Ina May Gaskin and the racism of natural childbirth advocacy


In the wake of a lecture by Ina May Gaskin, sponsored by the Texas Birth Network, birth workers Tasha Portley, R.N, M.S.N, C.C.M, C.P.ST, Erricka Bailey, CD, Jasmine Banks, L.A.C have created the petition Demand ICAN and TBN Trust BLACK Women.

Yesterday during a session at the Texas Birth Network “Birth Roundup” registered nurse Tasha Portley asked Ina May Gaskin about the impact of racism on the births of Black women.

Gaskin responded with anecdotal stories about Black women who lost their lives as a result of provider negligence, and blamed the Black women for not being more informed of their life-threatening symptoms. Moreover, Gaskin stated that “drug overdose” and the use of illegal drugs was the cause of the massive amount of Black maternal death rates. She also mentioned that communities “don’t pray as much as we used to” as a reason contributing to maternal death rates.

Sadly, this is just the latest effort in which natural childbirth advocates in general and Ina May Gaskin in particular engage in medical colonialism, expropriating the tragedies of Black women to advance a philosophy created by and for Western, relatively well-off white women.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Natural childbirth advocates in general and Ina May Gaskin in particular engage medical colonialism.[/pullquote]

It goes all the way back to Grantly Dick-Read, the founder of the natural childbirth movement, who was a racist and a eugenicist, who claimed:

…[P]rimitives experienced easy, painless labours. This was because in primitive societies the survival value of childbirth was fully appreciated and labour was regarded as nothing more than “hard work” in the struggle for existence. In civilised societies on the other hand a number of cultural factors conspired to distort woman’s natural capacity for painless birth, producing in woman a fear of childbirth that hindered normal parturition …

That racism is manifested in predominantly three ways:

1. The fantasy that white natural childbirth advocates are re-enacting birth among indigenous women

2. The exploitation of high rates of Black perinatal and maternal mortality to critique modern obstetrics without acknowledging that Black women need access to more technology, not less

3. The profoundly disturbing trend of white homebirth midwives learning their trade on the bodies of women of color in developing nations.

Natural childbirth is a philosophy of privilege. Political scientist Candace Johnson explores this phenomenon in The Political “Nature” of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Johnson asks:

[W]hy do some women (mostly privileged and in developed countries) demand less medical intervention in pregnancy and childbirth, while others (mostly vulnerable women in both developed and developing countries) demand more …? Why do the former, privileged women, tend to express their resistance to medical intervention in the language of “nature,” “tradition,” and “normalcy”?

And answers:

It is a rejection of privilege that simultaneously confirms it…

The fantasy of Third World women’s natural experiences of childbirth has become iconic among first world women, even if these experiences are more imagined than real. This creates multiple opportunities for exploitation, as the experiences of Third World women are used as a means for first world women to acquire knowledge, experience and perspective on ‘natural’ or ‘traditional’ birthing practices, while denying the importance of medical services that privileged women take for granted.

Reality is brutally different, as Jazmine Banks explains:

…The constant denial of the lived experiences of Black women is ignored while Black women continue to die because of maternal health disparities. Maternal health disparities means Black and brown women are dying from PREVENTABLE causes. Tasha asked Ina May Gaskin about the impact of racism within maternal health disparities- and good ole Ina did exactly what racists do: BLAME BLACK WOMEN FOR THEIR OWN DEATH AND SUFFERING, while refusing to acknowledge the ways in which systemic racism embedded in the birth community impacts women of color.

Today Tasha and Erricka are demanding that their community and allies stand with them and other Black women who wish to build better births for ALL. Help them by signing their petition, sharing their stories, and trusting them. #InaAintShit #TrustBlackWomen

The petition demands include:

1. Immediately acknowledge how harmful Ina May Gaskin is to the birth community. Publicly denounce Ina May Gaskin and those who support her racist ideology.

2. Refuse to attend/participate in events that feature Ina May Gaskin. Gaskin is being paid to teach a narrative that is violent to Black women and people of color.

3. Apply pressure to organizations who continue to support Ina May Gaskin and those who support her racist ideology.

4. Publicly commit to funding the work of Black women in the birth community.

5. Create a plan of accountability that includes anti-racist training for your chapters…

We DEMAND that ICAN, TBN, and the birth community TRUST BLACK WOMEN and build better births for ALL of us.

It seems to be the least that these organizations can do, yet some white individuals are still in denial, engaging in gaslighting as these comments make clear.

…[D]espite you putting Ina may on the spot about race and oppression during a discussion regarding maternal mortality (which is relevant to every woman, color, shape and size) and what you are now trying to do to her publicly- she still cares about your birth, your health, and your baby.

Including Gaskin’s son Samuel:

My mother cares about everyone of every race, gender and sexual orientation.. if you are interpreting her words in a malicious manner I’m sure you are misunderstanding her.

Really, what has Gaskin done about the problem of Black maternal mortality besides exploit it?

The ugly truth is that Gaskin and other natural childbirth advocates care about the deaths of women and babies of color only to the extent that they can use them for their own ends, not because they care that they are dead and not because they have any intention of lobbying for an increase in high risk obstetricians to treat the problem.

If you agree, please sign the petition.

116 Responses to “Ina May Gaskin and the racism of natural childbirth advocacy”

  1. Forbidden Fruit
    April 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    What weird part of the internet have I stumbled onto today?! “C-Section guilt”? Natural birth “movement”? lol. Who gives a rat’s ass how your brat was born? All that matters is that you survived and so did the baby. No pride or guilt needed.

