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Reader Rants: Doulas vs Doctors vs Dolphins – lexicakes

Childbirth is an important rite of passage for every woman. Even if you choose to never do it, you should still have a plan in place for what your labor would be like for when you eventually change your mind and decide that hating men and loving 12 cats just isn’t fulfilling enough. Really, it’s not even about having a raising children… you just need to go through childbirth. Because it is the ONLY reason life is worth living. A natural, medicine free, home birth, in a kiddie pool in your living room. It’s kind of like a day at the spa, but with your husband video taping you pooping in a bloody pool… and at the end instead of getting a couple of chalky mints, you get a placenta on your carpet.

Oh, you wouldn’t do it that way? Whatever. That’s your choice. You’re probably just an uninformed idiot and don’t understand that the Maternity department at your hospital only exists because obstetricians want to eat your baby. Mostly because they hate you. And babies. They only care about getting home in time for dinner. I mean, yeah, they could get a job in a different field… or put their medical skills to use in a capacity other than dealing with patients… but they never thought about that. Or maybe they did, and they decided that they just can’t eat pot roast until they’ve murdered a few women and their babies by performing unnecessary medical procedures on them.

I just had a baby (did I mention that I was recently pregnant?) I showed up at the hospital, in labor (with my iPhone so I could live Tweet it… because that’s what I do). They gave me drugs. They delivered my baby. They wisked that baby off to the NICU where she learned to breathe. 5 days later, we came home as a family. There were drugs. There was cutting. There was medical intervention. There was a anesthesia team trying to figure out how the hell to get a spinal block into my fucked up back. None of them tried to eat my baby. (Just an anecdote)

Also, dolphin assisted home birth by c-section is not covered by my insurance… something about “high risk” and “next time you call here, Ms. Anders, you’re going to be arrested for harassment. We’re recording this call and we’ve already filed complaints.”

Why did I become a skeptic? Because NCBers are jerks.

Lexi Ortiz

My journey into skepticism began fairly recently. I have always loved science, and I’ve always been pretty good at critical thinking. But I just hadn’t really thought much about all the wacky things that people believe. What caused me to take the leap? “Natural” childbirth.

See, a couple years ago, I got pregnant. Things started off well enough. I got the big fat no-nonsense Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Uterus and That Thing Inside of It. It was full of dry medical facts, which are my favorite kind. As I started seeking out more information on pregnancy and childbirth, I was led to Ricki Lake’s “documentary,” The Business of Being Born. This was when things started to go downhill.

Watching that movie was my first mistake. It was all about how “medicalized” childbirth is these days, and how doctors are just a bunch of know-it-alls who don’t trust mothers’ intuition. We’d all be better off just giving birth at home! And it kind of made sense at the time. I mean, it sure seemed like everyone in that hospital was on Pitocin. And the C-section rate is really high. My mom had two C-sections. I certainly don’t want to have to go through that. So yeah, maybe “natural” childbirth is for me. Where can I find out more about this? The internet of course!

So, I started doing my research (read: Googling). I found out all sorts of things about how awful and traumatic medicalized births are. I learned that all medical interventions are bad, especially those evil epidurals and unnecesareans. Now I’ll admit that I absorbed quite a bit of this “natural” childbirth rhetoric before my bullshit detector started going off. Perhaps I can blame the pregnancy for that one. We all know how hard critical thinking is for us ladies, what with all that Estrogen clouding our brains.

I started to come to my senses when a coworker told me about her friend’s labor, which was slowed down by an epidural. I had heard this before, that the epidural slows labor, but I hadn’t really thought about it. This is when the lightbulb came on. So I asked my coworker, “How can you know that?” You have no idea how the labor would have progressed without the epidural, so how do you know that the epidural slowed it down? This isn’t even a testable hypothesis. You can’t give someone an epidural and then declare that every subsequent Bad Thing was caused by the epidural. You can’t determine anything about causation at all. This is just a conclusion that was drawn from the correlation between long labors and epidural use. I still have a hard time figuring out why anyone would jump to the conclusion that the epidural is responsible for the long labor without considering the reverse. Perhaps women who are in labor for days are just more likely to seek out pain relief?

As I thought a bit more about this, I started to consider the “cascade of interventions.” The “natural” birth folks have been ranting about how accepting even one intervention will cause a laboring woman to need even more interventions, thus starting the cascade of interventions, which will inevitably end in a C-section and a ruined birth experience. True, there are correlations between having Pitocin and having a C-section, for example. But again, this is a correlation, and doesn’t tell us anything about causation. There are a ton of confounding factors to consider. Childbirth is actually a really complicated process, and it’s influenced by a lot of variables. There is just no reason to conclude that accepting one intervention is the cause for needing another.

My infatuation with “natural” childbirth officially ended during one particular session of childbirth class. We were discussing pain relief options, and of course, we got on the subject of the epidural, and one of the dads turned to the mother of his child and said, “You’re not getting an epidural.” The mom shrugged it off, but I couldn’t help think, “What an asshole. He isn’t the one giving birth. What makes him think he has the right to tell anyone else how to give birth? Who is he to judge any of us?” And then, another lightbulb. I had been planning to pass on the epidural because I wanted to experience labor. The “natural” childbirth advocates had assured me that the pain was empowering. But wait a minute, isn’t it still pain? Any other time I have pain, I reach for relief, usually in the form of a magical pill. Why should this pain be any different? Enduring the pain doesn’t make me a better mom, or a better person. Childbirth isn’t about being “empowered.” It isn’t about the smug sense of superiority. It isn’t about getting a damn medal for doing things the hard way. It’s about making a baby.

So, when the time came, I went to the hospital and had my totally unnatural, medicalized birth experience, complete with an unnecesarean. I didn’t mourn the loss of my “natural” perfect birth experience. I didn’t get any Super Awesome Mom Perfect Woman Badge of Honor, but the consolation prize was much better: a healthy baby boy.

Elyse’s note:
See! Dolphins are safe! Animals in captivity never harm humans. They only have pure intentions… unlike your doctor who is still bitter about being forced against her will to attend medical school.

Lexicakes is a newer member of the Skepchick community, having only been around for a few months, and she thinks it’s awesome to see other women out there thinking critically. She blogs at and tries to be pretty active in her own local skeptical community in Albuquerque, NM. She started a Skeptics in the Park group, and attends Drinking Skeptically events when she can find a sitter.

The Skepchick Reader Rants, posted every Wednesday at 3PM Eastern, is a feature where you, the Skepchick readers, get to tell the Skepchick community what you think about whatever you want!  To be considered, please submit an original rant, preferably unpublished anywhere else, to skepchick(at)skepchick(dot)org with the subject: My Rant.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Great rant.

    I have never given birth but 4 years ago, 5 friends and my sister were all pregnant. What an education. One woman was so intent on giving birth at home in the kiddie pool that despite her midwife telling her it was time to go to the hospital for hours, she waited until her uterus had detached. The hospital ended up saving her, her son and her uterus but holy crap!!!

    My sister, on the other hand, being somewhat immune to woo in general had a vaginal birth with an epidural, couldn’t breastfeed due to other issues and let me tell you, I’ve never seen a kid and her mother more bonded than these two.

  2. I always find myself irritated about this issue. My own personal position is so firmly in between the two camps here that it’s crazy. The skeptics (who I almost always identify with) say over and over that medical birth is the best and only option, the NCB folks say that it never is, and this is one issue in which both sides firmly refuse to respect the other.

    Do some doctors push too many interventions on people who do not want or need them? YES. Do all doctors? No. Do some mothers want interventions? Yes. This does not make them bad mothers. Do some mothers want to avoid any interventions that are not necessary? Yes, and they should absolutely have that right. They should not be disrespected by the medical community, and they should ABSOLUTELY not be disrespected by skeptics.

    I believe wholeheartedly that hospitals should take more care to offer birthing options that are non-medical as possible to those mothers who choose them. When hospitals do offer these options, more women choose to deliver in the safety of hospitals instead of at home. In my own city there are no hospitals that will allow a woman to deliver without intrusive monitoring, constant encouragement for more interventions, and all of the bright lights and loud doctors that come with modern medical births. It’s no wonder that people here prefer the birthing center and home births. Unfortunately this puts them at unneeded risk, where doing a natural birth in a hospital with a doctor nearby in case of emergency would be a far better option.

