be mourned.

It’s difficult to imagine how midwives could adopt such a tone-deaf tactic … until you consider what the Campaign for Normal Birth was really about. It was never about what was good for babies and mothers, and alays about what was good for midwives: higher employment, greater professional autonomy and the increased freedom to promote their ideology. If you observe these midwives on social media, you will see them engage in an endless round of mutual congratulations over their “success” in promoting normal birth. The dead babies are an irritating impediment to this continued “success,” so they must be dismissed as “fake.”

Social media has allowed midwives to so insulate themselves from reality that they don’t seem to have noticed that no one is supporting them besides themselves. The public has met the shuttering of the Campaign for Normal Birth with relief, writing comments and Letters to the Editor about women who felt ignored and abused in midwives’ care. The families of the babies and mothers who died preventable deaths have been eloquent in their grief. How dare Dahlen and Byrom dismiss their babies’ deaths as fake news?

Anyone with two functioning neurons knows exactly what Donald Trump means when he bleats, “Fake news!” He doesn’t mean that it is literally untrue, just that he intends to ignore it and wants his supporters to ignore it, too.

The same thing applies to midwives. They don’t mean that the dead babies are literally fake — those babies are real and really dead — just that they intend to ignore dead babies and want their supporter to ignore them, too.

It also explains why midwives have not (to my knowledge) undertaken root cause analysis of these deaths. It doesn’t matter to them why these babies and mothers died. It only matters that they are allowed to maintain autonomy and commitment to ideology.

I’d ask Dahlen and Byrom if they have any shame, but what’s the point? It’s painfully obvious that they don’t give a damn about the babies and mothers who die at the hands of midwives and care only about themselves.

Anyone who dismisses dead babies as “fake-news” is beyond reasoned argument.

60 Responses to “Hannah Dahlen and Sheena Byrom think dead babies are “fake news””

  1. RudyTooty
    August 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    The current issue of the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health has it’s own take on ‘fake news’

    Media Representations of Breech Birth: A Prospective Analysis of Web-Based News Reports


    “The role of clinicians is crucial in providing balanced and nonjudgmental information that is essential for women to be able to make informed decisions about their options for breech birth.”

    This is in response to the media’s ‘largely negative view of vaginal breech birth.’

    No, they aren’t saying “FAKE NEWS” but they are, in effect, saying this.


    • August 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

      Balanced and nonjudgmental- well, that’s easy. Breech birth is dangerous. It is far safer for both mother and baby if there is a C-section for a breech baby. Done!

      Of course, that assumes we’re all in a rational headspace and have rejected nonrational ways of knowing …

  2. MWGuest
    August 18, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    Off topic, but related.
    A CPM friend/acquaintance just shared this:


    Short version:
    “My baby died of an infection due to poor prelabor management, poor labor management and poor immediate newborn management by my midwife, but there was nothing we could do about it.”

    • Heidi_storage
      August 18, 2017 at 9:05 am #


    • MI Dawn
      August 18, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Oh. My. Dog. “…there was nothing we could do about it.” Sure there was, Bunko. You could have not gone to a midwife who didn’t know when she was over her head. You could have gone to the hospital when you were in labor. And you certainly could stop being a member of the Unthinking Moms site.

      Oh…just read the post. It’s by the “Professor”. She’s never wrong, no matter what she posts. It’s always someone else’s fault. Some of her antivax stuff has been royally torn apart by Orac at Respectful Insolence.

      • mabelcruet
        August 18, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

        Off topic, but I totally fell in love with Orac when I realised he was a Blake’s 7 fan ( best sci-fi ever!)

      • RudyTooty
        August 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

        I’m not too familiar with THinking Moms – I’ve seen enough to know that it’s rather devoid of thinking.

      • shay simmons
        August 19, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

        He refers to them as “Drinking Moms.”

        • MI Dawn
          August 20, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

          Don’t worry about it. Sometimes the “Reply” puts things in weird places. Yeah, and his reason for calling them Drinking moms is totally legit, as you know.