    Women will find the most retarded things to one-up each other over, I swear. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  2. Jesse
    April 25, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Lol what a hit piece. What exactly was racist in what she said? You’re seriously not going to quote her at all? I saw the clip and there is nothing racist about Ina May and there is nothing racist about natural childbirth. This attack campaign by these social justice warriors is so transparent and over the top malicious. Like, we get it , Ina May and the natural birth movement make you feel bad about your C-section so you need to find some way to discredit her & them. Grow up.

    • April 25, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

      Sooo … I guess you missed that Dr. Tuteur is quoting from a petition written by three Black women who are supporters of NCB?

    • MaineJen
      April 25, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      Ummmm…see the post from yesterday.

    • Dr Kitty
      April 25, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      I feel great about my two CS- I got to meet my kids without pain, indignity or losing control, no one ever had to perform a vaginal examination on me and I had easy recoveries without any complications- what’s not to like?

      My sense of worth is not based on the functions of my breasts, uterus or vagina but on the content of my character and the positive change I make in the world. I genuinely save lives every day.

      I feel bad an undereducated, underqualified, racist cult member who let her son die rather than seek medical attention seems to have so many in her thrall.

      But you know, feel free to carry on making assumptions about the motivation of people who disagree with you without looking at any of the reasons why they actually disagree with you.

      Let’s just say that your approach meets *my* assumptions about *you*.

    • Mishimoo
      April 25, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

      3 vaginal births here; still can’t stand Ina May Gaskin or her philosophies.

    • myrewyn
      April 25, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

      No c sections here to feel bad about either. In fact, my last vaginal birth was so recent that I’m still sporting the sutures. Still think ina may is a charlatan.

    • Lilly de Lure
      April 26, 2017 at 2:58 am #

      Sorry to burst your bubble but I loved my c-section – it saved my son’s life (and for the record was strongly opposed by several caregivers who admitted to being admirers of your heroine and who were determined that I should have a vaginal birth apprently no matter what the risks to my son).

      • momofone
        April 26, 2017 at 7:19 am #

        Another c-section lover here who no matter how I gave birth would never go for the drivel Ina May sells.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      April 26, 2017 at 8:52 am #

      Dr. A had 4 children vaginally, and 2 without any medication. I had mine vaginally, too. And my sister loved her c-section after 24 hours of fruitless pushing. An opinion I can cympathize with, since I wanted to have one half-way through the 30 minutes of pushing my daughter out.

    • MaineJen
      April 26, 2017 at 9:13 am #

      What was racist? Did you read what she said? She basically blamed black women for their own increased maternal mortality by saying they were drug addicts. That’s pretty racist.

      But hey, go ahead and listen to the crazy cult leader’s wife if it makes you feel better. I had two vaginal births and I think Ina May is nuts.Or have you not read the first edition of her book?

      • Jesse
        April 30, 2017 at 9:30 am #

        Ok so her book is a little hippy dippy, so what? It was written in the early 70s.
        And she answered the race bait question perfectly fine. She simply did not agree with the preposterous assumption that blacks had higher mortality rates because of Racism. Rather she treaded carefully and used her experience to try and explain the more likely reason – black people as a whole tend to be less educated on childbirth and early childhood so that might be what’s contributing to their mortality rates, along with some other factors. I mean is not a fact that poverty (and as a result drug abuse) and fatherless homes are issues facing the black community?

        • Heidi
          April 30, 2017 at 10:12 am #

          What do you exactly think racism is???

          • Jesse
            April 30, 2017 at 11:07 am #

            Well statistics are definitely not racist.

          • Heidi
            April 30, 2017 at 11:12 am #

            So you are claiming black people are less educated and experience more poverty yet you don’t think this has anything to do with racism?

          • Heidi
            April 30, 2017 at 11:20 am #

            And statistics are *definitely* not racist? Not so sure about that. Statistics can be distorted, skewed and slanted for racist agendas.

          • momofone
            April 30, 2017 at 11:39 am #

            Statistics can be manipulated to support almost any claim someone wants to support. Perspective, on the other hand, can “definitely” be racist.

        • MaineJen
          May 1, 2017 at 9:03 am #

          Oh wow.

    • moto_librarian
      April 26, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      Well, Jesse, I managed to have a totally natural birth the very first time, and my second was also delivered vaginally, so no c-section guilt here. Granted, it would have been nice to see anyone in the NCB camp acknowledge the reality of serious pelvic floor damage, including rectoceles and nerve damage, but whatever. You’re all too busy demonizing c-sections I guess.

      Ina May is buying into the racist narrative that underpins NCB. If you can’t see that, you ARE the problem.

    • Sarah
      April 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

      Cherie, I hold Ina May in such very, very low regard that her disapproval of any decision I make could literally only serve to validate me. And at least if I’m not having a natural birth with her at The Farm, she can’t unconsensually rub my clit.

      Also, Dr Amy hasn’t had any C-sections.

  3. Amy
    April 25, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    Pretty rich that Gaskin of all people is criticizing ANYONE for drug use. Her husband turned pot-smoking into a sacrament.

    • Roadstergal
      April 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

      Pot is a Good White Person Drug. It cures cancer and it’s better for you than Western Medicine. It’s not one of those nasty ‘inner-city’ drugs. :/

      • kilda
        April 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

        kind of OT, but I am getting so tired of patient after patient asking “are you going to be offering that medical marijuana?” I think people are going to be awfully disappointed when they find out it’s not the magical solution to all health problems. At best it’s going to be a medicine like any other. It’ll work for some things and not for others, have side effects, etc. Everyone has such ridiculously high expectations for it, reality is going to be a disappointment.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          April 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

          Have you seen Britt Hermes’s discussion of when she worked at Medical MJ facilities?

