Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

Category Archives: Natural Birth Nonsense

A Scientific Skeptic Watches “Born in the Wild” (Georgia Episode)

Born in the Wild

Lifetime ran a short-lived television series during 2015 that focused on extreme natural birth activists who decided to give birth in extreme environments, far form any hospitals and often without properly trained medical personnel. These activists wrongly think that giving birth in a hospital is harmful and dangerous, but that giving birth in the wilderness of Alaska or in a windy plains near mountains is much better and safer (even though medical help might take at least 30 minutes to get there).

Although hailed by natural birth activists, the show only ran for a single season that consisted of six episodes in total. It was in many ways a perfect storm of anti-medicine pseudoscience and self-absorbed narcissism of privileged mothers who had no idea about the dangers that are potentially involved in giving birth. For instance, WHO puts the number of mothers who die during or shortly after pregnancy and childbirth to around 300 000 per year. Most of these occur in “low-resource settings” and likely could have been prevented. It is precisely these settings that many natural birth activists attempt to emulate.

Each episode has a common intro. Text appears on the screen explaining that the crushing majority of births in the United States occur in a hospital, but also that “Some women are choosing to have a very different experience. This shows document their journey.” A male voiceover lays out the point out the show by stating that “modern parents giving birth in the wilderness like their ancestors. No hospitals. No surgical intervention. No drugs. Just a choice. To return to the primal roots of humanity.” This show is a celebration to the ignorance involved in romanticizing nature and the past. Previous episodes giving birth in the wilderness of Alaska and the mountain plains of Utah. What happened in this episode?

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A Scientific Skeptic Watches “Born in the Wild” (Utah Episode)

Born in the Wild

During the first half of 2015, the TV channel Lifetime ran a grandiose salute to the narcissistic practice of risking the life of your newborn child by giving birth outside in the middle of nowhere just so the parents could fulfill their own birthing experience dream. It only ran for a single season and consisted of six episodes where different kinds of anti-science mothers were followed by a camera team when they planned and executed a birth in the wilderness of snow, desert or dense forest. In many cases, medical help was a long way from them and had something happened, it could have turned dangerous very, very fast.

Each episodes starts with text on the screen sharing some facts about modern birth at hospitals and why they wanted to make the show in the first place: “Over 98% of all U. S. births take place in hospitals. Some women are choosing to have a very different experience. This shows document their journey.” Because the show is quite graphic in some places, they felt the need to give viewers a notice: “Some scenes may be too intense for some viewers.” The opening introduction has the following voice over: “Modern parents giving birth in the wilderness like their ancestors. No hospitals. No surgical intervention. No drugs. Just a choice. To return to the primal roots of humanity.”

Previous installment covered a mother giving birth in the wilderness of Alaska.

Giving birth on the mountain plains of Utah

The second episode is called “Utah: The Best Laid Plans” and the family that takes the center stage in the second episode is Linda (28) and Lance (30) King from Salt Lake City, Utah. She has two daughters already and is a trained nurse. Surprisingly, an education in medicine is not a guarantee that you take the best medical decisions. The narrator explains that a 2012 paper (probably this one) in the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned against any kind of birth outside medical facilities. Her first birth was in a hospital, but without an epidural. Her second was in bathtub in a birth center.

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A Scientific Skeptic Watches “Born in the Wild” (Alaska Episode)

Born in the Wild

“Born in the Wild” was a television series that ran on Lifetime during early 2015. It consisted of six episodes that featured mothers who rejected mainstream medicine and instead chose to give birth outside hospital or medical centers. Not just a homebirth, but giving birth outside in different hazardous environments, including a remote area of Alaska where it takes a rescue helicopter 30 minutes to reach, in a desert or in the middle of the winter. It was a stunning celebration of scientific ignorance and narcissism where parents prioritized their own birthing experience over the health of their baby.