    • Azuran
      August 18, 2017 at 11:49 am #

      Where’s her dream warning her of the risks? How about those two hours she spent worried sick on her towel after her water broke? Or that week she spent full of anxiety waiting for her labour to start? Or that first time he stopped breathing and they cancelled their 911 call because he started breathing again…

    • swbarnes2
      August 18, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

      So the parents claim that the doctor said the baby was so sick, he was beyond saving…and neither the midwife nor the LC who saw the baby could tell?

    • Melaniexxxx
      August 19, 2017 at 6:25 am #

      this is just… delusional :O

    • Gæst
      August 22, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

      “Where was my dream? Why didn’t Zane tell me what to do to keep him safe?”

      O.M.F.G. SERIOUSLY? Whining about not getting a prophetic dream? The reason we rely on science is because THAT IS SOME BULLSHIT RIGHT THERE.

      • Roadstergal
        August 22, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

        I had a dream last night that I was trying to catch a plane, but the airport was all weird and mazy and there were giant gumballs and I came across my advisor from UW and he was dressed like Mon Mothma and I wanted to talk but he had to catch his flight, and I realized I was going to miss my flight, but when I was running I tripped and fell and woke up.

        What medical advice should I be taking from it?

        • Gæst
          August 22, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

          Better get that bunion checked out.

        • Dr Kitty
          August 22, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

          No cheese before bed and turn your bedroom thermostat down by 5C.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD
        August 22, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

        I wrote about that piece when it was first published:


      • Who?
        August 22, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

        That is some serious victim blaming, no question.

  3. mabelcruet
    August 17, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

    I was talking to an obstetrician today about this. As a pathologist, my medical defence union fees are quite low because we don’t get sued as much as clinicians (I pay about £1200 per annum)-I know for obstetricians it’s very much higher. If there is a bad outcome and parents litigate, compensation claims could run in millions. I’ve never quite understood where the compensation comes from-can the NHS litigation authority claim this money back from the doctors medical protection society? Is it like car insurance when you claim the compensation from the other party, which would mean the NHS wasn’t having to pay out all of it.

    Do midwives have similar insurance policies, or do they rely solely on ‘crown indemnity’? Does that mean that if a midwife led delivery goes badly wrong, then the entire amount comes from NHS litigation body and nothing from her protection society (if they exist for midwives-i know that a lot of home birth midwives aren’t insured because the premiums are huge, given its a bit risky). If that’s so, I can see why Jeremy is getting twitchy, he’s going to be paying out for years.

    • Dr Kitty
      August 18, 2017 at 6:08 am #

      AFAK crown indemnity will cover med mal, but you’re personally liable for costs of e.g. referral to GMC.

      So, GPs who work in Trusts which offer to pay Crown Indemnity for OOH work will usually still take personal Indemnity cover for their OOH work (but at discounted rates).

      I don’t have Crown Indemnity for my OOH work, and I’m currently paying more than £6k/ year for five clinical sessions a week and up to 100hr OOH. Which is not cheap.

      I’m covered for deliveries only in emergencies- in the waiting room or by the side of the road. If I wanted to attend homebirths it would quadruple my Indemnity.

      I think who pays what will depend on whether it is a systemic or organisational failure within the Trust, a team failure or a single instance of individual negligence or malpractice.

      We have Indemnity for our practice nurses through MPS, so I imagine they would also cover independent midwives. Don’t ask me about Trust employed ones!

      My feeling about Hunt is that he is very much motivated by profit and has little to no understanding of, or interest in, clinical care.

      • mabelcruet
        August 18, 2017 at 11:39 am #

        Thanks-its such a complicated system. It’s a lot cheaper in pathology. Then again, if I started doing expert witness work then the fees would go up hugely-I’m allowed to earn up to £6000 as an expert witness, but any more than this and my medical protection fee jumps from £1200 to over £10 000 per year. But on the whole, I think GP and obstetrics must be the two most expensive areas for medical indemnity fees.