        • Roadstergal
          April 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

          I actually do know someone who has benefitted from it – [relationship redacted] finds it helps with the anxiety and insomnia that are the side effects of his Parkinson’s medication. It would be nice to have a study to show if that’s placebo or not. I can believe there are real effects of that sort that should be legitimately studied, and it sucks that we’re stuck with the same inane scheduling for at least four years.

          But it doesn’t do all of the stuff that’s touted on my Facebook. :p People won’t be disappointed, though. They’ll just say its a Big Pharma conspiracy and take the ‘natural’ form to cure all ills.


          • maidmarian555
            April 25, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

            The only people I know that regularly tout the benefits of pot (which they certainly can’t get on prescription from a doctor here- although that’s *obviously* because of big Pharma and a government conspiracy to prevent the cure of cancer) are the exact same people who also share pictures of chemtrails (seriously, we have an airport in this town and they LIVE UNDER THE FLIGHT PATH, it’s not frikking poisonous chemicals being sprayed at you) and who also seem to be joining a new MLM on an almost weekly basis (if I never see another Herbalife/Juice Plus/Younique/Forever Living “PM ME HUN!!!!” FB status I will be thrilled).

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            April 25, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

            I have said before, the “legalize pot” (medical or otherwise) or “legalize hemp” movements would go a lot farther if the face of it could be someone legitimate as opposed to total stoners like Woody Harrelson.

            Yeah, you just know that Woody Harrelson is really concerned about the great economic benefits of hemp paper. Or about real potential medical uses.

          • maidmarian555
            April 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

            Definitely! If my totally unscientific analysis of assorted FB posts by old school friends and random acquaintances is anything to go by, the only conclusion I can draw is that smoking pot apparently makes you paranoid (who knew?!) and also possibly a bit gullible. The movement could certainly use a front-man with a bit of gravitas if they want anyone that isn’t a stoner to take them at all seriously.

          • Roadstergal
            April 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

            Hey, I’ll be the face of it, but nobody wants to interview me. :p

            It’s being legalized slowly but surely at the state level. The lack of negative effects and the budget positives in Colorado might help some of the fence-sitters.

            It’s a recreational drug – it’s not a miracle cure and it’s not poison. It doesn’t deserve the extremes both pro and con that it gets. I have no particular personal stakes – I use it probably less than once a year (it’s legal in my state). I prefer alcohol in moderation and [redacted] in even more moderation.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            April 26, 2017 at 8:59 am #

            I prefer tea myself, and I may be developing an allergy to pot (hemp oil in a lotion makes me feel funny in an un-fun way, Mom broke out in hives when she smelled it) but I generally agree.

          • kilda
            April 26, 2017 at 10:48 am #

            exactly. I’ve never used it and don’t plan to, but don’t really care if anyone else does. When my patients ask about it I have to give a carefully phrased spiel about I can’t recommend it and it’s not fda regulated and true pharmacy grade MJ isn’t available, when what I really want to say is “it probably won’t fix your problem but if you want to smoke some weed, smoke weed!”

          • Steph858
            April 26, 2017 at 10:59 am #

            I’m all in favour of legalisation because in terms of social issues (not so much economic issues) I’m a Libertarian – I believe that it’s every adult’s right to decide what they do with their own body, so long as their choices don’t directly harm others in any significant way. I use the word ‘directly’ because my response to arguments about indirect harms along the lines of “Well, what about addicts who commit burglary/robbery to fund their habits?” is “We already have laws against burglary/robbery; enforce those properly.”

            But pot legalisation proponents whose arguments are based on alleged medical benefits (“It helped my great-aunt when her chemo made her feel really sick.”) when the person advancing such an argument is notorious for spending most of their waking hours as high as a kite really get on my nerves. If they said “I just want to be able to get stoned in peace; I don’t think I should have to worry about being sent to prison for 5 years because I enjoy the occasional blunt.” I’d fully support their sentiments. But don’t pretend you’re only pushing for legalisation so your great-aunt can take the edge off her chemo’s side-effects.

            My response to such stoners is usually this:

            Me: Have you ever heard of Coat Theory?
            Stoner: No, what’s that?
            Me: Well, you know how you’re supposed to take your coat off when you go inside because if you don’t you won’t feel the benefit when you go back outside?
            Stoner: Yeah.
            Me: Well, that principle applies to a lot of things; if you use something when you don’t really need it, you won’t feel its benefit when you do really need it. Like if you spend your life off your face on opiates, don’t be surprised if you don’t get as much relief as you need when you’re actually in real pain.
            Stoner: So what’s that got to do with weed?

            Me: Well, you’re young and healthy, so I doubt you’re smoking pot all day every day for pain relief; you just like getting stoned. But then what will happen when you get cancer a few decades down the line? I say ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ because even if smoking Cannabis doesn’t cause cancer, all that tobacco you mix it with certainly does. So, you get lung cancer after decades of spending your whole life stoned; now how will you relieve the side-effects of your chemo? The weed won’t cut it now because you’ll have built up Bob Marley levels of superhuman tolerance.