The show opens up with some facts about hospital births and the rationale for the TV show: “Over 98% of all U. S. births take place in hospitals. Some women are choosing to have a very different experience. This shows document their journey.” They even add a warning: “Some scenes may be too intense for some viewers.” The intro theme has the following male voice over: “Modern parents giving birth in the wilderness like their ancestors. No hospitals. No surgical intervention. No drugs. Just a choice. To return to the primal roots of humanity.”

Giving birth in the remote wilderness of Alaska

The first episode of the series is called “Alaska: Remote and Unassisted” The episodes opens up with widescreen shots of the Alaska wilderness, snowy mountains, lakes, and coyotes. These tranquil scenery are overlaid with the sound of a woman quivering in pain. Right away, the viewer is thrusted into a tent with a woman giving birth asking “is it moving?” and she is reassured by her husband. Something seems to be wrong. The woman motions with her hand and says that “he should be moving down” and then suddenly she says “help me, help”.

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The Astonishing Quackery of the Natural Birth Movement

Orgasmic birth nonsense

There are few large areas in modern life that has not been infested by pseudoscience and quackery. From quantum woo and fake bleach ‘treatments’ for autism to genocide denial and conspiracy theories about mass shootings, it seems to be all around us.

One of the greatest achievements of modern medicine is reducing maternal mortality during childbirth. This has, to a large degree, been due to increased understanding about pathogens and how they are spread as well as how to handle incidents during childbirth with medical competence. Yet birth has not escaped the long reach of pseudoscientific nonsense.

Homebirth

Some people who reject the modern world that science has built and prefer to have a planned homebirth. Compared with hospital births of the same risk, planned homebirth triples neonatal mortality rates and 10x increased the risk of a 5 minute Apgar score of 0.

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Katerina Janouch: Natural Birth Quacktivist and Hooligan Supporter

Katerina Janouch Twitter Page

Katerina Janouch is a journalist, sexologist and author. However, she is also a homebirth quacktivist. She fear mongers about hospitals and demonizes (elective) C-sections, believes that homebirth is just as safe or safer as hospital births, refuses to engaged with peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that homebirth has a 3x increase in neonatal mortality and other risks, thinks that providing false information and tricking women into homebirth is an act of feminism and that birth should be joyful. She has even cheered on when about a hundred masked hooligan supporters went around the Swedish capital and used violence against innocent onlookers before retreating by claiming that she tweeted in affect without knowing anything about it. This is a point-by-point refutation of all of her pseudoscientific claims and ends with touching on the partial lack of accountability of journalists.

Katerina Janouch on Opinion Live: fear-mongering about hospitals and C-sections

A recent episode of the Swedish televised debating show Opinion Live (31 March), a video blogger by the name of Vanja Wikström talked about how hard it was to get a planned C-section for her first birth and why this mattered to her. Wikström has a strong fear of the birth process, thinks the Swedish maternity care is underfunded and is concerned about the delivery complications that can arise from a vaginal birth. She talked to a midwife about her fears and the possibility of getting a planned C-section, but the midwife made her feel judged, shamed and guilted. Not only that, Wikström felt that the midwife started a “campaign of persuasion” and that the midwife “fought with tooth and claw” to get her to a vaginal delivery. She felt that the midwife did not even take her fears seriously and the encounter made her decide not to have a baby for several years. When she did got pregnant, she got another midwife who was much better, gave her the pros and cons of both vaginal delivery and C-section and let her chose for herself and she chose a planned C-section (but only got it at week 36).

The opposing party was Katerina Janouch, a mother of five (with two homebirths after three vaginal births at a hospital). She dismissed Wikström by suggesting that Wikström took an irrational decision out of fear and that therefore, women should not get a C-section if they want to. If Wikström had just met the people and midwives that support vaginal deliveries (and are supposedly against elective C-sections), she might have had come to a different conclusion. So right of the bat, Janouch dismisses and shames Wikström just like the previous midwife.

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