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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What "the other side" is saying about NCB literature

Is NCB literature perhaps more balanced than some would
care to admit?
I got into an interesting conversation with some readers of an infamous anti-natural childbirth blogger (and that's all I'm going to say about that, since I will not link to her site and run up her traffic meter from my blog). We were discussing childbirth books, and what's currently out there on the shelves.

It was also a refreshing change of the normal pace of that blog, where most people are just as into their "woo" as they think we are. In light of the series I'm doing on pregnancy books, this conversation really piqued my curiosity.

I really haven't found any good literature on birth outside of the natural childbirth movement. And I've seriously tried. The natural childbirth people have their problems, but they've reflected on the subject far more, and in far more profound ways, than anyone I've ever found who *doesn't* think that an unmedicated birth is the ideal. I've learned some things by reading real medical journals (the popular websites run by places like Mayo and John Hopkins really don't have enough information to be helpful), but even leaving aside questions of trustworthiness, they just aren't responsive to many of the questions people have about birth. There are no arguments, just claims. They're not actually engaging the natural childbirth people at all.

This blog (the anti-natural birth blog) is about the closest thing I've found to a "popular" medium for opposing the ideals of the natural childbirth movement. That's why I come here sometimes, but frankly, it's not impressive. Even from a scientific standpoint, it doesn't treat a lot of the most pressing questions. For example, one of the biggest obstetric controversies of the last 10-15 years is on misoprostol (Cytotec) induction. Put it in the search bar. I found only one very brief reference to the issue. Useless.

The reason most birth-interested people ultimately favor natural birth is because that's the only viewpoint that's seriously represented in the literature. There are no compelling spokespersons for any other point of view.
My eyes were widening. What? Are we willing to admit that perhaps the out-of-the-mainstream pregnancy books might be offering more useful information to women? *gasp!*

Here's another interesting, slightly puzzling, take from another commenter:
No actual experts are writing for lay people on childbirth- at least, not outside of the trite, middle school level stuff in baby books. NCB, on the other hand, has a wealth of accessible, appealing information; it ranges from outright incense burning woo to Henci Goer type psuedoscientific research...  
I think the imbalance in available reading material is a problem. It doesn't signify much if all the correct info is in scientific journals for experts, when the people pushing out the babies are flooded with NCB dogma before they even get to the OB's office.
(Incense burning woo? Seriously?)

In reference to studies, books and hot-button topics like Cytotec inductions, the first commenter adds this:
It's something the natural childbirth people talk about a *lot*. Maybe that's just them being crazy, but if part of your purpose is to answer the claims of that general camp of people, it's definitely something that should be discussed. When people in those communities discuss it constantly, and people on the other side say nothing, it starts to look like a cover-up, whether or not that's the case.  
You don't say. *sigh*

She does go on to say that often mainstream books and agendas fail to adequately draw on the psychological and social aspects of birth, and I agree. I find that is often the driving force among women who seek a "birth outside the box." And, in a surprising twist, she offers up this tidbit:
Finally, it's not been my experience that natural birth supporters are uneducated losers with no grip on scientific literature. 
Thank you! Finally! If only the rest of the world could admit this.

And either this person is delusional, lying or lives in an alternate universe, she thinks natural childbirth books "dominate" the discussion:
I agree that the NCB crowd is dominating the discussion. There are tons of books and websites dedicated to NCB beliefs. These sources are easy to access for laypeople and often compile many issues together (so you don't have to hunt down different sources for epidurals and for c-sections, etc.). I agree that if all you can find is NCB literature you are more inclined to think that the NCB viewpoint has a lot of support.
I wish that were the case. Although I do think, as someone else pointed out, that it could be based on geographical area. I pointed out that in my searching the stacks to see what was really out there, I surely never came across more than two or three copies of well-known pro-NCB books, and that was total inventory between two major booksellers.

If "we" have a corner on the discussion, I'm surely not seeing it. Perhaps blogs are getting traction and making waves among the birthing community, which is understandable considering the Internet in all its glory is a big medium for information-gathering. But I'm still not seeing it when I walk into my bookstore, nor when I talk to any of my friends or the public-at-large, who really have no idea what true natural childbirth even means.