            The stoner then usually claims that, unlike opiates, Cannabis isn’t addictive, to which my response is: Bullshit. I smoke on the odd occasion (maybe once a month, if that). My friend, on the other hand, smokes like a chimney and has done so for years, if not decades. My friend can smoke several spliffs over the course of a few hours and still go about her day, go to work, do some chores, whatever; point is, smoking weed has little discernible effect on her. On the rare occasion when I decide to give her some company in indulging her habit, however, one puff off her spliff gets me high. I can still engage in conversation and if I had to I could function semi-normally, but I’m certainly in no fit state to drive or go to work. 2 puffs and I’m a gibbering mess who can’t even hold a conversation. One time when the weed took longer than usual to kick in (so I thought I was smoking a weaker strain or something) I had 3 puffs; that night I had full-on hallucinations of the sort I thought required LSD to induce. My friend had to almost carry me across the flat when I needed the toilet. This was from sharing the spliff which my friend smoked the lion’s share of with little effect.

            So cannabis might not be addictive in the way opiates are; I don’t think users who quit suffer from flu-like withdrawal symptoms. But it’s certainly addictive in the sense that one can build up a tolerance to it.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            April 26, 2017 at 11:05 am #

            If they said “I just want to be able to get stoned in peace; I don’t think I should have to worry about being sent to prison for 5 years because I enjoy the occasional blunt.” I’d fully support their sentiments. But don’t pretend you’re only pushing for legalisation so your great-aunt can take the edge off her chemo’s side-effects.

            Exactly. You aren’t fooling anyone, so stop trying. Just be honest about it.

          • kilda
            April 26, 2017 at 11:15 am #

            right. And nobody (sane) begrudges the little old lady with cancer some MJ either if it makes her feel better.

          • Poogles
            May 1, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

            “But then what will happen when you get cancer a few decades down the line? I say ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ because even if smoking Cannabis doesn’t cause cancer, all that tobacco you mix it with certainly does.”

            This, of course, only applies to people who mix their marijuana with tobacco – many people don’t.

          • Daleth
            April 25, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

            To be fair, I have a lucid, intelligent, well-employed friend who’s been using pot regularly since high school (she’s in her 40s). She’s not paranoid or into conspiracy theories. So there’s your n=1, but she’s the only person I know who’s been doing pot for decades.

          • Roadstergal
            April 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

            I think there’s some amount of correlation vs causation going on, both with the type of folk who gravitate towards it and the type of folk who let it be known broadly that they partake.

            Kind of like the stereotype of the angry drunk. Alcohol doesn’t make everyone who tries it angry and belligerent, but you really notice when it does…

          • maidmarian555
            April 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

            I do have a relative who’s been smoking for over 20 years. He’s never tried to persuade me it does anything other than get him pleasantly high. Those people do exist but they won’t try and sell you the supposed health benefits or share dubious ‘news’ articles about how amazing it is. I guess I may know more people like that but as they aren’t taking every opportunity to tell everyone (it is illegal here so a bit dumb to make it well known if you like having a job etc) it’s hard to tell. It’s always the mad shouty ones (who are not generally great advocates for anything much) that tend to get noticed I suppose.

          • kilda
            April 26, 2017 at 10:14 am #

            I don’t doubt that it helps some people, I just find that the expectations are so overblown. Everyone thinks it will fix what’s bothering them, no matter what their diagnosis.

            Honestly I’m not that impressed with it for medicinal purposes (in most cases – not all) and I wish they would just legalize it for recreational use. I feel like most of the push for medicinal marijuana is really just a backdoor push for legalization.

            If recreational use were legal it would probably be a lot easier to get accurate data on whether it helps with various medical issues, because people wouldn’t have any incentive to say it’s helping in order to keep getting it.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            April 26, 2017 at 10:35 am #

            I feel like most of the push for medicinal marijuana is really just a backdoor push for legalization.

            Um, ya think?

            Medical MJ and the “legalize hemp” movements are not about medical mj or hemp. Not at all.

        • Dr Kitty
          April 25, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

          It’s better than them asking for the Belfast Trifecta of Pregabalin, Tramadol and Diazepam- which a certain subset of my patients are convinced solves whatever ails them (mostly a mixture of PTSD, anxiety, depression, economic deprivation, personality disorders and Fibromyalgia), especially when mixed with alcohol- which is potentially lethal.
          Of course, some of those meds are diverted to the Black Market via paramilitaries, which has lead to several deaths locally, and not something I want to be a part of if at all possible.

          My response of offering some combination of non opioid analgesia, psychotherapy, counselling, Mindfulness, CBT, convential antidepressants and Amitriptyline for neuropathic pain tends to go over badly, but sometimes acting in your patients’ best interest is not the same as giving them what they ask for.

          • kilda
            April 26, 2017 at 10:10 am #

            your patients sound a lot like my patients. Except most of my patients’ insurance won’t cover the pregabalin, so I don’t have to worry about that one. I work hard at selling the therapy/antidepressant/amitriptyline approach – it takes a lot of patience and empathy but often I can convince them to give it a try.

          • mabelcruet
            April 28, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

            At least that sounds a bit more appetizing than regurgitated methadone mixed with vomit-a pathologist friend recently had an OD death and that was the causative drug.

          • Dr Kitty
            April 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

            Hmmm, that’s a new one on me. So much for observing service users taking their methadone on site preventing diversion of the drug to the black market.

            The paramilitaries, while big into the prescription drug market, cannabis and cocaine, for some reason usually don’t tolerate heroin on their patches.

            Which is why Limerick, Dublin and Cork had heroin epidemics in the 80s and Belfast and Derry didn’t.

            There is a needle exchange in Belfast, but it deals mostly with anabolic steroid using body-builders.

            Ballymena has most of the heroin in Northern Ireland, probably because the UDA, UVF and UFF who run that neck of the woods weren’t Foresighted enough to realise what heroin would do to their communities.
            Loyalist paramilitaries just don’t seem to be as bright as the Republicans.

