Even if it’s part of your personal story, medically inaccurate crap is still crap

And while you are welcome to believe whatever you want and do whatever you want within the bounds of the law, large popular platforms have an obligation to not spread dangerous misinformation. Like xojane:

There’s no debate that women are underrepresented in the media. Men’s bylines vastly outnumber women’s, in some publications by as much as 9 to 1. Men pitch more often, and they tend to be more persistent than women. So I’m a fan of women’s media outlets that publish large numbers of female contributors and center on women’s voices and experiences. But in the push to promote women’s voices, some sites push the boundaries of journalistic ethics, recreating a retro women’s magazine model where fear-mongering too often replaces informative, valuable content.

The latest, but hardly the only, offender is xoJane, which recently published a piece titled “I Did Not Cut My Baby’s Umbilical Cord For Six Days So We Could Have A Natural Lotus Birth Just Like Chimpanzees”. Written by the “full-time mom of Ulysses” and “Mama Naturally” blogger Adele Allen, the post details Allen’s at-home birth assisted only by her husband, followed by their decision to not sever the umbilical cord and leave the placenta attached to newborn Ulysses until it fell off naturally. Allen insists that leaving the placenta attached is a good thing because chimps do it, and because it allows the newborn to keep mainlining nutrients from the organ. She asserts that contrary to the claims of medical professionals, there’s no real risk of sepsis from keeping a dead organ attached to a brand-new infant with an under-developed immune system. And she wanted a home birth unassisted by any medical professional because that’s more natural.

Unfortunately, Allen’s assertions don’t match up with reality. Chimpanzees aside – although I will briefly note that chimps are more prone to eating their placenta, since dragging a piece of rotting meat through the jungle right next to your vulnerable young is actually a really great way to attract predators – keeping a placenta attached to either your baby or yourself poses real threats.

Allen argues that there’s no sepsis risk because there aren’t any reports of babies dying from sepsis after keeping their placenta attached until it falls off. But perhaps that’s because the number of parents who are bizarre and irresponsible enough to keep their child’s placenta attached are, thankfully, statistically insignificant. And women do die from placental abruption. While Allen’s home birth went just fine and there are, of course, legitimate concerns about the medicalization of childbirth, it’s worth noting that before birth-related medical advances, women and babies died in extraordinary numbers. Child-birth is a killer for a whole lot of women, and trained attendants save innumerable lives.

That may not remain the case, though, if large media outlets like xoJane continue to give science-denying wackadoodles a platform. Allen and any other person is entitled to hold her dangerous beliefs, start her own website to discuss them, publish her own newsletter about them or stand on a street corner and tell people her opinions. But no one is entitled to publish their views on a prominent website. And most responsible publications won’t print material that is factually inaccurate and promoting dangerous practices without at least offering some sort of expert counterweight in the same story.

In many middle-brow “women’s interest” publications, which are largely glossy magazines and the websites that emulate them, the interest of promoting women’s voices (not to mention getting page views or selling magazine copies) too often means editors are disturbingly willing to publish women who make totally outrageous, factually incorrect and often dangerous claims.

The full piece is here. I didn’t get into this very deeply in the Guardian piece, but there’s also a humiliation factor that strikes me as cruel. It’s not as if the xojane editors had no idea that publishing this would lead to round mockery of the author. But putting her out there for public derision was worth it, I guess, for pageviews.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Feminism, Gender. Bookmark the permalink.

161 Responses to Even if it’s part of your personal story, medically inaccurate crap is still crap

  1. TimmyTwinkles says:

    Great post. This highlights broader concerns I have with putting such strong emphasis on the authority of the personal experience. Yes, personal experience is extremely important and relevant, and we want to be careful not defining someone’s experience or erasing them. But sometimes (dare i say oftentimes?), a personal experience or perspective runs up against inconvenient things like reality or facts. When this happens, it should be pointed out.