  3. This issue frustrates me so much because the camps seem so extreme.

    The high c-section rates and induction rates are real problems. Childbirth also has real dangers and complications and sometimes intervention is necessary. Epidurals and other pain relief should be a personal choice. No one is a bad or good mother because of the way they gave birth.

  4. This is quite timely for me as I am currently trying to do research into this very subject! I am hoping to get pregnant soon and I have heard anecdotes, etc about natural childbirth. But, being a skeptic, I wanted to find out if what the natural childbirth people are saying is true. Frankly, I don’t care about the “empowering” aspect, but I am interested in the “pitocin leads to harder labor leads to epidural leads to higher incidence of c-section” argument and especially the “pitocin replaces natural hormones that increase bonding and increase post-birth euphoria” argument. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any reliable information about whether this is actually true.

    Does anyone happen to know of a good resource that discusses pitocin as opposed to non-pitocin labor and post-delivery?

  5. @devianttouch: Given my daughters umbilical cord was wrapped around her torso, between her legs and around her neck it was more than clear that she would have had brain damage had we opted for a home NCB (And this is an example not an anecdote by the way) . These folk are ideological agenda driven morons who put the lives of infants and mother’s at risk. Why you’d be between camps is beyond me. And what in the world does non-medical mean? That’s just more useless rhetoric.

  6. If you want real information based on REAL medical studies try reading “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer.

  7. @James Fox,

    On the other hand, there are doctors who LITERALLY will pursue a court order taking custody of the child and thereafter doing whatever they fucking want to a woman without allowing her to get a second opinion.

    CLEARLY, between the two camps is most definitely the proper location. And, it’s probably where you actually are, as well.

  8. Hmmm…how popular is this dolphin assisted child birthing? This is a fad (if it can even be called that) that will end with a hideous incident.

  9. The skeptics (who I almost always identify with) say over and over that medical birth is the best and only option, the NCB folks say that it never is, and this is one issue in which both sides firmly refuse to respect the other.

    I can’t speak for all skeptics, but my point is definitely not that medical birth should be the only option. When I gave birth, the hospital presented me with a whole lot of options – labor balls, a comfortable bed, even a Jacuzzi tub – in addition to the regular medical stuff. It was great to have all that to help me through labor. So yeah, there is a way to have it somewhere in the middle, and I think most of us are all for that.

    The point I am making is that the NCB rhetoric is incredibly harmful to mothers and babies. They frame childbirth in terms of success or failure. If you have interventions, you have failed. This is just setting women up for disappointment (and depression, anxiety, etc), because we can’t really control labor, and some of us will have complications that require intervention.

    This kind of rhetoric encourages women to do dangerous things that put themselves and their babies at risk. Women have water births and homebirths, which are both inherently more dangerous than giving birth in a hospital. The fear of “failure” can lead women to refuse necessary medical treatment. In extreme cases, mothers and babies die because they did not seek the proper medical attention.

    So, while I’m not advocating C-sections for all, I stand by my “Up yours” to the NCB community.

  10. @jemand: Um, sources? Because I suspect that’s very, very rare. So, one source isn’t “proof”. I doubt he stands “between the two camps” — considering he has said otherwise!

    I really hate when people do that. “Pshaw, I don’t care what you said, this is what you really mean because I said so!!!” Please.

  11. @lexicakes,

    Definitely talk of “success” and “failure” in reference to avoiding interventions and being “purely natural” is very dangerous.

    But I DO definitely believe that the homebirth movement, at least, historically was instrumental in GETTING all those nice options like labor balls and cozy rooms and comfortable lighting and such. It *is* true that at one point medicine was exceedingly condescending to women and their experiences, to the point of administering drugs messing with memory– so that nothing they did to them mattered, not necessary to treat them well, because they wouldn’t remember. And these ‘twilight sleep’ drugs sometimes did negatively affect outcome for babies as well.

    The state of obstetric care has advanced IMENSELY since the 1970s, in both respect for patients AND positive outcomes like less maternal mortality and infant deaths, and I think some of this improvement towards patient-centered care and more comfortable hospital birthing centers came at the urging of the natural child birth movement and home birth movement.

    It is true that they have their own issues, and that certain people claiming that label are as dangerous as anything they started fighting. That, however, is a danger to any movement, starting out trying to fight something, to improve something, and ending up so ideologically pure that you are creating the same kinds of problems as your movement initially tried to end.

    And now I’m just rambling.

  12. I don’t find natural childbirthers dangerous or annoying in the slightest.

    Cloth diaperers, though… I would like to fling poo at. They are the most cloying, “holier than thou” wenches and have managed to turn shitcloths into precious emblems of women empowerment. Gross.

    (As a side note, I do use cloth for my kiddos, but I try not to tell anyone.)

    Plus, I would like to add that maternity care in this country is not about science. It’s about managed health care. Lawyers, malpractice, insurance.

    If it was about science, women wouldn’t need back-alley VBACs.

  13. @lexicakes:

    The NCB nazis are the same to me as the breastfeeding nazis. But that is another topic. Thanks for the rant. I always appreciate reading things like this and how all the wonderful woman worked through it. Although it makes me feel like I haven’t pulled enough weight in my own household. I think I will go give the kids a bath now, and give my wife a BIG kiss when she gets home to try to make up for it.

  14. Is NCB really fair to the poor dads? I admit to being dumb enough to want to go without drugs when I gave birth to my first baby 18 years ago. After the window of opportunity for the epidural had passed, I realized that my husband was also suffering for my silly choice. Luckily my doctor had a backup plan – demerol to the rescue. Do they still give that to women in labor?

    Childbirth is a very imperfect process – maybe it would be beautiful if it had been “designed” but, alas, it is just what evolved. Luckily, we also seem to have evolved a way to forget how bad it was. Otherwise, our species wouldn’t have lasted very long.

  15. @marilove:

    ALL births are “medical births”.

    I realize upon review that I could have expressed that thought better. I was echoing the language in the comment I was responding to, which I think was a little clumsy to begin with. I’m not really sure “medical birth” is a meaningful term.

    I was simply trying to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with choosing to give birth without medication, and I am not judging individual women for their choices.

    I certainly wouldn’t argue with you about the fact that the way women were treated by medical professionals in the past was pretty crappy. But then, babies and women had a better chance of survival than ever before. Personally, I’d take the twilight sleep over the increased neonatal mortality rates of the early 1900s. This is exactly why it’s irrational for the NCB/homebirth folks to suggest that we should go back to the pre-modern obstetrics way of giving birth.

    I agree that it was a good thing that there were activists trying to get more options and give pregnant women more autonomy and freedom. But this is not what the NCB movement is like today. The fact that some NCB activists were right 40 years ago, does not mean that the NCB activists are right now.

  16. 7 minutes. When a baby goes south, say there’s a cord accident, you have seven minutes to get the adorable little bastard out or you start to have brain damage. You can’t predict when a delivery is going to go bad. So, you need to monitor constantly so you know when the clock starts ticking (god forbid it should). Also, should something go wrong, you need a surgeon there. In 7 minutes. Any obstacles you put in the way, like a car ride or an ambulance ride, are inexcusable.
    The scientific measurement of outcomes was founded in obstetrics.

    You are gonna get all the crazy hate mail now. This topic is the only one I have ever shut down on my own blog. Seriously, the girl cult comes out with their wolf vaginas baying at the moon.

    HJ (

  17. Medical birth = someone else washes your bloody sheets.

    I’ve had 3 births in hospital. No epidurals. I think home birth is for idiots who:

    1. Like washing bloody sheets while caring for a newborn.
    2. Think complications can be wished away by fairy dust.

    You can have a natural birth in hospital. I highly recommend it. If I didn’t, I’d be dead.

  18. I didn’t mind hearing information from many different sources when I was pregnant (all 3 times). What I did mind was the feeling that I was a “customer” not a client or patient or even just a person with questions and the need for a trustworthy person to help bring my children into the world.

    Both sides marketed their brands to me mixed with horror stories about the competition. I managed to choose a great midwife who treated me like the intelligent person I am. IOW, I bought a great product based on its own merits and not the hype.

    One hospital birth and two homebirths later, and I don’t think I ever gave up my ability to think clearly during one minute of either situation.

  19. @teragram42 Speaking as both a superintelectual giant AND an idiot, I had a doula, my sister, who made soup for me, wrangled my other kids, and helped my husband and midwife take care of any and all chores, including laundry.