          • Sarah
            April 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

            Nope. I’m not making any excuses for some of the IRA’s more immoral shit, but they’ve never seemed to so actively parasite from and undermine their own communities as the Loyalists do. I feel like a bit more of the drug money makes it’s way back into the community in republican areas too.

          • Dr Kitty
            April 30, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

            “Civic Minded” is not how I would characterise the Loyalists.

            As an aside, a friend of a friend was at Martin McGuinness’ funeral.
            Not so much a low police presence as a no police presence.
            Men in dark suits directing traffic and getting people parked safely. They were not undercover police.
            This was a funeral at which Bill Clinton spoke… and the RA handled the security.
            Mind you, can you imagine how crazy you’d have had to be to risk something?

          • Sarah
            May 1, 2017 at 3:01 am #

            I was just about to write that last line until you did.

          • mabelcruet
            April 30, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

            This was in Scotland-the conclusion was that several doses of methadone/vomit had been purchased. I suppose the only way to prevent that would be to make them stay for a hour afterwards to ensure it gets into their system.

        • StephanieJR
          April 26, 2017 at 9:51 am #

          I think- but I’m not entirely certain if he still does- my cousin uses marijuana for health reasons; I think he had water on the brain, or some kind of birth complication, and has a shunt(?) and some seizures. But I haven’t heard of it in years, so I had no idea if he still medicates with it.

      • Azuran
        April 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

        unless if you are black.

      • Amy
        April 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

        Well, except when black people use it. Look at how quick white people were to condemn Trayvon Martin for having smoked pot in his past. As if anything less than a perfect background meant he deserved to die.

  4. Bombshellrisa
    April 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    Her speech about being poor on “the farm” reveals her privilege. She might have chosen to live with very little, but if it didn’t work out she had a college degree to fall back on. She doesn’t understand the chronic stress that poverty and racism cause.

    • Lilly de Lure
      April 25, 2017 at 3:26 am #

      I’m just trying to get over her “poor people should get a better diet by growing their own food, like we did on the farm” comment. I mean, I’m a middle class white woman with a white collar job in the UK but even I can work out in about 2 seconds that this advice is of zero help or practicality to someone working two jobs, or even just living in a rented apartment in the middle of an inner city.

      • Sarah
        April 25, 2017 at 8:55 am #

        Also, try pulling some of the stunts she has as a black woman, and see how long you’re left unbothered by the authorities. She couldn’t have lived the life she has if she weren’t white.

      • Amy
        April 25, 2017 at 11:12 am #

        And hello, the didn’t always do so well on The Farm, as evidenced by the massive decline in numbers over the years.

        I do grow a lot of my own food, but I am not remotely food-insecure: if my tomatoes fail, as they did last year, I head over to the farm stand and buy the results of someone else’s hard work. Growing one’s own food without technology is pretty much a guarantee that that’s ALL you’ll have time to do, or that you’ll starve…..or both.

  5. Mishimoo
    April 24, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

    The statement from her son exhibits the same language used by the favourite child/children of mothers who have narcissist-type behaviours, and it gives me the creeps.

  6. Gatita
    April 24, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    There was a black woman who used to post here who was victimized by a white CPM and then abandoned/attacked by the white NCB community. I forgot her name but her story always haunted me. She’s a living illustration of how little the NCB community regards women of color.

    • Bombshellrisa
      April 24, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

      That is Dreah Louis. She had been trying to call attention to this for years.

      • Dr Kitty
        April 25, 2017 at 6:31 am #

        Dreah was treated so terribly by her CPM.
        I didn’t see eye to eye with her on some things, but she was clear that NCB was as institutionally racist as conventional medicine and if anything less willing to admit it.

        • Bombshellrisa
          April 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

          Yes, I am a woman of color and I disagreed with her that women of color in the healthcare field are “acting as slaves under their white masters”, also disagreed that Planned parenthood is running a genocide with African Americans as their target BUT she is absolutely spot on about her take on NCB and the racism involved.

          • Dr Kitty
            April 25, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

            IIRC, she left after that.
            I learnt that the regular posters here are more ethnically diverse than I had assumed.

    • Young CC Prof
      April 24, 2017 at 8:03 pm #

      Her name was Dreah Louis. She was pregnant with mono-mono twins, an extraordinarily rare and risky situation.

      The midwife not only took her on as a client, but failed to show up when Louis called, while promising that she was “on her way” for hours.

      Louis delivered two daughters unassisted. The second died during labor.

      • attitude devant
        April 24, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

        Poor Dreah. Poor lady.

      • Gatita
        April 24, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

        God, that’s awful. The pain that Dreah was experiencing just came through so strongly every time she posted. I remember she testified at her State Legislature about her experience. I hope she’s found some peace and is enjoying her daughter.

        • Bombshellrisa
          April 24, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

          She wrote a book about her experience.
          Her blog really details the pain she will always be in, she will always have a child who isn’t there. Her daughter has a twin who isn’t there.

          • Gatita
            April 24, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

            I looked up her blog and this really moved me:

            It was enough to make you insane. I was enough to make you want to kill yourself. Everything was falling apart. My family, my marriage, my body was hurt, my heart had a large hole. I had never felt so alone in my life but I had a new baby girl. She was beautiful. I felt it was unfair to her because she was born under harsh circumstance and it wasn’t her fault. I told myself I was going to have to pull myself together for her. She probably didn’t see my smile until at least 3 months.

