Homebirth midwives are quacks

There’s very little that makes me angrier than the unnecessary deaths of babies. That’s why homebirth often makes me very angry indeed.

In the US, most doctors and certified nurse midwives refuse to attend homebirths because of the danger. Therefore, most US homebirths are attended by “direct entry” midwives (DEM), aka certified professional midwives (CPM). These are just fancy names for midwives with no medical training. The statistics on neonatal death at homebirth are so appalling, that Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), the trade union for homebirth midwives, refuses to release the death statistics to the public; they are available “friends” of midwifery.

American homebirth midwives are grossly undereducated, grossly undertrained, and downright dangerous. The national and state statistics bear this out, but nothing illustrates it better than a real life example. This tragedy was brought to my attention by a commenter who had been following the story on the mother’s website.

Carri, a mother of 8, had been planning an unassisted homebirth. I recently wrote about this appalling stunt and its high death rate (Stuntbirth). Carri had had 4 successful unassisted deliveries and was planning a 5th. As the due date approached, even Carri, as deluded as she was about the safety of unassisted childbirth, could not deny that her uterus was much larger than expected, and she sought the “advice” of Brandi, a CPM, at Central Indiana Home Birth Midwives.

Brandi diagnosed twins (without the aid of ultrasound), and noted elevated blood pressure. She advised the typical homebirth midwives quack “treatment,” a high protein diet, which, not surprisingly, accomplished nothing. As the pregnancy advanced, first one week beyond the due date, then two weeks, then almost three, Brandi counseled waiting for nature to take its course.

And nature did take its course. Carri’s baby is dead, and she is now fighting for her life in an ICU. The presumed cause is an amniotic fluid embolus.

There was only one baby, not two. That’s at the top of the long and horrifying list of mistakes. It is unheard of for a responsible practitioner to diagnose twins when only one baby is present on ultrasound, but Brandi assured Carri that one baby was “hiding” behind the other.

Even more appalling, if possible, is Brandi’s reaction when she heard only one heartbeat. According to Carri (posting on MotheringdotCommune):

One time the midwife gets two heart beats and the last time she just could not find the other and felt okay to let it be because there was active movement …

It would be laughable, were it not deadly. The homebirth midwife “diagnosed” twins, then clung to that delusion even though there was only one baby on ultrasound, and only one heartbeat.

Not surprisingly, someone deluded enough to believe that there were twins when only one baby could be seen was also deluded enough to believe that a clearly pathological pregnancy was normal. Carri measured much larger than expected even though there was only one baby. Almost certainly, there was a massive excess of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), both a sign of problems, and a risk factor for future complications (including amniotic fluid embolus). Carri’s abnormally elevated blood pressure was untreated by the quack remedy that was “prescribed.” Pregnancies over 2 weeks past the due date have a dramatically increased risk of stillbirth, as well as life threatening birth complications. The midwife pretended that this was not so.

So now Carri’s baby is dead, and Carri is fighting for her life.

People need to understand American homebirth midwives are a second class of midwives with less education and training than other American and European midwives. The standards for direct entry midwives, in terms of educational requirements and clinical training, are far below those of any other midwives in the industrialized world. American homebirth midwives are, by and large, quacks, and babies are dying as a result.

Addendum: One of the things I find most interesting is how everyone involved understands that the refusal to seek real medical care led to this tragedy. Carri’s family has removed the posts detailing her actions in the weeks leading up to the catastrophe, and MotheringdotCommune has removed the posts by Carri and those responding to her. The baby died possibly because of unassisted birth/homebirth, and now supporters and the family want to remove the evidence.