    Homebirth = sleep in my own bed, eat wonderful meals on my own timetable, no catheters or people telling me when or where to pee.

  20. @Michael Barry: Oh Yeah. They had my sister in bath of tears, sobbing hysterically and my mother had to physically escort them from the house. Of course that is anecdotal. It could have been the individual and not the entire community. But it was enough to put a ban on all future visits by those folks to all of my sister and my cousins. At least half of them breast fed anyway, but the strong arm tactics seemed a bit extreme at the time.

  21. Briefly (because my brain is mush after 2 months of insanity and 24 hr calls): who are these doctors that push unnecessary interventions? Most OBs I know would LOVE to see more VBACs (except in states with extremely high malpractice rates), and most don’t care whether a mom wants an epidural. Oftentimes, patients don’t use what’s available to them- at the last hospital I worked at, the birthing tub was used once in 3 years.

    The possible exception to this could be a c/s but that’s usually a function of a decels on the fetal monitor, and as someone already said, there are only 7 minutes to get the baby out. In that case, I suppose that when things start moving really quickly that could be interpreted as “forced intervention”.

    If people are really concerned about c/s rates, the emphasis should be on malpractice suits. Granted, I have a biased perspective, but states that have the highest malpractice payouts (CT, PA) also tend to have higher c/s rates. This post from Dr. Tuteur is much better than what I can do at this moment:

  22. Just want to back up jemand, I had read a brief summary of a string of cases where doctors had decided a woman needed to give birth a certain way, and got court orders to do so. can’t remember all the details, but I think most of them involved forcing a cesarean on a woman who didn’t want one. I could have sworn I read about it on here, but I didn’t find anything in my half-assed search, so possibly it was a link someone posted (or maybe I am confused, it is my default state, after all…)

    anyways, I’m poking around on the web, and I’ll try to find some sources or something, hopefully it won’t take me too long.

    But, the dolphin thing, seriously? I mean, they are kinda neat critters and all, and wonderful to see, but they outweigh a human by quite a bit, and they are in their natural element. Plus, they are predators…

  23. I had heard about most of these from a few different areas, I think the most recent was ‘The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women’ by Jessica Valenti. (pretty good read by the way, most of the time it’s bashing abstinence only education and religious wingnuts).

    amazon link:

    here is some paper or something (first thing I found on googling) that appears to be supporting it (just read chunks of it, not the whole thing, so I could be wrong…). regardless of whether it was the appropriate (medically) thing to do at the time, I feel this is a major breach of personal, human, and reproductive rights, as well as a complete disregard for informed consent…

    Here’s something, doesn’t go into many details, but mentions a couple cases. Mostly looking at it as a rights issue, and using some similar arguments I have heard against anti-choicers (even if someone is going to die without your assistance, there is no other situation where you are legally obligated to put yourself at risk/undergo surgery, etc…)

    Okay, I’m kinda lazy after reading through a bunch of unrelated pages, hopefully those will serve to show that there are at least a couple of cases of court-orders removing the whole process of decision-making about birth from the pregnant woman…

    Hopefully there are a couple others on here who have happened across similar stories on some other feminist news/blogs/whatever and can provide some further support…

    (*note- I am not a natural child-birth advocate, humans have ridiculously proportioned heads, and infants even more so. I just feel that some choices should not be up to anyone to decide but the person involved.)

  24. okay, sorry about the rapid-fire postings, but I sincerely expected this topic to be more of a comment-magnet then it currently is, and wanted to get the info I was finding out as quickly as possible.

    anyways, here’s where I read it on this blog:

    ok, I feel a little vindicated (can I vindicate myself?) for thinking I saw that sorta stuff on here. I’m done for now, unless there is something directly for me to reply to…

  25. @jemand: Yep the attorney’s for the hospital and depending on the state a CPS social worker will seek legal intervention when a parent makes decisions that place an infant at significant risk of harm. Done that many times myself and judges are nearly always willing to make sure a moron doesn’t kill their child. The moron camp is still just that. Choosing to be partly ignorant is still a bad decision regardless of your sentiments.

  26. @jemand: Well if the price paid to get cozy labor rooms and balls to bounce on was some dead or brain damaged babies then fuck that price, it was to expensive.

  27. If your doula or midwife hasn’t had a bad baby, she hasn’t done enough deliveries. @JamieF, you did not have bad luck. You could have. Really. You could have. You took an unnecessary risk with someone else’s brain. More than once. That’s…hard to stomach.

  28. No one is talking about the flipping dolphins…was this common knowledge? Should I have know the crazies of the world were doing this? The story isn’t hospitals vs. home births…its about the dolphins!

  29. A friend of mine just had her first baby at 39. While she is overweight, she is overweight and awesomely fit – her weight is related to some underlying conditions and the necessary meds. She is also awesomely opinionated and stubborn.

    Now yes, I would be pissed off too if, at 3 months, my physician dictated that because I was overweight my baby would necessarily be overweight so we should just schedule that C-Section now. And if he continued to harp on that through the second trimester, I would also be as pissed off as she was. Because, you know, until 7 or 8 months, you don’t know jack shit on whether or not that baby is so big you need to have a C-section.

    But her response to this – instead of changing doctors or politely telling her doctor that we were just gonna wait and until the final trimester to figure that out? Doula and home birth…because since she “only lived a few miles away from the hospital”, she figured if something bad happened, there was plenty of time to get her there. Daughter-of-Physician and former hospital worker me knew that wasn’t exactly the smartest attitude (especially in DC area traffic). Because, you know, what @BingMcGhandi said.

    I kept quietly advocating the hospital, since, you know, they can’t operate on you against your will. She wasn’t buying it, and I was scared poop-less that her high-risk pregnancy (because it was, and not just because of her age) was going to end in a very bad delivery.

    As it turns out, she contracted HELLP about 7 weeks ahead of her due date. C-section needed to happen then and there for her own health. She was okay with that, since there was a reason, and the baby spent some time in NICU and is a nice, healthy future first female POTUS. (because she is, apparently, the most special baby in the universe ;) ). I hate to say it, but for the baby’s sake, I’m glad that happened. Otherwise, my friend would have skipped the medical intervention.

    I do think – like @devianttouch – that hospitals should do more to offer alternative solutions to childbirth. Especially when you have someone on their third or fourth childbirth and they know the routine, and may not even be considered high-risk.

    And yeah, obviously some doctors push too many interventions, but jesus, have you seen the malpractice premiums OB/GYN’s have to face these days? Faced with a high-risk pregnancy, they are going to want to control that birth as much as possible to cover their butts.

  30. “The point I am making is that the NCB rhetoric is incredibly harmful to mothers and babies”

    Extremist rhetoric on either end to the birth options spectrum is harmful to mothers and babies.

    Not all NCB rhetoric is the extremist strawman you’ve made it out to be, much like not all institutionalized medical intervention rhetoric is the extremist strawman some NCB advocates make it out to be.

    There is a real middle ground that allows for women to make well informed decisions about their pregnancy and labor.
    This doesn’t get us any closer to that.

  31. My mother had three births, only one without heavy medical intervention. She says that of course, that one was the best experience for her, but the other two of us would have died or suffered severe damage without the interventions, so she’s glad to only have a few bad memories instead of two dead children.

    Oh, and my sister, the product of that wonderful natural birth? Spent her first 6 weeks in the NICU due to health issues that turned out to be caused by a severe genetic defect. At her birthday parties I met enough kids with birth-related brain damage to scare me shitless.
    The most heartbreaking case: A girl who had been the unlucky one of a set of twins. Her brother was fine, she was almost completely paralysed from the neck down.
    Nature can be a cruel bitch.

  32. In college, I worked in a nursing home type facility for children and young adults who had severe physical and mental disabilities. One overriding theme when reading their charts: Refusal of medical interventions and 15 home births that went wrong. Merconium aspirations, cords wrapped around necks, people not knowing how large the baby would be, the list goes on. In one particularly grizzly case, a midwife tried to shove the baby back in because she realized there was a problem.

    Were there other reasons? Absolutely. Child birth is complex, it’s scary, it’s intense. Sometimes things just happen. But those kids I took care of are only alive because their mothers got to a hospital.

    When I was trying on wedding dresses recently, there was some Earth Mother pontificating about NCB. No drugs, goddesses, be a warrior mother. The pain helps you bond. You need to feel the pain in order to really feel like a mother. Historically, women had no pain medications. So they felt plenty of pain. Yet our desire to have a close bond with our child is still a relatively new model for parenting. Women used to have to go through pain because there was no other option, so why weren’t those people close to their children in the way that we are now?