            Pain is real. If you have ever lost a loved one you understand what I am saying. I decided to be grateful that I was still alive and my 1st twin was still able to bless me with her presence. Healing myself and my family took a long time. My husband and I are lucky to of had a strong friendship before we had children and marriage because I think that if it wasn’t for our strong friendship and bond we wouldn’t have made it after Aminah’s death.

            When I created the blog The Midwife From Hell it was initially for my twin daughter Akilah. During my hard time I started the blog to just write my feeling down instead of keeping them bottled inside. I received so much criticism when I started the blog. Women wrote very mean, cruel, and unethical things to me despite my loss. I was called all type of names and I can’t recall how many personal emails I got from people that shamed me. Many times I was a click away from deleting the whole blog but then I started receive positive feedback from the women that mattered the most. Women who were about to home birth and didn’t have all the facts. Women thanked me from all over the world for sharing my story. I truly believe that was the point intended when I initially made this blog. My vision was to clouded then to realize it.

            As my twin gets older I want her to have memories of her mother’s fight and struggle to keep her sister’s name relevant. The death of my daughter has made me the woman that I am today. Not a mother proud of the decision I made a few years ago but the way I handled my dilemma after the account. Never have I or would I ever try to ignore that fact that my daughter didn’t live. What I will do is honor her name the best way I can.


          • Daleth
            April 25, 2017 at 11:26 am #

            Oh god. I remember that case. That poor woman.

          • Christy
            April 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm #


      • Nick Sanders
        April 24, 2017 at 10:08 pm #


        • Young CC Prof
          April 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

          Identical twins with the same placenta and same amniotic sac.

          • Dr Kitty
            April 25, 2017 at 9:41 am #


            Mono-mono twins are usually delivered by CS between 32-42 weeks due to the elevated risks of umbilical cord entanglement and placental insufficiency. These are very, very high risk pregnancies. The chance of having one or both babies suffer some sort of damage is high, even with frequent monitoring by MFM experts.

            In the paper cited above, of the 29 women studied, half of whom attempted vaginal delivery (induced, pre-term and closely monitored in hospital) and half of whom had planned CS, three of the babies died. That is considered an expected mortality rate for this type of pregnancy.
            28 out of the 29 had cord entanglement at delivery.

            An OB I know describes these pregnancies to the parents as being like the difference between one kid playing tetherball (singleton), two kids playing tetherball on two posts beside each other (DiDi twins) and two kids playing tetherball where the two balls are attached to the same post (MoMo twins).. Using that analogy you can see why cord accidents are much more likely.

            Several of the attempted VB ended in CS, in one case the first twin was successfully delivered vaginally, with CS required for the second twin.

            Dreah wasn’t aware of these risks, her CPM abandoned her during labour and then denied any wrongdoing.

          • Dr Kitty
            April 25, 2017 at 10:21 am #

            Sorry- typo- Mo Mo twins are usually delivered 32-34 weeks.

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        April 25, 2017 at 8:33 am #

        I can’t remember why she was mad at us.

        • Dr Kitty
          April 25, 2017 at 9:10 am #

          There was at least one disagreement about Planned Parenthood IIRC.

  7. MichelleJo
    April 24, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    OT, do excuse me, but can’t get my head around this ‘Natural C-section’. Which camp invented this, or who is the doctor pandering to? Give up.

    • crazy grad mama
      April 24, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

      Aaaaagggghhhhhh no. I had an unusually painful C-section (epidural didn’t take very well) and I noticed Every Single Second that it took them to get the baby out. Waiting for the baby to come out on his own? Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.

      (And more generally, that just seems questionably safe and not based in any kind of reality about how labor works.)

      • Dr Kitty
        April 25, 2017 at 6:43 am #

        I had two very effective spinals and didn’t feel a damn thing for either CS and this still doesn’t appeal to me.

        In both my CS it took less than 10 minutes from when they started cutting to me holding my pink, wriggly baby, and I think the fundal pressure was the most uncomfortable part.

        What I want from a CS is good anaesthesia and a quick and careful surgeon. I don’t think whether someone grabs the baby and pulls them out or not is of critical importance. I want them out ASAP!

        With my son, there was just time for them to say “ooh lots of dark hair!” as they opened my uterus before he was out.

        • Empress of the Iguana People
          April 25, 2017 at 8:38 am #

          With surgery, isn’t it important to go as swiftly as you can while being careful and safe? Why prolong it?

        • Lilly de Lure
          April 25, 2017 at 10:42 am #

          Mine was “Ohh, I’ve never seen that before” – turns out my son had just managed to get himself into a very strange position in the womb but it was disconcerting, to say the least!

          • Young CC Prof
            April 25, 2017 at 10:57 am #

            That is NOT something I’d want to hear from someone who had their hands inside my abdomen!

        • Amy
          April 25, 2017 at 11:18 am #

          My experience was identical to yours– amazing doctors both times, super caring staff, babies out quickly. And still, the whole time, I just wanted it to be over.

    • Lilly de Lure
      April 25, 2017 at 3:38 am #

      Thats a world of nope from this c-section mum!

