Sometimes being a skeptic can be difficult.

As skeptics we spend a lot of our time telling people that they are incorrect, that their beliefs are false. We do this not because we think we are better than anyone else but because we want to help people understand science and understand how things actually work so that they in turn will not get taken advantage of financially, have their health jeopardized or worse.

We skeptics are not contrarians, we try to make the world a safer place and to encourage advancements in technology and medicine. We strive for intellectual enlightenment not solely for ourselves but for everyone. We are one-part science communicators and one-part consumer protection advocates. But even with these idealistic good intentions we are often times the odd woman/man out at parties or around the water cooler. We are looked at as naysayers and argumentative, faithless, curmudgeons out to ruin fun and hope for everyone else. We are called know-it-alls or incorrectly considered close-minded. We are after all the ones that stand up and speak out when the majority wants to believe in homeopathy or angels or some sort of warm and fuzzy magical thinking. We burst bubbles, we dispel myths and sometimes we squash the fun of irrational fantasy. We explain how things really are. This outspoken bravery in the name of rationality often places us in the minority and that can be a very lonely and difficult place to be.

skeptic journey

It is important to remember that while we rarely (if ever) get a thank you note or even a handshake for our efforts, what we are doing is important and it does make a difference. So next time your friend or coworker gives you a dirty look when you explain how homeopathy doesn’t work or how a chiropractic neck adjustment can give you a stroke or the fact that the real secret to ‘The Secret’ is that it is utter nonsense, think about the following letter that was sent in to us here at Skepchick.

The writer asked to remain anonymous but mentioned that he hoped we would share the story with other skeptics, activists and educators. This letter wasn’t just sent in to the writers here at Skepchick, it was sent in as a reminder to us all. What skeptics are doing is important.

I have a story — a very personal one — about how learning to think critically can be a matter of life or death.

My wife has been pregnant with twins. Yesterday was the 29-week mark. She went into the hospital after having been nauseated for a few days — they were worried about dehydration, so they brought her in for an IV drip. Because my wife’s doctor is awesome, she ordered a whole panel of lab tests, just to be sure there had been no damage.

What they found was HELLP syndrome, a form of severe preeclampsia. If it hadn’t been noticed until 24 hours later, it is very likely my wife would have seized and died at home, taking the twins with her. They prepped her for an emergency C-section. As a result of the doctor’s thoroughness, the quick and competent actions of the medical team, and amazing technology that resulted from decades of scientific research in medicine, both mother and twins are just fine.

What struck me is this: science-based medicine and our own critical thinking were key to saving my family. If we’d gone to a naturopath instead of a hospital, they’d all be dead. If we’d been big believers in homeopathy, they’d all be dead. If we’d sought the services of a “natural child birth” midwife instead of a team of doctors, *they’d all be dead*.

And not 10 years ago, before we’d learned to strengthen our critical thinking skills thanks to the skeptical community, we might have made any of those fatal decisions.

I’m telling you this because I think it’s important to understand that *what you do is important*. Science saves lives. Critical thinking *saves lives*. Helping people understand these things… it *saves lives*.

Thank you, and the skeptical community, for saving my family.

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and writes about vegan food. She is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Women's Atheist and Agnostic Group: LAWAAG. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

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51 Comments

  1. Avatar of dpaul
    July 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm —

    OK…I’ll keep at it one more day.

    Thanks. It helps to be reminded of the wins when suffering the slings and arrows of “outrageous believers”.

  2. Avatar of tempestbrewer
    July 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm —

    A BIG thank you to you Amy for this one. Was just called a nay-sayer today by a friend and have been upset about it all day. This post could not have possibly come at a better time. (Maybe you are psychic? ;) )

    Thank you so much for reminding me why I don’t just give in and stop caring when it gets hard.

    There seems to be something in my eye.

  3. Avatar of ashleyfmiller
    July 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm —

    K, not gonna lie, that made me tear up.