    I guess I’m biased when it comes to medical interventions during child birth. I would be dead or severely disabled without them. My mother would have died in childbirth. As it was, I was continually monitored throughout infancy for possible brain damage. My mother had a “normal” pregnancy. She was expected to go in, have me, go home. She wasn’t induced, she went into labor naturally her water broke on it’s on. She waited at home until her contractions were the appropriate length apart. She had unexpected complications. Complications aren’t as rare as people would like to believe. So go to the hospital. Tell the doctor you don’t want an epidural, sit on a ball, walk around, move into different positions, etc., but get to the hospital!

  33. @James Fox:
    25% of babies are, and always have been, born with the cord around their neck. It goes up to closer to 33% when you include the cord being wrapped other places. The umbilical cord is full of wharton’s jelly to prevent the blood supply from being compressed. Its clear umbilical cord wrapping doesn’t cause brain damage in most cases, in fact its the opposite, a long cord wrapped around the baby is safer than having it floating around loose as it could prolapse if the baby’s head isn’t engaged when the amniotic sac breaks.

  34. Okay, I love this site and generally find myself giving a rousing “Hell Yeah” to the snarkiness displayed around here. But the hypocrisy being demonstrated in this whole thread is blowing my mind. You / We / Us are all constantly talking about how “the plural of anecdote is not data” and yet nearly every single response on here slamming natural childbirth is being prefaced or punctuated with anecdotes. You can call them “examples” all you want, but come on, if a natural birther came in here with a story about her homebirth and called it an example, you’d be all over her. In fact, I think you’ve already done that.

    Add to that the very palpable “dickishness” that you’re all exhibiting right out of the gate. Usually these attitudes come out around post 50 or so of dealing with some crackpot who keeps posting links to support their anti-vaccine stance. But you guys are immediately dubbing homebirthers as “ideological agenda driven morons who put the lives of infants and mother’s at risk”. Wow, what a sweeping generalization. Yes, I will admit, there are a LOT of ideological agenda driven morons in the homebirth movement. Just as with any movement. I point specifically to the people who want to deliver at home with no midwife or any other support staff. But I daresay the majority of women in this camp (and forgive me, this is purely based on my own anecdotal experience) are sane, intelligent people, generally from the upper middle class who have done their research but don’t just rely on their OWN research to make their decision. They talk to their Certified Nurse Midwives and express their concerns, much of the same ones that have been raised here.

    But that’s beside the point. If you’re really truly interested in making people see your side of the story, try being nice… at least at the beginning of the conversation. Because while being snarky and douchey amongst like minded people can be a fun exercise in mutual masturbation, all you’re doing is pushing people who stumble here and disagree with you farther and more comfortably into their “ideology”. Much the same way you feel more and more secure in your own lack of faith every time the Westboro Baptist Church tells you how much God hates you.

  35. @43 – Some very apt comments there – thanks for posting them.

    That said: if you’re going to have a baby, go to the freaking hospital. Most of them are quite easygoing these days about whatever you want to do, as long as you’re willing to let them jump in and help you if something goes wrong.

    We wanted to do a drug-free childbirth (I hate the term “natural” – what, does Pitocin make you give birth to a robot?) – the hospital was more than happy to accommodate that and in fact offered the option before we asked for it. And we live in the less-than-progressive town of Wilmington, NC.

    We ended up getting a C-section because our baby was presenting face-first, with lots of potential for facial and spinal damage during delivery. The decision took us about half a second.

    I’m damn glad I didn’t have to drive frantically across town to the hospital upon finding that out.

  36. See but, again, you’re basing your theory on anecdotes. You’re probably, all of you, absolutely right (if occasionally reaching for extreme cases just to make your point, which again is no better or worse than people on the other side), but how can you demand the other side to play by the rules when you yourself won’t even do it. Beyond that, how can you expect to actually change the minds of those who are still reachable if you can’t even start out by being polite? (not you bguppy, you were actually quite cordial :-) )

  37. I’ve read in a few places that the US has one of the highest rates of maternal/infant morbidity among developed countries. Perhaps it was in the book, “Pushed” by Jennifer Block. Ina May Gaskin, who assists natural births at “The Farm” in Tenessee, happens to have quite a low rate of maternal/infant morbidity. Countries which have instituted a great system to include midwives as the primary birth caregiver in places such as Sweden, Switzerland and Finland and referring to OB’s only when necessary have the best maternal/infant morbidity rates in the world.

    It’s interesting because as a species, we’ve more than proven our abilities to birth naturally or vaginally let’s say. Why is it so difficult to trust in it as a proven method? Birth in some cases, can be risky but in most cases it is not.

    I’ve read a lot of anecdotes (which you preface by saying it doesn’t really count.. so i’m not sure why you write them) in the above posts so I’ll go ahead and add my own, because I like to share as much as the next person. As a Doula, I’ve had the misfortune of being present at a traumatic birth where the baby was born asphyxiated. The mother chose to birth in a hospital, she had the benefit of an OB and multiple nurses. It didn’t make any difference, except to say the baby is alive today because of their efforts to save it after the fact, and will likely have had brain damage. (I heard from other Doulas after the fact that if there was cause, the nurses could’ve done an ultrasound and found that the cord was around babies’ neck. I do believe technology can be useful, if used properly.)
    I’ve also seen beautiful safe natural births without the use of intervention and some vaginal births with interventions. Generally speaking from my experience with the clients I’ve attended births, where there was less intervention there was a much better recovery and bonding with their babies.

    What gets my goat, is hearing so many doctors and nurses make snide and demeaning remarks to mothers while they labour, in hopes of having a regular birth. At a recent birth I attended, the anesthesiologist jumped into a conversation between mom and OB, “I really don’t want to have to pull another dead baby out this month”, All the while the mother is laboring and in the throws of deciding whether she should have a c-section or not. {Nice Doc. I wonder if she’ll decide on a section now that you’ve thrown the “dead baby” card out there? Oh yes. A section it was}.

    There is an inherent disregard for a mothers’ right to feel how she wants to feel during her labour. “Healthy Baby” is a term that’s thrown around a lot now. At least you got your healthy baby! But what if you can have a vaginal/regular birth and a healthy baby, but were persuaded into a section because your doctor was tired, nurse felt pressure to get you out of L&D to make room for more patients, the doctor doesn’t know how to deliver a breech baby, etc. I could go on with all the reasons I’ve specifically heard from the mouths of medical staff in the birthing rooms of L&D. Why isn’t there a huge respect from all medical staff, for every woman who walks into a hospital about to have a baby descend through vagina or be cut from her abdomen, regardless of her choices?

    The risks of something happening with a low risk patient are less than 6%. So why are our cesarean rates so high?

    Ideally, as a Doula I’d like to see the day when birthing parents can arrive at a birthing centre (Unrelated, why do we send our women into a hospital full of infection and disease?) to be greeted by their respectful midwife, and if complications occur the kind and respectful OB and surgical staff can be there to assist.

  38. @FFFearlesss: I’d like to weigh in on the issue of anecdotal “evidence.” While I completely agree that anecdotes don’t have a place in formal debate, and they certainly don’t prove anything, I actually find the inclusion of anecdotes in discussions such as this one to be enlightening. This is a community, and it’s interesting and helpful to understand where other like-minded people are coming from and what they are doing (for example, the collection of personal anecdotes on the AI “Does this last name make my feminism look big?” opened my eyes to the vast degree of variation and choice that are possible when choosing a name). If the day comes when I must choose my own method of childbirth, I certainly will rely on hard evidence and data rather than anecdotes. But for those of us who are just starting to explore issues such as this, and who enjoy Skepchick as a source of community, the personal stories of others in the community are welcomed.

  39. Well, I’m not really presenting a theory here, but at the moment there really is not any sufficiently solid evidence to demonstrate the relative safety of home vs. hospital births.

    The vast majority of the decisions we make in our lives cannot be supported by any sort of bulletproof evidence that one option is better or safer than another. In the absence of that, the best we have to go on is ours and others’ experiences. If 10 of my friends go to an auto shop and give them rave reviews, I will first seek out negative reviews, and, if they don’t outweigh my friends’ testimony, I will probably use them even though there’s no scientific proof that they’re the best shop in town.