        The other thing that I sometimes think complicates nursing and midwifery issues is the role of the RCN and RCM.

        I think the medical side of things is more straight forward than nursing-the medical trade unions (BMA, HSCA etc) are separate and distinct from the professional governing body GMC, but for nursing and midwifery, the RCN and RCM combine trade union work with setting professional standards, and I can’t see how this isn’t a conflict of interest. In Barrow in Furness, the coroner raised the concerns about the hospital supervisor of midwives also being the local RCM trade union rep, so she had conflicting roles, representing those midwives who hadn’t been working to professional standards.

        • Dr Kitty
          August 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

          RCN do NOT inspire confidence, but I don’t know if any Dr who doesn’t live in fear of the GMC’s wrath.

        • Caylynn Donne
          August 18, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

          As a dietitian, my “trade union” equivalent is separate from my professional body. I’m licensed on the provincial level, but my “trade union” (i.e. Promoting the profession, advocating for dietitians, advocating for increased access to dietitians, researching dietetics, etc.) is on the national level. The national organization is there to help dietitians. The provincial body, that grants me my license, is there to protect the public. It’s hard to imagine having one body doing both – promoting the practitioner while also protecting the public!

      • Mattie
        August 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

        Currently independent midwives are not able to be insured and as such can’t provide intrapartum care, at least in England. They can and do still provide pre and post-natal care, and can act as advocates in hospitals. They did succeed in getting insurance, but the NMC decided it wasn’t good enough. That’s pretty recent I think and still applies AFAIK.

  4. FormerPhysicist
    August 17, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    Excuse the completely off-topic but I have to share:
    Took kids to the dentist today. Dentist says 8-year daughter is a good patient.
    8yo responds “Except for when I need a shot”
    I chime in “Do you know what’s worse than shots?”
    She whips back “The disease you’re preventing with the shot!”
    Ah, so proud of my little vaccine enthusiast.
    I was going to say “Blood draws” but her answer was much much better.

    • AnnaPDE
      August 17, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

      Blood draws are great. You just pass out when you see the first drop and here’s your free GA. I did that from when I first watched my mum get blood taken when she was pregnant with little sis. It does get embarrassing above a certain age though.
      ETA: And now my stomach is feeling weird just thinking about it.

      • Steph858
        August 18, 2017 at 11:41 am #

        My (then 2.5 y/o) son needed to have a blood test. His GP was supposed to prescribe an anaesthetic cream to apply half an hour before his blood was drawn, but forgot. Or maybe I was supposed to ask for it but didn’t realise. Either way, I found out on the morning of his blood test when the hospital called to check we were still able to attend. They asked if I’d be applying the cream beforehand or if I wanted to come early so they could apply it for me.

        “What cream?” I said. By then it was too late to get the prescription, so they agreed to try take his blood without the anaesthetic but seemed concerned they might not be able to if he wriggled too much from the pain.

        Luckily, not long before this I’d taken my son with me when I went to donate blood. I hoped this might make him less frightened to ‘give blood’ himself.

        I was right! He didn’t wriggle or cry at all. Tell a lie, he did cry … when it was time to go and he had to give back the toys they gave him to play with to distract him from the needle going in his arm.

      • Roadstergal
        August 18, 2017 at 11:54 am #

        My mom gifted me with big bulging purple veins, and I have no reaction to blood. Phlebotomists love me. :p But I’m on the no-go list for blood donation for two reasons.

        • MaineJen
          August 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

          I’m a bit of a tougher stick, but blood draws don’t bother me, luckily! Phlebotomists are always apologizing when they have to poke around for a vein, but I’m like “Nope! Do what you have to do.”

  5. mabelcruet
    August 17, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    She’s now demanding an apology from Jeremy Hunt for claiming ending the normal birth campaign will help achieve targets in reducing neonatal deaths. Like that’s going to happen…just like the way she apologised for bullying and harassing loss parents.