    (It’s HELLP with two Ls if anyone is looking it up.)

  4. Avatar of Laura W
    July 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm —

    Wow. Had to de-lurk to say I’m also all choked up now.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Avatar of Cobey
    July 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm —

    Whoa. That felt like someone reached in my chest and squeezed my heart. It still feels like that. I can’t even begin to imagine the gratitude that guy feels towards his doctor. I glanced at my phone while driving on the interstate yesterday and nearly drifted directly into a concrete bridge. Talk about a wake up call. I didn’t even run off of the road and still all of these crazy thoughts were going through my head (omg! What if you’d killed yourself. What if Megan was with you. What would you feel). Imagine how that guy feels. Go Science!

  6. Avatar of davew
    July 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm —

    This is truly awesome. I’m glad whoever that was took the time to write.

  7. Avatar of Brian G
    July 14, 2010 at 5:48 pm —

    Wow. A frightening, heartening and beautiful story. Whoever you are, thank you so much for sharing with us.

  8. Avatar of The Science Pundit
    July 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm —

    Thanks for posting this. It’s important to get stories like this out there, and to get them out there before tragedies strike. I say this not just because it saves lives (it does), but also because my experience is that woo-believers who are struck with tragedy tend to go into denial and then double down on their woo belief (the alternative is to admit to themselves that the tragedy was preventable and so they are partially responsible for what happened).

    The woo-meisters are good at manipulating people’s emotions (because they’ll never win converts on the facts alone) which is why it’s so important (especially when we’re talking about life and death) for skeptics to add heartwarming testimonials like this one to our arsenals od arguments.

    Thanks again!

  9. Avatar of skepticalbunny
    July 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm —

    Egad. I have a coworker who is deep into the woo. I believe that he was brought into it by his wife. They have all kinds of weird beliefs, including being anti-vaccination (ugh!). I sometimes share fairly long shifts with him (Fri. afternoon through Mon. night), and things come up. So when they do, I try to educate him. I’ve started slowly, by letting him know that I’m a bonafide skeptic, and I need evidence, real evidence, to back ideas. Most recently, I had to educate him on homeopathy, which he was confusing with naturopathy. I convinced him that homeopathy was bogus, by showing him some videos of James Randi and some other things on skeptic websites, but he still swears that his wife’s herbs helped his cold go away faster. I keep telling myself, “one battle at a time…” They actually had a difficult time deciding (and arguing over!) whether or not to get their 2-year-old son his first tetanus shot, and first-ever vaccination, after he impaled his foot on a rusty nail near their chicken coop. Yeah, it seems like a no-brainer, but she’s apparently been reading stuff at AoA or other such sites, and she’s convinced of the evilness of vaccinations. They’re both intelligent; he’s one of the best paramedics I’ve worked with. But the woo is deep with them. It’s stories like this anonymous reader sent in that make it worthwhile. Thanks!

  10. Avatar of porlob
    July 14, 2010 at 6:18 pm —

    :) What a happy ending where there could have been a tragic one. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Avatar of Laika
    July 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm —

    Sometimes our skeptical influence is not as direct and obvious (or emotional) as this case, but I think that if we lead by example, we plant a seed. And you never know when that seed might sprout. I remember my own light bulb moment! I actually never knew I was a critical thinker. I thought there was something wrong with me until I met someone who validated my way of thinking. I also think that there is a maturation process in the way we relate to nonskeptics. At first, I was a like a reformed smoked: holier than thou. But over the years I have learned to take a deep breath and just present a little at a time.

    Just a quick anecdote about my own childbearing experience with a woo woo nurse who should be fired. As I was being wheeled into the delivery room for a possible C-section (that I didn’t have after all) my labor and delivery nurse groaned,”Oh no! Not the jinx room!” Can you believe it? As I was in the midst of labor, I reassured her that she needn’t worry. There is no such thing as a jinx room!!!!