    I want to use my experience to let people know that they don’t have to be afraid of the hospital, and that things can and do go wrong at the last minute, and it’s really nice to have a safety net already in place when it happens.

    Have I “proven” that going to the hospital is the “right” decision? No. Have I given someone who’s on the fence some food for thought and potentially convinced them to reconsider a possibly ill-thought-out homebirth plan? I think so (assuming they bothered to read all the way down to comment #44).

  40. Yes, absolutely anecdotes can help enlighten or at the very least illustrate. It’s a matter of consistency and hypocrisy to me right now. Because let’s not bullshit, if I came into this discussion with “examples” about my wife’s three homebirths, or “examples” from her two years as a birth center CNM, or for that matter, the “example” of my sister-in-law who, because of a “routine C-section” ended up with 5 miscarriages over the next 8 years, would they be considered “enlightening” or adding to the conversation around here? No, they absolutely wouldn’t. In fact, I’d probably just be told that I “took an unnecessary risk with someone else’s brain.”

    It’s not the anecdotes around here that I mind. It’s the hypocritical use of them and how apparently only the ones that back up your point of view are valid. This is exactly the kind of shady tactics that we constantly attack people on other woo blogs for engaging in. Whether it’s a “formal debate” or not if you’re going to hold your competition to a higher standard than you hold yourself, that’s just messed up.

    And I only harp on the subject here because I generally, genuinely respect the authors and commentors on this blog as being more intelligent than the average blogger, so side trips into this kind of hypocrisy irk me.

    Okay, I’m expected at the Do Your Own Pap Smear seminar. Gotta go show people how to identify their pre-cancerous cells without the aid of microscope. :-P

  41. @FFFearlesss: Your point is well taken, politeness is a good thing, however, righteous indignation is perfectly understandable and acceptable in the face of irrational behavior.

    Proponents of NCB often draw their opinions from deep mistrust of medicine and deep faith in things that are ‘natural’, hence the name. We know that “natural=better” is a logical fallacy and that broad sweeping mistrust of modern medicine is dangerous and foolish. The fact that NCB is based on faulty premises is why a little outrage is acceptable, similarly to the outrage we often express at the anti-vaccination crowd.

    Of course, we have to be sympathetic to mothers who buy in to NCB or anti-vaccine rhetoric, for that matter. They’re just ignorant, or misinformed, and they do want what’s best for their children. (ANECDOTE ALERT) I should know, I was both born at home and not vaccinated (I am now). I love my mother and I know she wanted the best for me, but I still feel like she should have know better.

  42. @FFFearlesss: A truck load of examples and anecdotes (you never hear about bad outcomes from the NCB crowd) can and often make for a more compelling case or at least provide appropriate illustration to a point. Anecdotes are not worthless; they just need to be kept in perspective. This is indeed an old topic around here and if someone has a problem with snark this may not be the best place to participate in a discussion. Hard core NCB types are indeed often educated and have an above average income level, as are most anti vaccine morons and users and proponents of ineffective complementary, alternative and woo filled medical quackery.

  43. Wow, you continue to prove my point. You realize that all you’re doing is reconvincing people who already agree with you. But anyone who might have been in the NCB camp but open to reconsidering is now put off by you automatically assuming they’re morons. That’s fine, if again, all you’re concerned about is self-congratulation, hi-fiving people with the same point of view and ranting about how awesome you are. But once again, you’ve lost the chance to actually potentially change minds by engaging in the blogging equivalent of telling people, “You’re going to burn in hell.”

  44. I must agree with FFFearless. I must say that I see an awful lot of hasty generalization on this thread. It is true that there are those who are driven by “medical establishment conspiracy” ideas when making birth decisions. However, you must recognize that the “everything the doctor decides is right” point of view is a little extreme also. It is possible to want to have a birth experience with as little medical intervention as possible without being a crackpot. In fact, I would expect my fellow skeptics to be well informed participants in their major healthcare decisions.
    What is lacking from what I have heard and seen is for all hospitals to offer the option of being there in reserve while a mother has a baby. The big problem is that over the years most in the medical community have been trained to treat birth as a medical problem to be solved. This is understandable since most of medicine is concerned with healing, curing disease or managing pain. Birth on the other hand is a natural process. It’s good to have medicine on standby, ready to help if there is a problem, but there’s no need for the doctor to be “in control” the whole time.
    Of course, there is little data as to what is “normal” and what is a “problem”. We can’t ethically perform controlled experiments where care is given or withheld, so for many reasons, doctors tend to err on the side of caution and take control and intervene. I have anecdotes that I could cite regarding two natural births, but I’ll refrain for now.
    As for interventions in general, I’ve seen much in the news relating to the high rate of c-sections in the US (31%). If these interventions are all necessary, one would expect a lower infant mortality rate for the US compared to countries with a lower c-section rate. According to the CIA (, the US ranks 180 out of 224 countries (higher is better). Out of the 44 countries with better infant mortality rates, none that I could find data for have a higher c-section rate. In fact, France for example has a c-section rate of 18% and an infant mortality rate that is almost half the US rate. Now plenty of countries with much worse infant mortality rates also have much lower c-section rates so the real takeaway from this is that maybe the intervention rate in the US is unnecessarily high.
    If your eyes haven’t glazed over by this point and you’re still reading, I would hope that at least we could stop with the name calling. Assuming everyone who chooses to have as natural a birth as possible arrived at their decision by using conspiracy theories or astrology is non-productive. In fact, the general level of rudeness, condescension and dare I say it – close-mindedness here has soured my wife on this community.

  45. The natural crowd back in Vegas told me I’d ruined my daughter’s life by having her in a hospital. I told them I was high-risk and therefore it was illegal in Nevada to have a midwife home delivery which was also not covered by insurance, and that I had an induction because of gestational diabetes.

    They told me I should have done it quietly at home under the radar and used some guy’s experimental water-balloon-induction method or something. I don’t remember the details because that’s where my brain turned off as a defense against TEH STOOOOPID.

    I’m moderately crunchy but a lot of what has soured me on the crunchy mama gig is the anti-medical crap that is just plain wrong. I know there are bad doctors pushing c-sections of convenience, but I am not a bad mama because I chose, after careful thought, research, and deliberation to have an epidural. And that was some hard deliberation on account of the rattling from the bedframe because despite being able to mentally distance myself from the pain, my body was all like HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS HURTS WHY AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION!!! I AM GOING TO SHAKE HORRIBLY UNTIL YOU PAY ATTENTION!

    Epidural came, shaking stopped, baby was out in six pushes hahahahaha pbbblllttt to those who say it makes things take longer!

    eta Ha ha ha on the video…now we place the flower in the water to symbolize the destruction of a plant’s fertility structures upon your birth…

  46. While I am someone who does not have children, and does not want children, it’s a decision I don’t have to make. I’ve got to say, all of the craziness about being a “good” mother really turns me off.
    Still, I have, in my life, had medical problems. I have been in many hospitals and seen by many doctors. Not all of them have been fantastic, and despite the sports injury doc who misdiagnosed me and fucked up my ankle permanently, I am not afraid to go to a hospital. I am glad I sought medical help when I collapsed (possibly a stroke). I appreciate the breathing assistance when I’ve had athsma attacks.
    I was in the room when my sister gave birth to her first daughter and it was the most incredible experience of my life. She was a preemie and needed some medical help, so it was great to have those nurses right there to get her going. Now she’s a healthy, sweet, awesome 10-year-old. Her second was a C-section thanks to some complications, and that one’s an adorable awesome 3-year-old. I also know someone who had a home birth and has two gorgeous healthy children. Knowing me and my medical problems, I’d choose a hospital. I’d rather be close to someone who can help me if I need it. My sister, myself and my brother were all born in hospital. We’re all pretty okay.
    My grandmother told me when she had her two kids, they put you to sleep. You had no choice, you were put to sleep and woke up with a baby. She didn’t like it because she has no memory of the birth, but that was how they did things in the 50’s.
    All you women who live in the first world with access to reliable medical care should be thanking your lucky stars you have the choice to have a healthy baby instead of taking your chances squatting in a field.