  2. AMM says:

    The thing about childbirth is that most (> 50%) of the time, you don’t need any intervention, and the midwife/whoever is more of a coach than anything else. Our first child was a home birth, with an experienced midwife, and the second was born in the parking lot of the birthing center while the midwife was driving over.

    If that’s your only experience of any childbirth — and since most births are in hospitals, you’re not likely to see anyone else’s — you might assume that’s everyone’s experience.

    Also, the availability of all kinds of medical interventions means that very few women (and few babies) die in childbirth, so it’s easy to imagine that it’s not risky. It’s like the problem with vaccines — they’ve been so successful, people forget why we need them, and they only think about the drawbacks.

    • minuteye says:

      I think the midwife is the piece that makes all the difference here. No matter how loving and generally capable Allen’s husband is, how many births has he seen? Who in the room has the experience to say “Something’s going wrong, we need help” in enough time to actually get that help?

      • SarahM87 says:

        Indeed !

        The most valuable function of a midwife at a home-birth is precicely the fact that she has a lot of experience with what is normal and what isn’t. So she’s in a good position to judge progress and be the one to say: this is the point where we dial 911.

        Recognizing signs of trouble early is crucial, because there’s so many types of trouble that can be handled fairly safely with modern medical techniques that are a whole lot less safe without that help.

      • Katy says:

        That’s true of a CNM – a qualified, nurse midwife. But it’s certainly not true of a lot of the midwives who attend homebirths in the US; whose education and training would not qualify them to attend births in any other developed country in the world.
        There’s been too many tragic stories involving underqualified midwives attending high-risk births that have resulted in babies dying or sustaining serious brain damage because the midwife did not have the education to judge when the woman a situation was beyond her capability to handle.

  3. pheenobarbidoll says:

    This stuff makes me want to pull my hair out. Do these women have any fucking clue how many woc would die to have access to the medical care she scorns? And do in fact die because they don’t? I guess it’s fun and natural and fantastic to choose a home birth over having a home birth because you’re hours away from a hospital and no one has a working car. Had my grandparents not moved off reservation, my father would have been dead within hours of his birth. He had several older siblings born on the red that did not make it simply because no one had a damn car to get to a hospital. My grandmother nearly bled out carrying her dead child to the hospital, desperate for help. Unfuckingbelievable privilege to just cast it away as if it’s nothing.

  4. It does appear to me that acceptable topics for women to cover are more often first-person human interest stories. But there’s now such a strongly established tradition of the Oprah Phenomenon that fluffy and sensationalized crap like this keeps being published.

    • Anna says:

      That’s a really interesting point. I wonder if people in this society are less comfortable with female writers synthesizing ideas and data, and more comfortable with them writing about their own firsthand experiences. There is much to be said about the medicalization of childbirth, and individual experiences have much to add to the conversation, but female writers and readers are also quite capable of understanding the hard data.

      • ldouglas says:

        There is much to be said about the medicalization of childbirth

        Infant mortality in 1900: 1 out of every 7 births
        Infant mortality in 2010: 1 out of every 230 births
        Mother mortality in 1900: 1 out of 100 childbirths
        Mother mortality in 2010: 6 out of 100,000 childbirths

        As far as I can see, the “medicalization of childbirth” (which is a term that makes about as much sense as ‘medicalization of being stabbed in the gut’) is pretty much an unmitigated win for the people lucky enough to be a part of it.

      • ldouglas says:

        *Numbers from the United States

      • Bagelsan says:

        Nooo, don’t you realize that statistics are manly, and should be kept far away from the delicate pregnant women? FACT: knowing math literally prevents a mother from bonding with her new baby.

      • EG says:

        While I am as big a fan of modern medicine as anybody and more than most, those numbers are less about the medicalization of childbirth than they are about advances within medical knowledge, like the germ theory of disease and washing your hands, etc. Childbirth was already well-claimed by the medical profession in 1900. Doctors were attending half of all births–midwives were being used only by women who couldn’t afford doctors. And the outcomes weren’t noticeably different.