The first commenter adds this:
I think the that the very superficial books are sometimes "mainstream", and most of the practice is basically according to the medical model, but if you want to dig a little deeper and think about the issues more it's all NCB, and there aren't many compelling, intelligent *replies* to the NCB arguments. It mostly seems like the medical establishment is just hoping that the majority of people won't investigate NCB enough to care.
Ding! Someone hit the nail on the head. Of course, a delusional response was quick to follow:
I don't think the medical establishment really thinks about NCB much at all. They aren't putting out information to counter NCB rhetoric because such rhetoric is barely on their radar. They put out accurate information. 
If that were the case, we wouldn't need books like Ina May's. Because doctors and hospitals would be giving much more accurate information through their childbirth classes, or promoting it more heavily during the birth process. I wonder, do the people who really think this way actually talk to real live people who have just given birth to find out what their experiences are?

If the natural childbirth movement really is perceived as more informative in its realistic coverage of birth issues, then that's a definite plus, especially if the "other side" is willing to admit it. I hope that means we're doing something right.


Dawn said...

I can't wait to get my incense burning woo on.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see the impact this book does or doesn't make.

I saw an interview with the author and was quite underwhelmed. Moreso by the interviewing medical correspondent who was way too patronizing of anyone who doesn't think that epidurals are the end all, be all. Epidurals have thier place but espousing them as the best thing for all women is ridiculous.

K said...

Just have to say that I can't get over the fact that the doctor that wrote the above book espouses post-partum epidurals to deal with perineal pain and afterpains.
That is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

TheTracker said...

"If the natural childbirth movement really is perceived as more informative in its realistic coverage of birth issues"

The comments seem to be saying that the NCB movement is doing a better job of getting their message out to laypeople. It doesn't make it "more informative" or more "realistic" or better in any way, necessarily, other than in the narrow political sense of spreading your ideology.

For example, climate deniers are better than scientists at talking to laypeople about climate change, and anti-vaccine groups are steadily winning converts. This is not because either movement is either realistic or informative but because they can craft their messaging to appeal to fear and doubt and pitch it at the lowest common denominator. Scientists are very poor at both of those things, nor do we want them to acquire those skills.

At least for births in the hospital, the epidural part of the debate is pretty easy. Many women come in not wanting the epidural. We let them experience the pain as long as they want to. Then and overwhelmingly, they chose the epidural. If only the consequences of climate denial or vaccine resistance were as immediate, direct, and personal!

Tabitha said...

Ok so I guess I am out of the loop but I was unaware there were ANTI NCB peopel. I thought there were folks who thought we were crazy for going med free but not that there were folks(besides MDs and anesthesiologists)that actively sought to discredit NCB.what is their platform? ideaology? I am so confused. If we are but on the fringe and our ideas are not scientifically sound why is anyone threatened? In all my years of researching and advocating NCB i always had informed consent as the goal. If a woman chooses induction knowing full well the risks fine. But if a woman isled to believe that induction or section or whatever is without risk thats not ok. Or if a woman is told she MUST have a cesarian but was lied to again not ok.Where is the problem?

Tabitha said...

sorry about my spelling

sara r. said...

TheTracker- "we let them experience pain as long as they want to".

I really hope that what you mean is, "we help them to cope with the pain as long as possible", because that's not what it sounds like. Maybe if hospitals actually tried to make birthing as comfortable as possible for women, instead of sticking them in bed and leaving them, they wouldn't have as much pain as you are accustomed to seeing. novel idea.

Oh, and just because a group is small doesn't mean that the larger groups won't feel threatened. I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and there are 7 million of us (or so) in the whole world, so why would any other religion feel threatened? But that doesn't stop them from spreading lies about us an persecuting us. Thousands of JW's died in Hitler's concentration camps because he felt threatened by a relatively small group refusing to cave to his propaganda.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I did read the articles posted about the after-birth epidurals - I think Dr. can't think of his last name is a little too excited about those epidurals. LOL Of course he would be! While I know some women do suffer with after birth pains, getting an epidural is kind of like getting a spinal for a toothache, perhaps.

Tracker - I'm not saying a natural birth is "right" for everyone, but I think the overall idea of "right" is warped. Better? Maybe - in the sense that it produces fewer effects on mom and baby if she is "allowed" to manage her pain effectively. Am I saying women should be denied pain relief? No, not at all; rather, I think more women wouldn't find childbirth pain so bad if they a) knew how to manage the pain and b) were allowed to. Does it always work for everyone? No - but many women are hardly even given half a chance in a typical hospital setting. "Letting them experience pain as long as they want to" - what, flat on their backs, with monitors and IV tubes hooked up that totally limit their movement? Of course, with that and Pitocin, they are more likely to ask for pain relief.