  47. @FFFearlesss: Perhaps you have a point in that most of the time this is a place for like minded folk to hang out and discuss issues who often have big disagreements and occasionally slap each other on the back and often love to roll in the snark. I may be wrong but I’ve never really thought of Skepchick as an outreach project as much as a place for the generally like minded; and on the about us page Rebecca states “Skepchick isn’t just about the fabulous posts — it’s also about the community of people who read and offer funny, or supportive, or thought-provoking comments that contribute to an ongoing discussion.” So sure, the use of the word moron may be a shared opinion but it’s not necessarily supportive to all those posting here supporting the NCB point of view. To that end please remove moron in my previous posts and insert sometimes regrettably uninformed but more often stubbornly resistant to the weight of evidence and rational arguments.

  48. I don’t think that “thought-provoking comments that contribute to an ongoing discussion” includes deriding anyone who chooses a natural birth as a moron. The name calling pretty much just shuts discussion down.
    Calling everyone who chooses to avoid drugs when having a baby a moron is needlessly exclusive. It is a rational point of view to want a birth experience that is not managed by a doctor. That doesn’t mean that you think medicine is evil or that you don’t want doctors available. It just means that you’re concerned that doctors get a bit overzealous when they are not in control.

  49. @trentonSteve: ” It just means that you’re concerned that doctors get a bit overzealous when they are not in control.”

    So someone who chooses not to have a “natural birth”** isn’t concerned that doctors are a bit overzealous?

    That’s a load of condescending, thinly-veiled “omg if you use drugs, you are a BAD mother!” crap.

    **Also, “Natural birth” is a load of fucking crap.

    Someone who uses drugs to help them get through birth is not somehow not going through a “natural birth” since, you know, birth is kind of a natural thing that all pregnant women go through.

    “It is a rational point of view to want a birth experience that is not managed by a doctor.”

    Not to mention that that is a fucking thinly-veiled, “omg you use doctors? Bad mother!” load of crap. So it’s not rational if you want a birth managed by doctors, eh?

    *eye roll*


    “Natural birth” is a huge red flag.


    I can’t believe SKEPTICS use this kind of terminology. What a load of fucking bullshit.

  50. My wife had a horribly extended childbirth with our daughter last year. She’s a nurse and wanted a hospital birth. We were offered a home birth but decided against it due to risks of complications. Choices are good and we had plenty of information and advice from our excellent midwife.

    My wife was in labour (on and off) for FIVE DAYS. I can’t tell you how worried I was but the maternity staff at our local hospital were amazing.

    It was taking so long that the consultant was brought in to see what was going on. My wife begged her to do a C-Section and she said no – vaginal birth would be better for mother & baby.

    Eventually our baby emerged (with the help of forceps) and all is well. A home birth would have been an utter disaster for us as baby had a HUGE HEAD that refused to come out naturally.

    I can’t thank that consultant enough for not giving in to us. We had the better outcome – my wife would have had a six week recuperation from the section scar and would have unable to pick up our (rather large) beautiful baby girl.

    The drugs worked for us (well, not for me obviously) and made a difficult period far more bearable for my wife.

    Our hospital had all sorts of posters up about the percentages of vaginal births and c-sections. They’re aware of the problems in this area.

    I trust these medically-trained people far more than any of these internet experts giving poorly-educated advice. Hurrah for medical science. And hurrah for our NHS!

  51. Okay, regarding the issue at hand. I will be the first to admit that there are people in the Natural Birth movement who can be downright asshats with their in-your-face pushing of their views and how you HAVE to do this or that or it makes you a terrible mother… then again, HELLO, is anyone here a parent? Pretty much every other parent you encounter at the park, playgroup, or on the street can exhibit douchebaggery of equal proportions. It’s certainly not limited to hippies wearing hemp jewelry.

    Regarding the dangers of out of hospital birth, there really haven’t been that many studies done, but the ones that HAVE been done all seem to point to one thing: for low risk women hospital or home (with a licensed practitioner) makes pretty much ZERO difference in the health and morbidity of mother and baby.

    As to the anecdotes provided earlier. I had my wife, (a CNM who spent two years as a midwife in a birth center practice), take a look and she was frankly horrified at the misinformation that was being touted as reasons why nobody should ever deliver out of a hospital. It would take a hugely long time to rebut every single one of them, but most of the anecdotes she greeted with either, “Okay you can absolutely deliver a baby vaginally with that x,y,z problem” or “Any midwife or doctor worth their salt would be able to catch that issue WAY ahead of time with plenty of time to transfer to the hospital.” Regarding the whole phantom “7 minute rule”, sure, she admits, there are things that can suddenly explode and cause the death of mother and/or baby if not attended to IMMEDIATELY in surgery. The thing is, those instances could happen for somebody planning a hospital birth whose water breaks in, say, Walmart. Suddenly there’s a cord issue, but the mother has no idea because, well, why would she, but by the time she takes her “leisurely” car ride to the hospital, it’s already too late. Just an example, but according to her THOSE types of problems are far rarer than the problems that arise out of those dreaded interventions that set this whole discussion off.

    (to be continued)

  52. The thing nobody ever seems to talk about in discussions such as this are the very real risks involved with getting a c-section. Yes, in certain cases they are absolutely a lifesaving measure and I daresay the vast majority (if not all) of CNM’s would agree with that. But they do carry their own risks, most notably scar tissue which will put mother and all future babies at risk should she decide to get pregnant again. I think of my wife’s sister who had a C-section with her first baby. Since then she has had 5 miscarriages including two ectopic pregnancies which could have killed her. Her doctors seem to think it had to do with the large amount of scar tissue left over from the first surgery. My wife has seen women almost die delivering their second baby because the placenta had implanted itself INTO the scar tissue from their first c-section which mean the only way for IT to come out was for the entire uterus to come out.

    Are this worst case scenario anecdotes? Perhaps. Though no worse than any of the anecdotes being used on this thread to support the other side.

    The point is, people in the NCB movement or whatever you want to call it, ARE concerned with avoiding c-sections unless absolutely necessary. They ARE concerned with what pain drugs might do to the baby. And yes, a good number of them are dickheads about the fact that they went completely drug free. And they absolutely shouldn’t do that because they have no idea what any other woman went through during labor except themselves. Nor should anyone try and make people who WANT to do it drug free feel like they’re somehow being stupid or ridiculous. Because believe me, there are THOSE douchebags out there too. “Mm hm, oh honey everyone says they wanna do it drug free but I bet you a hundred dollars you’ll be kissing your anaesthesiologist by the end.”

    So I can’t speak for every other homebirther out there, but my wife chose a homebirth 1) to be in a comfortable environment to help ease fear and apprehension which can stall labor. But also 2) so she could manage pain at home in ways that most hospitals wouldn’t allow her to do… at least not for long. She could walk around. Sit in a pool. She could scream as loud as she bloody well wanted without somebody standing there saying, “want something for the pain?” And for her it worked.

    For others it might not. And we both agree, that’s fine. Neither of us frankly care how you have your baby, so long as it comes out healthy and you’re happy about how it went. Nobody, doctors, midwives, skeptics or hippies, should make you feel lousy about your birth. You should have the choice and the rights to do it the way that is going to make you happy with the outcome. And any other mom who does that to you frankly isn’t worth the effort of even being angry at.

    Ultimately we just want the choice to continue to do things that the studies seem to indicate are no safer or more dangerous than the current accepted model of childbirth.

  53. marilove: I reread what I posted and I don’t think anywhere I said that people who choose not to have a “natural birth” aren’t concerned with “overzealous doctors.” I certainly never called anyone here a “bad mother” or even thought it. That would be wildly presumptuous of me, not to mention extremely rude. I never said or implied that there was something wrong with people who take medications during birth or have c-sections.
    What I did say was that everyone who wants to avoid as much medical intervention as possible is not a “moron” or a crackpot. That just maybe they came to a rational, albeit different decision.
    My son was born at a birthing center. Go ahead, call my wife and I names if you want, but we felt after looking into all the information that it was a rational decision. There was medical equipment standing by. Everything went fine. Maybe we were just lucky but maybe not.
    When our daughter was born two years later, the birthing center was out of business. None of the health insurance companies would recognize them. Using the services of the same nurse/midwife we went to a hospital. This time constant monitoring was mandated. An IV was mandated. When things weren’t “moving along” as fast as the doctor involved wanted, pitocin was administered. Having done it both ways, my wife has said that if she were ever to have a baby again she’d shove the pitocin needle up the doctor’s ass before she’d let them give it to her again. Ultimately, our daughter was also born healthy and happy. In the hospital. But I will tell you it was a fight with the staff to keep them from taking over. And for no real reason that we could see other than that they wanted to control it.
    I certainly don’t begrudge painkillers to a woman who wants them. I don’t think less of someone who chooses to do things differently from my wife and I. I’m just saying that I have seen how interventions can cascade from one to another. Just make an informed decision. That’s what we skeptics are supposed to be doing.
    Not once have I been condescending or called anyone a bad mother. I’m sorry if people have done that to you or someone you know. I know that people – especially many of those at the hospital – were condescending to my wife and I during our daughter’s birth. All except for a wonderful nurse who was so supportive that she stayed past the end of her shift to see things through to the end.
    I echo again what FFFearless says. No one should make you feel lousy about your birth.

