Throughout my experience as a blogger for BUST, one thing has become increasingly apparent - we are in the midst of an information war. Trolls have infiltrated the cyber world, and have made it their mission to bombard the internet with absurd propaganda in an effort to divert people from the scientific facts. And sometimes it’s less about which side has the better argument and more about WHO CAN SHOUT THE LOUDEST.
Throughout the past 20 years, a lot of pseudoscience has spread over the internet regarding natural child birth. The rhetoric regarding this topic is extensive, just Google “benefits for natural childbirth” and you’ll find tons of articles claiming that NCB is the way to go, but after a closer look, its clear that almost none of these are written by actual obstetricians, or people with legitimate medical degrees. The sad truth is that most valid medical information on the internet is being buried by the extensive opinion pieces and blogs authored by non-experts.
But lucky for us rational folk, Dr. Amy Tuteur has our backs and is working tirelessly to combat all the “natural birth” bullshit on the internet. The Feminist Current recently published a podcast interview with Dr. Tuteur, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and graduate from Harvard and the Boston University School of Medicine. Tuteur is also a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and the author of How Your Baby is Born. She also has a blog at The Skeptical OB, where she writes about home birth, natural childbirth, and vaccine rejectionism.
In the podcast, Dr. Tuteur debunks several myths about “natural child birth” (which is childbirth conducted without intervention from any medical procedures, often carried out in the home of the mother with the assistance of a midwife). She explains that historically, the natural childbirth movement was started by old white men telling women what to do with their bodies and advising them about “the right way to give birth.”
This idea that “natural is always better” is labeled in the medical world as “the natural fallacy.” In most areas of life, we recognize that natural is not always better, however, it has emerged into a huge advertising campaign in many western countries.
Tuteur goes on to set listeners straight about all the propaganda circulating around the danger of Cesarean sections, mostly resulting from the film The Business of Being Born. She describes the film as an advertisement featuring self-proclaimed “experts” who conveniently make a considerable proportion of their income by promoting home birth and natural birth, and none of whom are actually taken seriously in the obstetrician community.
Several misconceptions regarding C-sections also have emerged from the often parroted statistic initially stated by the World Health Organization in 1985 and subsequently recanted in 2009, that the ideal C-section rate should be around 15%. The current U.S. rate of C-sections is around 30%. The WHO has since admitted that "the optimum rate is unknown."
Those responsible for spreading the most lies surrounding natural birth are the CPM midwives who can’t practice in a hospital or use the typical interventative measures in obstetrics, so in order to keep patients from seeking help elsewhere, they vilify the interventative measures and convince women that such procedures are harmful to their babies. These midwives completely corrupt the language of obstetrics and create lies surrounding procedures that could potentially save lives. This goes along with the vilification of epidurals during pregnancy and of women who use the procedure. While there are certainly risks that come with epidurals, the procedure is becoming increasingly safe and there are no conclusive long term (or short term) damages yet recorded.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having a “natural birth” and many women have insisted that the pain during childbirth has allowed them to be more connected with the whole experience. However, those who partake in natural birth are not superior to those who do not. As long as pain meds or surgery during pregnancy doesn’t put anyone in danger, there is no reason that a mother should not have the opportunity to alleviate her pain — this is not a reflection on her devotion to her child. And while home births are certainly an option to be considered, it is imperative that women are correctly informed about the facts, and realize that sometimes medical intervention is a necessity for many women.