    • AnnaPDE
      April 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      That article overstates things, and the name natural is just a cringe-worthy level of wrong. The thing itself is pretty good though. I had something similar and loved it.
      The main publications about the protocol are by Nicholas Fisk, an OB who started this in the UK and now he teaches at UQ in Brisbane, so I put my husband, who is a prof there too, in touch with him when I was looking for an OB. The guy is totally reasonable and his idea is to make C-sections a bit less intimidating for women who are scared of “medicalised birth” by giving it some touchy-feely bits and making her feel more involved, and really just generally a nice experience, while keeping the baby safe. It seems to be working, the technique is getting glowing happy “I thought a CS would be the end of the world but then it was a wonderful actual birth” articles by crunchy mums in journals and blogs.
      The differences to a standard CS are not huge and depend on the mum’s wishes – some people would like a bit dimmed lights at the head end of the table (skipped that), lowering the surgical screen for the actual baby-gets-out moments (was fun), doing this “walking the baby out” thing (cancelled due to baby wedged in pelvis), and placing the baby on mum’s chest right away for the Ped check etc to happen there (but the Ped who’d do that was having his own kid that day so I got the one who preferred to check at the table, so there was a tiny delay). Oh and obviously the IVs and stuff go into the non-dominant arm, and no strapping down, but that’s standard operating mode around here anyway. The “walking out” thing, btw, is just going a little slower and gently in getting the baby out through the incision, allowing them a few seconds to clear their lungs and start breathing before being completely out. They don’t get to climb out all by themselves. 🙂
      All in all, for me it wasn’t a big deviation from what would have happened anyway, but I can see how an anxious or woo-leaning mum would be reassured by these things. With the way CS are usually talked about, re-framing them as “woman centered” and “family centered” counters the scare stories and puts the focus back on patient well-being. My OB has to field “but this is too nice, now women will want a CS!” criticism every time she talks about this topic, so it seems to be working. 🙂
      Btw, for me, finding an OB who was happy do go out of her way for a mum’s happiness was also a pretty good indicator that she would probably take her patients seriously as people. Which she did – she explained everything without dumbing things down, was completely straightforward about pros, cons and risks of procedures, and also emphasised that any bells and whistles were low priority, with the baby’s and mum’s safety and health coming first.

      • Dr Kitty
        April 26, 2017 at 4:02 am #

        I think this South American is going beyond that though, they seem to be delivering the foetus with just fundal pressure and time in a “hands off” manner.

        All the other stuff, fine, ( and I had most of it) but I’m not sure that’s a great plan.

        • AnnaPDE
          April 26, 2017 at 10:01 am #

          Judging from my OB’s warnings about how the “walking out” may or may not happen, it probably doesn’t work like in the video all the time. Case in point, my kid’s head was pointing completely the wrong way, and had to be pried out with forceps… so much for “gentle”. Then again, I appreciate that my OB didn’t even try to stick to the fancy plan for a moment, but just got the kid out the moment not everything was in textbook super-easy just-as-planned condition.

          The paper by Fisk et al ( claims that while the actual getting-baby-out process is a longer than usual, the total time between uterine incision and delivery is still within the recommended 3 minutes and therefore still safe. As a non-doctor, I can’t tell whether this is the appropriate bar to clear, just citing the source here.

    • yentavegan
      April 25, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

      When I hear the phrase natural c/section I think of a mother’s body being frantically cut into to save thebaby and the mother being left to die of the injury.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      April 25, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

      When the term “natural C-section” is used, they usually mean a “gentle” C-section. I had one with DD, and it was a genuinely lovely experience: people talked to me throughout, explained what was going on, DD was on my chest for snuggles and nursing almost immediately upon birth, that sort of thing. There was some sort of miscommunication snafu during baby #2’s birth, so none of that happened. As a result, while of course I adore both kids equally, I have some very warm and fuzzy feelings about DD’s birth, while I have none about DS’s because I felt alone, uncared for, scared, didn’t get to hold my baby until we were out of the OR, no one explained anything, etc.

      • yentavegan
        April 26, 2017 at 7:37 am #

        I have life affirming memories concerning the 2 c/sec’s I had 12 years apart. I did not expect nor require communication between me and the surgeons. My husband was present and scrubbed in to be with me and there was also a anesthesiologist who kept my pain under control and who paid attention to my vitals. For me, that was good enough.

      • yentavegan
        April 26, 2017 at 7:37 am #

        I have life affirming memories concerning the 2 c/sec’s I had 12 years apart. I did not expect nor require communication between me and the surgeons. My husband was present and scrubbed in to be with me and there was also a anesthesiologist who kept my pain under control and who paid attention to my vitals. For me, that was good enough.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          April 26, 2017 at 9:08 am #

          I’m glad you have positive memories of yours! 🙂 My first was wonderful; the second was very hard emotionally.
          For DS’s birth, DH didn’t come in until baby was nearly there, and then he wasn’t close enough to me that I could really see him–he was standing way behind me for most of it. They didn’t put the drape up until right before they began, so I watched them do the surgical scrub, and was in a state of near-panic that they were going to start cutting before I was totally numb because I could feel much of the scrub, plus I was afraid to see them cut me. I really could have used someone checking in on me emotionally. With DD’s birth, which was at the same hospital, the (different) anesthesiologist distracted me a little and took care of my anxiety and then there was a nurse who helped me start nursing so I could hold DD right then. It was really lovely!

  8. Amy Tuteur, MD
    April 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Gaskin’s apology:

    Surprise! Most of the white women accept her apology.

  9. fiftyfifty1
    April 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    I’m a bit confused. I agree that Gaskin’s philosophy is racist, but I’m unsure how signing the petition will actually help WOC. Aren’t ICAN and Texas Birth Network both organizations that promote a less intervention/NCB philosophy? NCB philosophy itself is racist (as well as ableist).

  10. Empress of the Iguana People
    April 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

    I wish my CNM friend would notice this about Gaskin; she’s a Black Lives Matter proponent and is usually fairly aware of this stuff for a white woman, certainly more than me.