      • ldouglas says:

        Childbirth was already well-claimed by the medical profession in 1900.

        And because of that, when the medical profession got really good at their jobs, those rates plummeted.

        If we systemically ‘un-medicalized’ childbirth, many of those advances within medical knowledge would be a lot less useful in preventing deaths.

      • minuteye says:

        Yeah, the numbers are great relative to what they were, but the maternal mortality rate is considerably higher in the US than other first-world countries. The argument that I’ve heard is that it’s partly due to the extremely high caesarian rate. The tendency to jump right to major abdominal surgery because things aren’t progressing according to the textbook is not good for health outcomes.

        That’s what the “medicalization of childbirth” means: not using medical advances in a way that’s beneficial to the individual patient, but instead assuming that every medical procedure you could do you should do, and treating even a low-risk normal pregnancy as a disease to be fixed.

      • EG says:

        And because of that, when the medical profession got really good at their jobs, those rates plummeted.

        That’s a pretty tenuous bit of speculation– I could just as easily make the argument that if midwives had not been systematically attacked and disenfranchised for 100 years at that point due to misogyny and racism as well as doctors’ professional interest, they too would have been able to adopt the benefits of the Enlightenment and discover germ theory and basic hygiene. There’s nothing particularly special about doctors as a group, particularly in the era when they still thought that bleeding people was a good idea.

        But that would be speculation. The speculation that if the childbirth hadn’t been medicalized those advances wouldn’t have been made is as tenuous as the speculation that if it hadn’t been medicalized those advances would have been anyway.

        What we know for a fact is that it’s not medicalization itself that helped women and infants, because the medicalization took place before doctors had actually made the advances that actually helped them.

      • EG says:

        the maternal mortality rate is considerably higher in the US than other first-world countries

        Including first-world countries where childbirth is not so heavily medicalized.

      • EG says:

        the maternal mortality rate is considerably higher in the US than other first-world countries

        I do think, though, that largely has to be due to the fact that the US is the only first-world country without universal health-care. My understanding is that the maternal mortality rate is horrifyingly and disproportionately higher in the US for poor women and for black women.

      • Bagelsan says:

        What we know for a fact is that it’s not medicalization itself that helped women and infants, because the medicalization took place before doctors had actually made the advances that actually helped them.

        Out of curiosity, what would be an “advance” in childbirth that was not “medical”? How would the birthing process be improved without medical advances?

      • How would the birthing process be improved without medical advances?

        Medical=/= medicalised. In the same way that racial =/= racialised. FYI.

      • Bagelsan says:

        I’m not clear what EG means by it, however. What would be a “medicalized” advance, then?

      • karak says:

        “Medicalizing” childbirth often refers to doctors being vague, rude, or overbearing in the delivery room, forcing or demanding procedures that the mother doesn’t want (and sometimes doesn’t need or is medically unsound), overriding her wishes, and sometimes actually brutalizing her because fuck you, I’m a doctor.

        Whenever one person has complete power over another, more vulnerable person, it becomes a situation ripe for abuse.

        I’d rather not die in childbirth, yes, but I’d also rather my doctor not start cutting into my vagina, injecting me with drugs, taking away my baby, or mutilating my body without explanation or permission. It’s not an either/or issue.

      • EG says:

        If you’re not sure, Bagelsan, feel free to ask, rather than just being an ass.

        It means centering the doctor rather than the mother in the birth process, and indeed, discounting the mother’s experience and wishes altogether, as did the Ob-gyn who gave my mother such a vicious episeotomy that she literally could not sit for weeks.

        The prime examples are probably birth position–lying on one’s back with one’s legs in the air is a stupid position for giving birth, no matter how convenient it may be for the doctor–and the hospital ban on eating during labors that can go on for many hours. I’ll be the judge of whether or not eating is worth the risk, thanks. The doctor can explain the risks, and then I’ll decide.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Easy on, EG! I was asking; you’ll know when I’m being an ass because I’ll sound more like you.