  12. Avatar of lkregula
    July 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm —

    Just to be the fly in the sauce, there are plenty of doctors that might not have found HELLP either until it was too late. I had a certified nurse midwife with my son, and she was very much about evidence and science. She was great at pointing out what the results/probabilities from different tests actually meant, recommending which tests were absolutely necessary and which were dubious, any evidence for or against various pain medications. Loved her. The OB with my second pregnancy- horrible. Recommended teas, Hypnobirthing stuff, every test under the sun, and immediately ran with crappy ultra sound results (new tech) to send me to a specialist every two weeks for the last half of pregnancy. Anybody can suffer delusions, regardless of their degree.

    Other than that little quibble- wonderful to hear this letter. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Avatar of AmyPrettybabies
    July 14, 2010 at 7:21 pm —

    Ok, I agree with the overall sentiment, but it’s unfair to say, “If we’d sought the services of a ‘natural child birth’ midwife instead of a team of doctors, *they’d all be dead*.”

    A midwife is also trained to recognize HELLP and would have transferred the mother to the hospital for the appropriate care immediately upon discovering her symptoms.

    Having a midwife doesn’t mean that you aren’t being cared for prenatally, or that you’re taking an undue risk with your child. Quite the opposite – most studies show that midwife care is as safe as, if not more safe than, care by an OB.

    I had an OB with my first two pregnancies, both high risk, and then he left the area so I’ve chosen to see the new midwife at the same practice. I’ll have a back-up OB (who I’ll meet at my next prenatal visit), as do most women who see midwives, in case things go screwy.

    In spite of my having had an OB previously, both of my previous births were “natural” (as in “I didn’t use pain meds,” the second one was induced medically because I had pre-eclampsia – a condition related to HELLP – but otherwise drug-free) which is also proven to be the safest way to have babies under normal circumstances, and is the type of birth I plan for the child I’m gestating now.

    Being skeptical doesn’t mean that you automatically choose the highest tech, most highly medicalized option available. In NORMAL pregnancies and births the best course of action is to leave the situation alone and let things unfold naturally. When doctors start mucking around, they start screwing things up. It’s called the “cascade of interventions,” and it happens all the time. The doctors get bored waiting, so they start pitocin which speeds up labor but makes the contractions really hard, so the mother gets an epidural which slows down labor, and all of these drugs affect the baby’s heart rate (of course!) and they say, “OH NO! Baby’s gonna die, better do a c-section!” and everyone says, “Oh, if she hadn’t been at the hospital the outcome would’ve been HORRIBLE,” but the truth is that if she had been LEFT ALONE, she and the baby would’ve been fine.

    Our c-section rate in this country is over double the percentage that the WHO says is optimal.

    Your wife’s situation was decidedly NOT normal. Of course she needed a specialist. But it’s grossly unfair to the profession of midwifery to say that she’d be dead if she had been seeing a midwife – quite the opposite. She would’ve been transferred to an OB and the outcome would have been exactly the same.

    That said, I’m glad everything’s ok.

  14. Avatar of lizlemon
    July 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm —

    My brother in law had a co-worker whose wife was having a home birth. My BIL expressed to his co-worker that he was very thankful that both his daughters were born in a hospital because they both needed NICU care when they born, despite drug-free, intervention-free, low-risk births. My BIL ended up getting another job. His last day at work was also that baby’s funeral.

    Motherland Afghanistan is an amazing film for anyone interested in maternal-child health and the scientific advances we have made in modern society. I remember one patient in the film who suffered a seizure (eclampsia) during labor, so her family took her to a mulla to have the demons beaten out of her. Needless to say, the baby died. There are huge cultural barriers hindering scientific advances, in third-world countries as well as in the US.
    You are right, what skeptics are doing IS important. It’s just taking to damn long….