  54. @jemand:

    I have had family members go through a doctor’s attempt to gain custody of their child because the parents wanted to “waste time” getting a second opinion before committing a young child to serious surgery.

    Doctors don’t seek court orders, typically. They apply to a different group in the hospital (some kind of Social Services type organization, typically); if this group agrees that legal intervention is warranted, they petition a judge for it. So a lot of people have to agree that custody is the right thing.

    In my family’s case, the hospital was denied custody — the courts tend to err on the side of patient and parent rights. However, I know there are cases where abuses of this system and unfortunate decisions have been made. It’s unusual, but it does happen.

    It’s so unusual that avoiding the medical establishment in order to mitigate that risk is just silly.

  55. My wife and I are expecting twins; it’s a high-risk pregnancy. She’s asked me to be involved closely in the decision-making about intervention, because she knows I have a better detailed memory, and because she has enough on her mind.

    Because of that, I’ve been the one who deals with responding to the truly terrible advice.

    The NCB folks really are the worst, in my experience. We’ve been told not only that NCB is an important — nay, feminist — movement, but that we’re bad parents for “forcing our children to be born in a dangerous, sterile place”. I know they meant “sterile” like “emotionally sterile”, but I still thought: you know, sterile sounds like a good thing when there are open orifices, vaginal tears, and copious amounts of bodily fluids around.

    No one gets worse advice than parents-to-be, with the possible exception of brand-new parents.

  56. @autotroph: No one gets worse advice than parents-to-be, with the possible exception of brand-new parents.

    And how. Did you know that there is only one right stroller and diaper bag? Neither did I until I had kids.

  57. @autotroph: The legal issue is often between imminent harm and significant risk of harm. If an immediate decision needs to be made a doctor in most states can hold a minor but not an adult for 24 hours which automatically gets CPS involved. Very few states allow a doctor or hospital to perform any medical procedure on a competent adult if they refuse. In some limited cases courts will detain a pregnant mother in the very late stages of pregnancy to prevent the mother from harming herself when mental health or substance abuse issues are involved, but this is based on different mental health laws and the protection of the unborn/soon to be born child is a byproduct of protecting the adult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ it is a common and typical procedure for CPS to get a court order to authorize the state to take over medical decisions to allow a needed transfusion to save a child’s life. These systems are only very occasionally abused by those seeking to protect children and it is my experience, and more often than not what is in state laws, is that the consideration of the child’s safety takes precedence over the parents’ rights when an immediate safety issues is at hand. And you’re right doctors do not seek court orders and rarely do hospitals; that is usually turned over to CPS or Adult Protection Services or State designated mental health professionals. These systems are typically quite effective in these situations because the issues are often simple, or require immediate action. If there are conflicting opinions between the state, parents or doctors there is often time to hash that out in front of a judge who then has the final decision.

  58. @trentonSteve: I know how to read between the lines.

    “Overzealous doctors”. “It’s rational not to want doctor intervention.” They are all thinly-veiled insults. You are implying that it’s not rational to want medical intervention.

    Also, again: ALL BIRTHS ARE NATURAL.


    This insistence to use “natural birth” as a way to describe a specific way a mother decides to give birth is just a way to shame mothers who decide to use “medical intervention” or “overzealous doctors” instead of so-called “natural birth”.

    One is not more natural than the other.

    It is shaming language; nothing more, nothing less.


    Skeptics using shaming language makes me sad.

  59. @marilove:


    Thank you so much for saying this! I hate the term “natural” childbirth. It implies that there is only one way to give birth, and every other way is unnatural, and therefore bad. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any other term for it, which is why I put the word “natural” in sarcasm quotes.

    Oh, and it especially angers me when people refer to giving birth “naturally” when they really mean “vaginally” (I have a feeling that these people are just afraid of the word vagina). But still, I had a C-section, and implying that it was unnatural is really insulting.

  60. marilove, I’ll say it one more time, I am not insulting you. I do not wish to insult you.
    I agree that birth is a natural process. That’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning. Please tell me how I can succinctly describe the idea that someone wants to let that process run it’s course unless there is a problem; with medical science held in reserve, ready to intervene if needed. I’ve used the term “natural childbirth” to describe a vaginal birth with no medical intervention. I’ll gladly use a different term if you’d like. How about “non-medicated”? That doesn’t really seem to describe it correctly though.

    I’d like to describe it in a way that doesn’t offend you since I seem to have failed at that so far.

    I started posting on this thread because I felt that many here were creating a false dichotomy where there is a range of positions. For all intents and purposes my wife and I were lumped in with “morons” for wanting to pursue a certain course of action. As a fellow skeptic, I’m open to the notion that we could have been wrong. So far, from what I’ve read here, I still don’t feel that our position was irrational. In the spirit of discussion, I attempted to show how what we did could be based on a rational decision. None of that means that we feel that ours was the only “right” decision.

    How can you “read between the lines” when there’s nothing intended? Instead of trying to assume that I’m implying things I haven’t said, why don’t you just read what I’ve written.

  61. @lexicakes: ” But still, I had a C-section, and implying that it was unnatural is really insulting.”

    Yes! This!

    I was born by C-section, because I was a twin and a vaginal birth would have been dangerous for me, my sister, and my mother due to some complications. And it was not somehow a “non-natural birth”. It was a c-section, but it was still a birth. All birth is natural.

    It’s all shaming language. Also, you are likely very right about people being afraid of the word “vagina”.

  62. Wait a second, all births are natural? I thought@marilove: ALL births are “medical births”.

    Seriously, this is paranoia on the level of the very people you’re pissed off at. EVERY group who does something in a similar way chooses a term to describe themselves. Usually it’s a succinct term like “skeptic” rather than “People who tend to analyze all sides of an issue rather than making decisions based on emotions and a lack of facts.” Within the community the word is generally an empowering one. But anyone NOT inside the community, who doesn’t necessarily ascribe to those core values, or whatever, COULD conceivably view it as a divisive and derisive term. As in “You’re not a skeptic so you’re obviously sometimes regrettably uninformed but more often stubbornly resistant to the weight of evidence and rational arguments.

    But as Steve says, for the sake of argument, because clearly you’re giving this term far more power than it deserves and it’s clouding the issue, we’ll substitute “Natural Child Birth” for whatever term you want.

    And while YES there are douchebags out there who are going to deride you for not making the same decisions as them, let’s A) not delude yourself into thinking YOU don’t do the exact same thing, and B) let’s give the people HERE the benefit of the doubt and, as Steve says, read what we SAY, not between the lines. We can only reassure you that we’re not mocking your decisions so many times.

  63. FFFearless, it would seem that I am not allowed to discuss this issue because no matter what I say it is being inferred that I am insulting someone. Basically, I see no discussion here because everything is being taken personally.

  64. @FFFearlesss: It’s one and the same. All births are natural; and all births are a medical process.

    Stop being obtuse.

    Saying that not using medication is “natural” or having a vaginal birth is “natural” while everything else is “not natural” is shaming language. “Natural” is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS used to mean “better” — always. It’s shaming language.

    All births are natural; and all births are medical procedures.

    It’s simple.

    Have you noticed I’ve never once made a claim to support one or the other? Quite frankly, I don’t care if someone doesn’t want to use medicine and wants to do a vaginal birth. That’s cool.

    However, I WILL think you are stupid if you do it away from doctors, because if something goes wrong, it WILL be your fault when the baby dies.

    IT IS STILL A MEDICAL PROCEDURE THAT SHOULD BE OVERSEEN BY THOSE WHO ARE PROPERLY TRAINED IN MEDICINE. And it’s still natural, since giving birth is a natural process of pregnancy.