      • EG says:

        You should be so lucky, Bagelsan.

      • ldouglas says:

        Aw, this is cute.

      • Another term for medicalising childbirth is pathologising it. Treat it as an illness, automatically, rather than a bodily process that can have all sorts of things go wrong – or not. Yeah, it’s not about having medical knowledge and procedures available, not about being able to deal with emergencies; it’s about the (male) Doctor God having control over the patient. Childbirth’s just one of the areas where that’s a thing, obvs.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        Great point about Doctor God (and great term). I think our culture has a problem with this. Newsflash: the MCATs test precisely one thing: how good you are at studying for the MCAT. Newsflash two: Med schools don’t fail people once they’re in. Doesn’t happen. Yeah, i know some people in med school who will probably be Great Healers. And i know some dickheads who had science aptitudes and knew it was a straight track to 500k/year (specialty obvi). My point, roundabout as always, is that doctors are nothing more than bright people who did well on a standardized test and stuck it out in med school and through internship/residency. Some do better than others and become specialists. Some do really well, have steady hands, and become surgeons. No magic here, we’re not talking about Hogwartz. And if a doc is being candid with you, they’ll be the first to say that a lot of modern medical practice is still guesswork. Medicine is a fine profession, plenty of docs are fine people. But they’re not all-knowing, and I think they get away with alot of shit because we as a society too often automatically defer to the medical establishment.

      • Miriam says:

        I have a slightly different perspective. I don’t think pathologising childbirth is main structural issue. I gave birth at an awesome, child-friendly hospital that had a genuine commitment to parent/child bonding, supporting breastfeeding, kangaroo care, etc. I am very grateful to my hospital for the medical interventions that got me through labor, since even with the interventions, my labor was 30+ hours. I went through two OB/Gyns, both of whom were female, kind, and supportive.

        But even all that said, the structure of the hospital environment just doesn’t support the kind of labor I think a lot of women would prefer to have. There were other laboring women to care for, and I was left alone for the overwhelming majority of my time. I was asked for consent for each of the specific interventions, but I wasn’t asked about general preferences (for example, I would have liked intervention a lot earlier than I got it since I’d already been laboring for over 12 hours when I was admitted).

        I don’t blame the hospital for this. But laboring is scary, and I totally see the appeal of a home birth with a midwife and a good Plan B. If midwives could do epidurals, I probably would have gone that route, but as far as I could tell epidural = hospital. And it was important to me to have the option of the epidural (and if I have any regrets about taking that option, it’s that I didn’t take it sooner!). So I think even when the doctor is great, hospitals just aren’t set up to provide the type of birth experience or post-birth recovery experience many women want.

  5. EG says:

    Home birth is one thing–but a birth unattended by any medical professional is fucking batshit. And not cutting the cord because chimps don’t? The depth of ignorance here would be laughable if it weren’t putting someone with no power at risk.

    What an asshole.

    Chimps don’t wear glasses either. If her kid turns out to be near-sighted, is Allen going to deny her those?

    • Esis says:

      As a biologist, I just shake my head too. Yes, we can look at relatives, like chimpanzees and learn about ourselves. But there are differences, MANY differences that need to be taken into account. If her assertion, that chips don’t detach right away, is correct I would guess chimpanzees have a slightly different placental structure that could make leaving the attachment safer. If she really thought that she should consult research medical professionals and chimpanzee specialists. Not just go off the deep end based on her hypothesis.

      In other words – What she’s doing is called pseduoscience and in her case it could have killed her, her baby, or both

    • de Pizan says:

      Chimps also engage in cannibalism and infanticide of their young…

  6. Willemina says:

    a humiliation factor that strikes me as cruel

    Being humiliated requires the self awareness to realize not to say things like “The lotus flower is also a symbol most widely recognized from India,” “Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth, but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me,” “Let’s observe and learn from the wisdom of animals in the wild.” The mystical East, truly intuitive and in touch animals, conniving and untruthful doctors, childbirth ain’t that risky, I don’t know what kind of bingo card I need for this but we have a blackout.