  15. Avatar of katesears
    July 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm —

    Dude… homeopaths are one thing, but don’t knock the midwives! Midwives are medical professionals who are just as likely to be able to diagnose HELLP syndrome as an OB, whether they are ‘natural childbirth’ midwives or not!
    Most babies in my country are delivered by midwives, either in hospital or out. When I had my daughter last year I didn’t see a single doctor, and I gave birth at the hospital (cos of the free hot water and electricity!).
    I’m glad his wife and wee babies are doing well. HELLP syndrome certainly isn’t something to screw around with.

  16. Avatar of Aaron
    July 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm —

    Thanks, Amy. I needed that.

  17. Avatar of Amy Roth
    July 14, 2010 at 10:06 pm —

    @ashleyfmiller: Thanks! I fixed the typo on that. :)

  18. Avatar of halincoh
    July 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm —

    I always tell others I feel PRIVILEGED to practice medicine.

    I come with no halo, but like it or not, we sometimes act in life threatening situations, and if we have a successful outcome due to our lessons learned and skills accrued over time, a halo, deserved or not, is often placed upon our heads by others.

    I have often been humbled by my patients’ appreciation. I, and most docs, always say or think, ” thank you and you’re welcome.”

    Medicine is, however, both an art and a science; but without science based medicine our brushes are dipped into invisible or dangerous paint.

    Finally,
    @AmyPrettybabies: Amy is right. MOST midwives work closely with a physician. And by closely I mean that they readily get help when help is needed and most can recognize when they need such assistance.

  19. Avatar of dave-h
    July 15, 2010 at 12:44 am —

    The letter discusses “natural child birth” midwives, not all midwives in general.

    As a skeptic, I do have to note that this is just one anecdote. But a very powerful one, that’s for sure.

  20. Avatar of Caryn
    July 15, 2010 at 1:31 am —

    As one of the volunteer moderators over at the Preeclampsia Foundation forums, I’m very pleased to see this post.

    There are plenty of people who make pseudoscientific claims about treatment for preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome; we work to advance knowledge of evidence-based treatments.

    The majority of our posters report being advised by *someone* — their care providers, their relatives and friends, their nurses — that they should be eating differently, or exercising, or not exercising, or managing their stress better, or whatever. There are dietary suggestions and homeopathic potions and lavender lotions galore out there. Of course, these syndromes appear to actually be the result of a maternal immune response to the foreign placenta.

  21. Avatar of Elizabeth
    July 15, 2010 at 5:15 am —

    Perfect timing! I’ve been in a funk since dinner with a family member and a respected friend veered the “spiritual world” route. It was the usual “we’re too perfect to randomly have happened” line of thinking. They admitted to believing in natural selection, but not the big bang. I explained that they should really seek out more information on cosmology and whatnot, because it IS logical, just not well known.

    Baby steps, baby steps.

  22. Avatar of Rebisaz
    July 15, 2010 at 5:25 am —

    Loved this. :)

  23. Avatar of RJA
    July 15, 2010 at 6:48 am —

    That’s an emotional anecdote, but it has nothing to do with scepticism/alt therapy.

    Who’s to say that the hypothetical naturopath/homeopath wouldn’t have said ‘Go see a doctor’?

  24. Avatar of tomrhoads
    July 15, 2010 at 7:41 am —

    Thank you Amy. You have written another excellent article. It’s a good reminder that the positive outcomes that can come from leveling with people are worth the effort.

  25. Avatar of mastro
    July 15, 2010 at 8:17 am —

    I agree with the skepchicks on most everything, but I don’t fully understand why they are so anti-midwifery / anti-natural childbirth. It’s as if their super-powers of critical thinking and open-mindedness switch off when it comes to childbirth. Midwives (at least the vast majority of them), should not be lumped together with homeopaths and other practitioners of woo. Sure, there are some crazies. But there are also some crazy doctors out there.