    • RudyTooty
      April 24, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

      The racism of midwifery goes far beyond Ina May Gaskin and CPMs.
      It infests CNMs as well. Well, it’s our whole system: look at any statistics surrounding outcomes in maternity care. We have big old problem obtaining equal maternal-neonatal outcomes in this country. I hear the same excuses among mainstream professionals – well, white ones – for why African Americans have these poor outcomes.

      No one wants to look at this because it makes them uncomfortable. Easier to remain comfortable. Tell ourselves we’re not racist, our systems are “fair” and people (especially people of color) are just victims of their own poor self-care habits and lifestyle choices.

      • Young CC Prof
        April 24, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

        And even when it is lifestyle, it’s not always a choice.

        “You need more rest, can you sit down at work?”

        “Um, no?”

        “You need to come for appointments more often.”

        “I get my work schedule a week in advance, except when it changes at the last minute.”

        Clean and healthy living environment, access to nutritious food, access to safe exercise, time to take care of yourself, all of these are not things that everyone has.

      • Lilly de Lure
        April 25, 2017 at 6:30 am #

        Just a quick question – do you happen to know whether the elevated SES corrected outcomes for African American women is replicated in other groups that suffer discrimination (Latinx, Native Americans etc)? I’m asking because if so then the odds are good that this is purely an issue of racism and appropriate anti-racist training, the development of anti-racist cultures within midwifery and the rooting out of regressive attitudes etc should go a huge way to mitigate it.

        However if this phenomenon is confined to (or significantly worse in) African American women than other groups I would worry as to whether in addition to direct racism we’ve got a biological causitive agent that most commonly effects African Americans at play (in the same way that say sickle cell anaemia say is more prevalent in the African American population) that is being ignored because racists in the system are too busy blaming stereotypes of people of colour for the problem rather than investigating it properly. I was just wondering if you had information on this (my google-fu skills aren’t the best and I haven’t been able to dig up comparative statistics easily)?

        • Young CC Prof
          April 25, 2017 at 9:41 am #

          I can try to work that out for you, but I can tell you, Black immigrant women are NOT at increased risk of premature delivery.

          There is a slightly increased rate of prematurity in West Africa, though, and most American Blacks are mostly descended from (kidnapped) West Africans.

          • fiftyfifty1
            April 25, 2017 at 11:58 am #

            A complicating factor in sorting it out is that immigrants from Africa are so diverse. For example Somalian immigrants are completely genetically distinct from say, Liberian immigrants. And their cultures are totally distinct too. Yet they both get lumped under “black immigrants”. I don’t believe there is any hard data to back it, but East African women are thought to have a tendency to go post-dates, not early.

          • Roadstergal
            April 25, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

            Africa might be the most genetically and phenotypically diverse continent on the planet where humans are concerned.

          • MaineJen
            April 25, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

            Ask any transplant immunologist. 🙂 There is a reason African Americans are so hard to match for bone marrow; they are the most diverse genetically. Those of European descent are fairly homogenous by comparison, so finding a match is easier.

        • RudyTooty
          April 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

          I’m going to share this perspective with you – I don’t really this this is a ‘quick question.’ I think answering this requires a lot of examination of what we believe to be true about race.

          “The fact that, given enough genetic data, individuals can be correctly assigned to their populations of origin is compatible with the observation that most human genetic variation is found within populations, not between them. It is also compatible with our finding that, even when the most distinct populations are considered and hundreds of loci are used, individuals are frequently more similar to members of other populations than to members of their own population. Thus, caution should be used when using geographic or genetic ancestry to make inferences about individual phenotypes.”

          “Considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist. During 2011–2013, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were–

          12.1 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.

          40.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.

          16.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races.”

          With the information about genetic variation within populations (or races) of people, consider how the categorization of ‘race’ was established by the CDC. Not a quick question. Not a quick answer.

          • kilda
            April 25, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

            wow – I had no idea the disparity was that high. that’s terrible.

        • RudyTooty
          April 25, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

          I also appreciated this perspective, published last fall in the American Journal of Public Health.

          Black Lives Matter: Claiming a Space for Evidence-Based Outrage in Obstetrics and Gynecology

          Read More:

  11. Roadstergal
    April 24, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

    OT – has anyone seen Erin post lately? I’m worried about her…

    • Charybdis
      April 24, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

      Dunno, but I’ve been wondering the same thing. I hope everything is okay…

      • BeatriceC
        April 24, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

        Me as well. I was just thinking about her last night wondering how she was doing.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      April 24, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      Not yet, and I’m worried too.
      Dr. A? Is there any way for you to check on her if it isn’t intrusive?

    • Dr Kitty
      April 24, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      I hope she’s just too busy with a newborn and a toddler to bother posting, but I worry.

    • momofone
      April 24, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

      I’ve been wondering too.

    • cookiebaker
      April 24, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

      I’ve been wondering, too. I hope she’s ok.

  12. mostlyclueless
    April 24, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    What exactly did Ina May Gaskin say?

    • attitude devant
      April 24, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

      If you go to Erricka Sharmayne’s FB page she has the whole talk up. The relevant bits start at 46:00

  13. attitude devant
    April 24, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    Some of the comments on Erricka Sharmayne (Bailey)’s FB page are just….depressing. Ina May worshippers who literally have never questioned anything about her refusing to see what’s right in front of them

  14. Sean Jungian
    April 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I am very very happy to see this. I’ve lately been seeing and battling a LOT of tone-deaf white feminism and I am very glad to see even more WOC issues come to the forefront, right now in particular.

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