  65. Clearly my sarcastic attempt at humor was badly received. And clearly the studies I posted earlier that shows no difference in safety and outcomes of out of hospital versus hospital mean nothing. And I think intimating that a Certified Nurse Midwife is NOT properly trained in medicine is rather insulting to midwives. But we can have pissing contests over who’s being the most insulting all day can’t we.

    And I’m sorry, I know the word “natural” has been hijacked a bit by the hippie community, but no, a c-section is NOT a natural birth. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (lest I be misinterpreted). But until you can show me human babies, or any mammals for that matter, coming out of a flap in their mother’s stomach, IN NATURE, sorry, that argument doesn’t fly.

  66. I had an awesome birth in a hospital. Everything went the way I wanted and my son was born healthy and happy. I chose not to have any interventions because they weren’t right for me. I didn’t need them. And I’m happy with that choice. Does that make me better than someone else? No. Does that make me worse than someone else? No. Did I expect a medal? Not at all. I felt very safe giving birth in a hospital setting. Of course, I gave birth with a Certified Nurse Midwife. From the moment I checked into the hospital until the moment I checked out 36 hours later, I was not touched by a doctor for more than 2 minutes, and it wasn’t for the labor and delivery. I tore a little bit and needed a couple of stitches. The doctor breezed in after the birth and was very rough with me. When I merely said, “wow, that f’ing hurts” she got very pissy and said she would not be able to stitch me up unless I was sedated and sent to the OR. For a little tear. She left it to another Certified Nurse Midwife who was able to stitch me up without a problem. All in all, it was a great experience. that being said, I’ll probably choose a homebirth next time. I moved and cannot birth at the same hospital and the hospitals in my area do not have a great track record. Women are not encouraged to make their own choices and the c-section rates in most of the hospitals around here are at 40%. I don’t feel comfortable birthing in a hospital here unless I have a problem. I feel confident that homebirth is safe, as has been proven over and over and over again over the years. It boils down to choice. It has nothing to do with me being some tree-hugging hippie who thinks she is better than everyone because she can shoot a baby out of her vagina sans meds and pitocin. It has to do with what is best for each individual in their situation. It’s about choice.

    Many of you are screaming about those horrible “natural” childbirth people and their holier-than-thou attitudes, yet you don’t realize that you sound exactly the same as them. Exactly the same.

    Many things CAN go wrong in childbirth. Many things CAN go wrong when you sit down at a restaurant and get a meal. You could choke to death. You could get a nasty case of salmonella and end up in the hospital for weeks. You could get a variety of hepatitis infections because someone wiped and didn’t wash their hands and then touched your food. But, you don’t restrict yourself to only eating in a hospital. It’s the same for many “risks” in life. There are countless studies out there that prove homebirth is safe for low risk women. There are countless studies that prove that the rising c-section rate in this country is a problem and is leading to a higher rate of maternal and neonatal death. Just basic facts. You can look at all of the information out there and make the choice for yourself. If you’ve read and researched and have decided that a nice hospital birth with an epidural is for you, then go for it. If you read and researched and have decided that a homebirth with a midwife and a kiddie pool in the living room is for you, then go for it. And the parents in either situation shouldn’t make one another feel like crap for their decisions. You could say that the homebirther is irresponsible for taking that risk by keeping birth out of the hospital. But, you can also say that the hospital birther is taking a risk by allowing interventions or having an elective c-section.

    Reading some of the comments here, you all really DO sound like people who are mourning their birth experience. You can deny it until you are blue in the face. Protest too much. But, I think there are those of you who had a crap experience, you know it was crap and instead of saying, “hey, I can’t believe this crap happened to me,” you instead try to bring everyone else down. You falsely assume that admitting that the experience wasn’t the best will make you seem like a failure. You don’t want to seem like a failure. You don’t want to be judged. So instead you rant and you rave. You b*tch out everyone who had a better experience than you. You point fingers, shake your head and huff and puff at those who put even the tiniest doubt in your head. No one let you feel empowered during your experience, so you’re going to make damn well sure you don’t let anyone else feel empowered. Down with empowerment. In your mockery of everyone who had a different experience or who view the whole birth process in a different light you expose your own wounds. Again, I’m sure their will be much protesting against what I just said. And again, the more you protest against it the more you prove my point to many who read this.

    Of course I will be flamed for being “TEH STOOOPID” and that’s fine. I can hold my own. You exist mainly to preach to those who already think the same way as you. It’s not that challenging to hold court on a site when the majority of folks here already believe the same as you. So, it’s not for you that I post all of this. It’s not for debate. It for those lurkers who are straddling the fence. Maybe they will end up on your side of the lawn. Maybe they will read what I wrote and will end up over here. Maybe they will stay on that fence and choose the middle of the road approach. Anyway you slice it, it’s their choice and, holy cow, that’s okay.

  67. Reading some of the comments here, you all really DO sound like people who are mourning their birth experience. You can deny it until you are blue in the face. Protest too much. But, I think there are those of you who had a crap experience, you know it was crap and instead of saying, “hey, I can’t believe this crap happened to me,” you instead try to bring everyone else down.

    This is a perfect example of the holier-than-thou attitude that we’ve been talking about. You’re really arguing that we disagree with you because we’re all just jealous of your awesome and empowering birth experience? Really? You don’t think that sounds a little condescending? You don’t think maybe it’s a little rude to talk down to women who don’t choose “natural” childbirth? It’s never occurred to you that many women who do mourn their birth experiences do so only because of the way they are treated by people like you?

    Really? Wow.

  68. You obviously did not read, or at least comprehend, most of what I said. I would say, “Really? Wow” to that, but after seeing how you respond to anyone who does not agree 1000% with you, I am not surprised.

    Enjoy your hypocrisy. You do it quite well. Much love and peace. :-)

  69. I don’t know that you’re necessarily upset about your own bad birth experience. All I do know is that if you’re going to get THIS insulted over a teeny tiny subset of the population using a “shaming word” then maybe, just maybe you’re not mature enough to be a parent. Beyond that, if you’re going to get that bent out of shape over the word “natural” then, hey here’s an idea, how about YOU stop using shaming words like, ya know, “moron”. Just a thought. Because you ask any outsider looking in on this conversation and I think I can pretty much guarantee they’d all agree that the words YOU’RE using are far worse than anything the hippie community is dishing out.

  70. The plural of anecdote is not data, but here’s mine anyway – I was in labor, having nice strong regular contractions, they got painful, I opted for the epidural, and my contractions stopped. dead. So I was given Pitocin, which didn’t kick in “fast enough” (for the nurses, nobody bothered to ask me), so they gave me MORE Pitocin, and eventually the contractions came back….and I wound up having an emergency c-section anyway.

    I was on so many drugs by that time that I have no memory of my son being born. (On top of everything else, I was given ketamine in the OR.) I’d much rather have a memory of intense labor pains than no memory of it at all.

    Correlation != causation, sample size of one etc etc, but the next time I give birth I will not be getting an epidural, and unless my OB can give me a clear *medical* reason why Pitocin is necessary, I will refuse that as well. I will be in a hospital, but I want my head clear this time.

  71. No one has mentioned the wing-nut theory called “evolution”… Humans are mutant apes with giant heads! Comparing human birth to any other mammalian “natural” birth is meaningless unless you take note of the humungous size of babies’ heads, and the fact that evolution works on a “just good enough” basis.

  72. @marilove:
    All births are medical? i believe that you are a skeptic because you believe that. Aside from how people “chose” to birth their child…. birth is a spiritual process, it is a right of passasge for a woman. She passes the gate into motherhood whether her child is a cesarean birth or a home birth…i think that you are forgeting all of that.I think we need to birth in awareness…. know what it is that we would like to happen, chose a care provider who will honor that, and when it CAN NOT (for good reasons) happen that way, move on to the next best thing! Childbirth is not a disease, it does not need to be “treated”
    I opted for a natural birth, because like the rest of my life, i live unmedicated. i do not trust pharmaseuticals, but agree in SOME cases they are neccesary. but things did not happen for me that way, and it did leave me feeling ashamed…. but those ideals were outcomes that I had attached myself to… no one else. and that was a journey that i needed to make, for whatever reasons. I do still believe that homebirths are a great option for low risk pregnancy’s….AND MIDWIVES ARE TRAINED TO TELL IF A PROBLEM IS ARISING BEFORE ANYTHING GOES WRONG!!!!!! how do you think women have birth in 1900??? if it were that unsafe, there would not so many people!

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