    Midwives are educated about the science of childbirth. They know their limits. They know when it’s time for doctors to intervene. My mother is a midwife, so I’ve grown up around the practice. Never had I considered it a new-agey, woo-filled practice. I had always considered it medical and scientific, because that’s exactly what it is.

    Natural childbirth does not usually mean that you’re sitting in a hot tub in your living room surrounded by incense and herbal tea, miles from the nearest doctor. It usually means that you’re in a hospital room, with doctors down the hallway, delivering drug-free. Normal (as in without complications) childbirth doesn’t need a doctor. Really, you’re wasting your doctor’s time if all he/she is doing is catching the baby on its way out.

    I just think the skepchicks need to think long an hard on this subject. You are NOT a non-skeptick for choosing a drug-free childbirth, and you are NOT a non-skeptick for choosing a midwife over a doctor for your prenatal care and (if all goes well) for your labor and delivery.

  26. Avatar of Amy Roth
    July 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm —

    Pet Peeve alert: When one writer on this blog writes a post it does not mean that the collective conscious of the entire group of writers was utilized. So my post does not imply that ALL Skepchicks are anti-midwifery. Nor does it imply that I am anti-midwifery.

    Also, this particular post was about being a good skeptic and sharing science based information for the greater good and the safety of yourself and others and so that people are armed to make the best decisions regarding their health and safety. The anecdote quoted mentioned a “natural childbirth” midwife instead of a team of doctors. The team of doctors and state of the art equipment was required for a serious complication needing an emergency C-section. Not a C-section just for heck of it, but a life or death situation for a mother and twins.

    To the science based midwifes out there, I thank you. To the ones who think doctors and health care and modern medicine are an unnecessary extra to, “catching a baby on it’s way out” I recommend you read this post again. Obviously, there were complications and clearly, in this particular case more than a midwife was necessary.

  27. Avatar of lkregula
    July 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm —

    @Amy: I haven’t seen anyone advocating that this birth include a midwife or that the team of doctors in the case were just playing catcher. No one has stated this was anything other than life or death.

    Throwing around the term “natural childbirth” midwife is a straw man. There is no classification of “natural childbirth” midwives. Are they direct entry midwives? Are they certified nurse midwives? Are they licensed midwives? Not to mention that there are OBs that are all about no drugs/ no interventions/lighting candles/getting on all fours, whatever “natural childbirth” entails.

  28. Avatar of Masala Skeptic
    July 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm —

    I think Amy was using the term ‘natural childbirth’ in the sense that the person who wrote the original note was – a non-science-based midwife. We probably have a terminology issue that we could discuss ad nauseum but I think we’re missing the broader point.

    The broader point is that there are alternative therapies that this person could have sought had they not been as skeptical and science-focused. Those alternatives could have had extremely dangerous consequences, including death. So, yay skepticism.

    Also, to those of you saying that this is an appeal to emotion and an anecdote, you’re right. Nobody is trying to make a general statement here or state this as science. This is simply a reminder that what we are doing to promote critical thinking and science does matter and does have real-life consequences and benefits.

    Is it anecdotal and emotional? Sure! But sometimes, we, as human beings, need that boost. There’s science to back me up here; emotions do matter :)

  29. Avatar of Tracy King
    July 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm —

    @mastro: And all people called mastro think the same, right?

    Dude, Skepchicks are not the Borg. We may have different opinions on different topics. I’ve had very hefty debates with fellow Skepchicks on some topics where we don’t see eye to eye.

    So for the record: I have no issue with midwifery. I have no issue with home births where the environment is safe and there is quick access to additional medical help if needed, and as long as the parents are fully aware of the risks (that is also true of hospital births).

    I had an operation at a private hospital (I’m from the UK) which, should I have begun to bleed to death from complications, would not have been able to deal with the emergency and would have had to call an NHS ambulance. As such, I recognise that any personal choice for healthcare carries certain risks. Nonetheless, as long as I’m informed about those risks, I’m entitled to my personal choice.