    • Sarah
      August 17, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

      To no response, of course. Maybe he’s not a completely useless sack of shit after all.

      • mabelcruet
        August 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

        Oh no, he’s a completely useless sack alright, but he’s got no interest and would take absolutely no notice of the silly woman bleating and whinging. He’ll have moved onto the next item on the agenda already.

        • Sarah
          August 18, 2017 at 5:48 am #

          Even stopped clocks etc. Still, credit where it’s due. He’s doing one thing right.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 17, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

      I never thought much of these midwives to begin with, but their defensiveness and total self-absorption is mind boggling!

  6. Sheven
    August 17, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

    It’s funny but I can understand why they’re having this response, aside for the economic reasons. It must be incredibly painful to have this vision of yourself as someone who is saving mothers and babies from a cruel, stupid, and indifferent system only to realize that you’re actually endangering them due to your own misconceptions and willful blindness. People go into extreme denial over much less.

  7. Heidi
    August 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh, wow, Dr. Tuteur had already compared them to Trump and here they just strengthen her case with the “fake news” card.

  8. Madtowngirl
    August 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    You know, when a rational, reasonable person makes a mistake, the response is typically, “hmm, how can I prevent this from happening again.” When the mistake is traumatic, resulting in the loss of human life, the response is typically “we must make sure this never happens again.”

    It’s disturbing that these midwives’ (as well as others’) response is “oh that’s just fake news.”

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      August 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

      I wish my response to most mistakes was that phlegmatic. sigh. Well, that’s why I go to a therapist.

  9. Squillo
    August 17, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    I agree with Dahlen on one thing: #ENOUGH. #ENOUGH dead babies and bereaved parents. #ENOUGH abdication of responsibility from UK midwifery leadership. Don’t tell us how it’s not your fault that your own members misunderstood your campaign for “normal birth” and killed a bunch of babies; tell us what you’re doing to improve care.

  10. CSN0116
    August 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    How does the carnage caused by a push for “normal birth” affect the WHO’s “there should only be X% of C-sections” claim? Here is a natural environment where intentionally foregoing cesareans was experimented upon (in a privileged, developed nation with universal access to prenatal care), and it didn’t end well. Can there be any radiating effects from the conclusions that are coming out of the UK?

    • Sarah
      August 17, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

      They did withdraw that claim several years ago, although you could be forgiven for not noticing since they did it as quietly as possible and lots of people still dredge it up. 2009 or 2010 I think it was.

      • CSN0116
        August 17, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

        Ha. I did not notice. And NCB still spouts it as fact, so I was misled. Thank you.

        • Sarah
          August 18, 2017 at 5:47 am #

          You wouldn’t be the first or the last. There’ve been a couple of NCB shills on here literally citing WHO documents stating they don’t have a recommended section rate as proof that they do. It’s that widely believed.

    • RudyTooty
      August 18, 2017 at 9:37 am #

      Had a conversation just last night about the C/S rate on our OB unit.
      It’s gone up (it’s a relatively small unit, so a few additional cesareans can change the c/s rate dramatically month to month) – and some nurses were fretting about the “c/s rate” – I went through each case where a cesarean was performed and asked which one shouldn’t have been done in order to keep the C/S rate down.

      All of these recent cesarean births had clear medical/obstetrical indications and no one is even questioning whether they should have been performed or not.

      When I brought the discussion back to ‘but everyone who had a cesarean needed a cesarean for safety reasons’ the focus shifted away from the ideology surrounding an appropriate c-section rate.

      • Dr Kitty
        August 18, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

        Good woman.

        A while ago some Health Board gonk here thought that since GP referrals to secondary care were increasing, we should be encouraged to review all of our routine referrals to see how we could manage them differently.

        What it lead to was all of the GPs on the practice going “nope- GPs can’t order that test, or prescribe that medication, or make that diagnosis- perfectly reasonable referral- gosh aren’t our patients getting older and sicker and more complicated”.

