Don’t like the findings? Pretend they’re not true!

Sigh. Another day, another goofy Science and Sensibility post.

It may be a new year, and there may be a new editor, but the Lamaze blog appears to have merely traded one form of incompetent analysis for another. The previous editor Amy Romano, CNM, left to take a position with the lobbying organization Childbirth Connection. The new editor is Kimmelin Hull,

a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Physician Assistant, American Red Cross First Aid/CPR instructor, novelist and freelance writer for local and international parenting magazines.

In other words, she has no experience in caring for pregnant women, has no background in science or statistics, and essentially no qualifications for analyzing scientific literature. Not surprisingly, she’s off to a very unimpressive start.

Her first blunder didn’t even involve science. She wrote with a piece praising the Lamaze policy on conflicts of interest. Explaining why she declined to teach a class on breastfeeding at a local store, she wrote:

The slippery slope, however, became evident in this business owner’s expectation that the content of my presentation would directly entice class participants to buy certain products, based on my recommendations under the guise of authoritative knowledge.

But then I asked:

So why does Lamaze International license and recommend baby toys, women’s body lotions and women’s apparel? Clearly is trying to women to buy certain products based on their recommendations and under the guise of authoritative knowledge.

Cue the backpedaling. Hull tried to make an exception:

… if you truly believe in the healthy, helpful aspect of a product/service, providing information on it (or samples of it) to your clients becomes an act of “helping” vs. “promoting.” …

We’re supposed to believe that Lamaze collects licensing fees on baby toys, women’s body lotions and women’s apparel because they like “helping”?

Today Hull tries her hand at analyzing a scientific paper, The impact of maternal age on fetal death: does length of gestation matter? published in the December issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors found that women 40 and older had the highest risk of fetal death throughout pregnancy.

Hull accurately explains the methodology and findings of the paper, but then offers this startling assertion:

… other factors that have not garnered much attention in the literature but, in my estimation, certainly influence a woman’s general state of health and well-being (and thus potentially, the health of her pregnancy) are factors such as: diet, exercise routine and overall stress level. Designing a future study which could control for these additional variables would undoubtedly alter the data tremendously …

What??!! In her estimation? Based on what evidence? Apparently none.

Hull really, really wishes that advanced maternal age did not increase the stillbirth rate, so she is casting about for reasons she can ignore the evidence. Hmmm, let’s pretend that some easily modified factors (diet! exercise! stress!!) negate the impact of maternal age. Oooh, that sounds good! And as long as we’re pretending, let’s go all the way: these variable would undoubtedly alter the data tremendously! Really, Kimmelin?

Hull then proceeds to offer the “tremendously” altered data. Too bad she just made it up. But wait! She’s not finished making things up:

Despite the mention of induced labors being included in the cohort, there are no numbers on how many of the 2 million + pregnancies ended in induction—leaving a potentially HUGE confounding variable unchecked.

Yes, inductions may be a confounding variable because they REDUCE the risk of stillbirth. If inductions are a confounding variable, correcting for them would INCREASE the association between advanced maternal age and stillbirth, not decrease it, as she mistakenly believes.

The editor may have changed, but the quality of the scientific analysis at Science and Sensibility is still pathetic. Here’s some helpful advice: If you are going to dispute the results of a scientific paper, you need to offer scientific evidence to support your claims. Merely pretending the results aren’t true if they don’t fall in line with your personal beliefs does not represent scientific analysis, merely the wishful thinking that is so characteristic of contemporary NCB advocacy.