    I thank you to consider and reply to each Skepchick as an individual, and not to assume that the opinion of one is the opinion of the other.

    That said, I don’t see where Amy was anti-midwifery anyway.

  30. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    July 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm —

    Thank you for this.

    To the midwife-discussing folks: perhaps check out Amy Tuteur’s blog for some discussion on homebirth midwifery. She’s fairly, um, blunt in her language, but she has a lot of information (for example).

  31. Avatar of mastro
    July 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm —

    @Amy. First of all, I agree! Yay, skepticism! The story you included was indeed, very touching. And I’m very glad that the writer got the necessary treatment.

    I admit that perhaps my comment wasn’t fairly written. It’s probably true that not all of the skepchicks are anti-midwives. My post was a culmination of some sour feelings I’ve developed after having read this blog and comments for about a year and a half. Over and over again, midwifery is depicted as pure woo, often equated to homeopathy. I find it insulting, as do many people I know. I even stopped reading the blog for a few months because it was becoming very frustrating. Skepticks shouldn’t attack all midwives; they should attack the crazies (and not forget that there are some crazy doctors out there too).

    It’s obvious that delivering a baby is often much more than just “catching a baby”. When there are complications that midwives and nurses can’t handle, then definitely get the doctors in to do some serious science and save that baby/mother. But when everything is going smoothly, why does the doctor even need to be in the room? Shouldn’t he/she be working on someone who needs the attention more? Just sayin’. This is part of the reason medical costs of childbirth in the US are so high.

    I just think that people need to think twice before deriding midwives. They can safely deliver babies in a non-woo way & save hospitals a lot of money at the same time. That’s a good thing.

  32. Avatar of biguglyjim
    July 15, 2010 at 5:47 pm —

    For the last two of my kids’ births, my then-wife and I had an argument around home births and midwives and similar crap. She wanted that loving hipster view of childbirth, and I did not. And I won each argument because I brought up the story of our first child.

    During that part of labor when the doctors says “PUSH!” and your partner squeezes your hand until it turns purple, we had a problem. Our doctor had stuck one of those fetal heart monitor things to the head of the fetus early on. This is the kind of hideous western intervention that midwives think is awful.

    At one point near the end of the pushing, as she was contracting the number on the machine corresponding to heart rate went to zero. This shocked me and I looked at the doctor. His eyes were narrowed on the number and it shot right back up, but he didn’t look away. The next push came and again the heart rate dropped to zero.

    He reached for the scissors. She saw him and said, “don’t you [censored] dare”. He looked her in the eyes, said “I’m sorry”, and without time for freezing, gave her an episiotomy. It was a horrible noise and she screamed, but the baby was born.

    Our daughter’s umbilical chord was the smallest he had ever seen, and had wrapped around her throat. Each push tightened it, causing the baby’s heart to stop. Had my ex not had an episiotomy, the baby would have died during the delivery.

    Yeah, we all love the homey idea of a midwife giving us that warm sense that we’re in touch with our birth experience. But why in the blue hell would you risk the life of your child to have that experience?

  33. Avatar of biguglyjim
    July 15, 2010 at 5:50 pm —

    Also, a friend was telling me about the situation in Montreal. This is all as she explained it to me, so if it’s wrong then it’s she who is lying.

    I guess the province (like a state, but more Canadian!) decided that they wanted to encourage women to have a more rewarding birth experience, but they wanted to ensure that safety was going to be there, so they built a bunch of baby delivering areas in hospitals that were legitimately comforting and offered a lot of options like water births and fuzzy chairs and what have you, but there were doctors on hand to step in when the going got tough. That’s an interesting compromise.

  34. Avatar of mastro
    July 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm —

    @bigugly I was all mad about your first post, but then your second post made me feel better. I am 100% for the type of birthing centers in hospitals that you describe. I want to give birth in a hospital, with a midwife. If the midwife sees that heartrate drop, he/she will call the doctor in. End of story. Baby saved. Midwifery doesn’t have to be about “hipster” or “homey” births.