  11. StephanieJR
    August 17, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    I don’t think shitty Facebook memes help their position, really.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      August 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

      Much less shitty Facebook memes that originate with Donald Trump.

    • Mac Sherbert
      August 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

      I guess if the facts are against you all you have is a FB meme.

  12. swbarnes2
    August 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    OT: Is is true that all AAP policies expire after 5 years? Because as far as I can tell, the last AAP recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months was published March 2012.


    So does that make it officially accurate to say that holding off solid food for 6 months is not the AAP recommendation?

    • Squillo
      August 17, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

      Speaking as someone who used to be responsible for shepherding policy statements through a medical association, I’m guessing they’re in the process of revision. In our org, it took one or more committee meetings to draft the policy/revision, a full board meeting or vote to ratify it, and however long it took the org’s journal to take it through the publication process. I wouldn’t consider it invalid until we get to 2018 without a re-affirmation, revision or withdrawal.

  13. Heidi_storage
    August 17, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    “Fake news” =/= “Unpleasant news that reflects poorly upon you.”

    • Sheven
      August 17, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

      “Fake news” is now only said by real idiots.

    • Russell Jones
      August 17, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

      You know, it’s alarming how thoroughly the crooks, crazies, wingnuts, crackpots, and racists – ranging from garden variety suburbanites who find brown people uncomfortable to be around all the way down to actual, literal Nazis – have co-opted the term “fake news.” Wasn’t all that long ago when the term served a useful purpose as shorthand for wingnut (and often racist) memes that had little or no basis in fact.

      I was gonna say “thoroughly and successfully,” but the latter part is in doubt. Crooks, crazies, etc. generally can’t stand prosperity. That being true, they’ve overused the term “fake news” so completely that it’s now bereft of any real meaning. Anyone with half a brain knows they’re using “fake news” to mean “crap I don’t like.”

      And as others have rightly pointed out, the fact that the two clowns referenced in Dr. T’s article chose to use Donnie Dump’s favorite expression of disapproval speaks volumes about those clowns.

      • Heidi_storage
        August 17, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

        It’s too bad. Fake news (as in, misleading, misrepresented, or outright fictional “reportage”) is certainly an ongoing problem, but as you say when people cry “fake news” they are misusing the term to the point that it is meaningless.

  14. Empress of the Iguana People
    August 17, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    If you are thinking about quoting our Mango in Chief without irony, you should probably reconsider.

    • namaste863
      August 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      Personally I think he looks like an oompah loompah.

  15. AnnaPDE
    August 17, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Typo in the bold print sentence? I think it should say “aren’t”.

  16. Hannah
    August 17, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    The attitude of these women and the way their ideology permeates maternity care here is probably 3/4 of the reasons I fought so hard for a c-section. I was already high risk of stillbirth, and after avoiding miscarriage and prematurity (also high risk for those), I couldn’t take the risk. And I’m in Milton Keynes, which you’ve written about (I am the one who sent you those links actually). So while I pushed for it based on my high stillbirth risk, I don’t think I would have pushed quite so hard if I trusted my hospital. And these women are the root cause of why I didn’t.

    So technically, they can blame themselves for at least one c-section. I’m sure they’ll be more upset at that then at all the dead babies they’ve caused. But at least mine isn’t one of them, thanks to you.

    • Karen in SC
      August 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

      I want to like this over and over. Featured comment material!

    • Cat
      August 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      I’m not able to upvote your comment but I wish I could because it’s spot on. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to a vaginal birth but I started out more than willing to give it a try. I ended up insisting on a c-section at just under 42 weeks. There was no one “slam-dunk” factor that pushed me into making that call, just a combination of worries over the baby’s lateness, size and position and my family history, and – above all – the fact that the community midwife just wasn’t listening and responding to my concerns. It all came down to whether I trusted this woman and her colleagues not to kill my baby through complacency, and I didn’t.

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