    And just to be clear, I don’t mean to sound anti-“medical” birth. I’m generally not a supporter of home births, due to the extra danger of being so far from a doctor if something goes wrong. If you want to have all of the possible pain-meds and nothing but doctors around you while you give birth, then more power to you. If you want to have an elective C-section, fine. That is 100% your choice as a parent. You can trust that science. Just don’t knock the people who choose a drug-free, vaginal birth.

  35. Avatar of Amy Roth
    July 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm —

    @mastro: I was unaware that was the impression that this blog gives, and I would very much like to see links to the posts where, ‘over and over again, midwifery is depicted as pure woo, often equated to homeopathy’ that you are referring to.

    Discouraging readers based on false information is not something we strive for.

  36. Avatar of DD
    July 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm —

    As a skeptic I have to ask: Any evidence that this anonymous anecdote is the real deal?

  37. Avatar of mastro
    July 15, 2010 at 6:31 pm —

    @Amy: I would love to be able to point to specific posts, but I can’t :( This is just the feeling I got from reading the blog regularly in 2009. (I stopped reading in early 2010, and just started up again recently). I remember some of it coming from Elyse (I love Elyse otherwise!), and I’m sure a lot of it came from commenters. I also remember that there were some posts/comments about childbirth that weren’t bad… but I still walked away with a sour feeling about this blog and childbirth. And… it’s not just here. This is something I see a lot in the skeptical community, and it irks me to no end.

    Otherwise, I love you ladies (and dude!). And hooray for skepticks everywhere!

  38. Avatar of biguglyjim
    July 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm —

    @mastro: I suppose that’s actually me not expressing myself properly. When I hear midwife, my own bias from experience is that what we’re talking about is hipsters who want their birth experience to have unicorns and soft drumming by a caravan of native americans while giving birth in a tub of breast milk. I exaggerate, but at least where I live, the natural childbirth people are way in to this ideal.

    The idea of a midwife in a hospital setting as a way to free up doctor time is perfectly acceptable to me, and indeed, sensible. So long as the extra measures are taken (things like the fetal heart monitor stuck in the baby’s dome) then this is a safe birth. And to me, that’s what matters.

    So yes, I didn’t express properly and probably looked a bit like I was saying midwives were bad. I’m referring more to the notion that so many people are making that medical intervention in birth is something to be avoided, and that since women have since the dawn of time had babies without doctors, why would we need them now?

    Simple answer? Our babies live more.

  39. Avatar of mastro
    July 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm —

    @bigugly: Agreed. I get irked by skepticks who make generalizations about midwives and natural birth, but I am even more irked by the nutters who think that all medicine is bad and that you should be giving birth in a “tub of breast milk”, surrounded by unicorns and soft drumming :) They’re the real problem, and that is who we’re fighting.

  40. Avatar of rjvg50
    July 15, 2010 at 7:10 pm —

    To all of the “midwifes are awesome” conjecture:
    Midwifes
    +
    Medical Dr.s
    ———-
    = awesome

    Aspirin and prayer is the same as aspirin.

  41. Avatar of Yogzotot
    July 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm —

    @Amy: Thanks for this. I am in my usual post-TAM funk, thinking what to do next for the cause.

    Your post reminds me of one of my favourite TAM quotes from Michael Blanford when he talked about science education and skepticism in general: “Don’t expect miracles. Take what you get.”

  42. Avatar of happyprancer
    July 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm —

    pffft…anecdotal. Although…

    Here’s a question: If you are trying to convince a person who is not yet a skeptic that becoming a skeptic is important, do you turn to anecdotes and emotional appeals, or to evidence?

    I wonder if anyone has ever attempted to plot a meaningful graph of rate of preventable deaths vs. amount of skepticism.

  43. Avatar of mrtopp
    July 16, 2010 at 4:18 am —

    I seem to be seeing more and more of this lately — supposedly skeptical writings which actually more resemble the arguments of woo-peddlers.

    Is this a strategy to try to get people who are more moved by anti-skeptical arguments on board?

    And if so, are such tactics worthwhile?

  44. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    July 16, 2010 at 4:53 am —

    @mrtopp: I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, so I’ll respond as though you aren’t just in case.

    This letter isn’t being published to get anyone “on board.” It’s not an argument. It’s inspiration for those who are already doing something.

  45. Avatar of lkregula
    July 16, 2010 at 10:09 am —

    @rjvg50: You’re seriously comparing midwives to prayer?

    @Kimbo Jones: Amy Tuteur has some good information. She also has very clear biases against midwives, and doesn’t seem to care to distinguish between CNMs and DEMs and just throws them all together.

  46. Avatar of lkregula
    July 16, 2010 at 10:18 am —

    Taken for what it is (a “yeah skepticism!” letter of thanks) this is a great example of how skepticism can help and why skepticism is important. It also demonstrates clearly that even skeptics can utilize logical fallacies and prejudice.

  47. Avatar of Caryn
    July 16, 2010 at 10:35 am —

    Anyone interested in the questionable therapies for preeclampsia/ HELLP syndrome advanced by some, including by some nurses and midwives, might find this discussion worthwile: http://www.preeclampsia.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=9742

  48. Avatar of scotdeerie
    July 16, 2010 at 10:50 am —

    I’m sure that man is very grateful for the lives of his wife and family but I hope he has a great insurance plan because he has a pair of million dollar babies there. (A mil EACH.) Eleven weeks premature x 2 + mom = medical bills out the butt. I’m skeptical of the amount of money all this great science racks up.

  49. Avatar of icewings
    July 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm —

    I realize this post was not about midwives vs. OBs but I have to add in my anecdotal experience that I lost a full-term baby precisely because I was under the care of a midwife, who wanted so badly for me to have a normal pregnancy that she overlooked the subtle signs that something was wrong. A simple NST or ultrasound most likely would have detected the problem but she did not want to refer my care to an OB.

    And, I have a living son due in large part to an amazing OB and an amazing perinatologist who used every resource available to them and noticed extremely low amniotic fluid and induced labor two weeks early. Had I been under a midwife’s care it is possible his fate would’ve been the same as my first son’s.

    @scotdeerie – I hope you are a troll, I really do. Because as someone who has held a perfect, beautiful, stillborn baby boy in my arms, I would gladly be a million dollars in debt to have him here alive with me now. You should be ashamed.

  50. Avatar of Amy Roth
    July 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm —

    @scotdeerie: Yeah, you must be on to something. All this science is WAY too expensive. I’m going to stop paying for my asthma medicine as I have suddenly become skeptical of how much science costs, and of breathing too. Yeah, I’m skeptical of just being alive now as well. Makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for the advice.

  51. Avatar of Florence Erlenmeyer
    July 17, 2010 at 10:37 am —

    Well, he does have a point in that most of the “woo” treatments are a lot cheaper than mainstream medical ones. Largely because they don’t have to undergo years of research, years of testing to get FDA approval and be administered by someone who spent years training in the actual practice of medicine. A capsule of water with a bit of zinc in it is tons cheaper than a dose of amoxicillin. And an herbalist’s time is usually a tenth that of a medical doctor. But well, you often get what you pay for.

    I’ve actually seen many instances of people who believe in the woo seek out medical help when it’s obvious something is wrong, like a broken leg or premature labor. However, when everything seems okay or it’s only minor issues, then they’re fully devoted to “alternative” medicine. Probably because it doesn’t really matter if the colic “cure” really works – most babies outgrow in on their own without chiropractic adjustments, or if magnet therapy prevents Alzheimer’s as many who use it won’t get it anyway, and those that do might not remember just what it was they were doing to try to prevent it in the first place.

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