    • Kierra says:

      “Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth, but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me”

      So despite the fact that even herbivores will perform this behavior (because they are especially at risk when it comes to attracting predators), this is somehow a step too far for Ms. Learn-from-Nature? I just don’t understand some people.

    • Anna says:

      Haha, there is a bingo card for that, although I’d like to add that I don’t fully endorse the website that it came from, which I find to be alternately right-on and offensive.

      • Willemina says:

        Thank you for that, it’s perfect. “Breech is a variation of normal” and blue is a natural color for a baby.

  7. Why is the Venn diagram of “ridiculous extremist evopsych-guzzling granola-crunchers” and “exoticising racist dickbags” a perfect circle?

    Deep questions of life.

    • Willemina says:

      Cuz crystals.

    • Lolagirl says:

      After reading along at Mothering.com for years none of this stuff sounds all that weird or out of the ordinary though. I stopped participating years ago because it’s become too much of an over-moderated echo chamber, but crunchy wootastic parenting is de riguer there. So home birth, unassisted home birth, lotus birth (that is, leaving the umbilical cord attached) extended breastfeeding, et al is not necessarily going to be on the overly weirded out radar for parents who read along on websites like it.

      Hence the disconnect.

  8. Drahill says:

    Even if one personally wanted to do something like that (which, while I think it is ill-advised (what an understatement), I still think she has the right to do it) – why on God’s green earth would you write about it? Listen, I’m sure the birth was awesome for her. She is very lucky that she and her child are fine. Okay, cool. But the writing about it is what perplexes me. Is she trying to argue that this is the best way and others should aspire to be like her? Is she making an argument that cutting the cord is wrong? What is the actual point of this? I get that writing can be a catharis and useful for people – but isn’t that what journaling was created for (and it’s offspring, blogging)? What is the actual point of publishing such a piece beyond simply generating controversy? To me, that feels almost like it’s besmirching good writing. I could get writing to express emotion and draw connections and try to delve into the human condition. Bu this…doesn’t. She’s not making any comment on the human condition or discovering anything, to me. It’s basically a piece that says “Woohoo, look what I did!” Which is fine journaling. But, at the risk of sounding snooty, what’s it doing on a website that proports to feature good writing from women?

    • Willemina says:

      There’s a point in the piece where she says she’d recommend what she did to anyone that asked. It definitely has an evangelism angle to it.

  9. Chataya says:

    I once had the pleasure of watching an animal give birth. A stray cat my friend had taken in, at the time in the late stages of pregnancy.

    When her time came, this little cat, full of the wisdom of the Earth Mother, ran around crying loudly as the kittens dropped out of her. Afterwards, I realized you cannot really appreciate the beauty of motherhood until you’ve scrubbed cat placenta off the floor.

    Truly one of nature’s miracles from which we have so much to learn.

    • debbie says:

      I am trying (and failing) not to giggle in class.

    • Ledasmom says:

      We had a pregnant guinea pig (a rescue that an acquaintance had taken in; she was away for a few days) here who produced her first baby, which was of course still encased in its amniotic sac, and, in the instinctive way of guinea-pig mothers through the centuries, ran away from it to produce her second baby. Those sacs, even on a snack-size rodent, are pretty damn tough. Needed, as I recall, a utility knife, with which I managed not to cut off any necessary guinea-pig bits.
      She did eat the placenta later, a rather cute placenta as placentas go. Well, it was the third one I’d seen, and compared to mine it was pretty damn petite.

  10. Anna P says:


    I recommend Amy Tuteur, the Skeptical OB, if you want to learn about why good medical care is necessary at childbirth. She has a cool website.

    Yes, a lot of the time it turns out medical interventions aren’t necessary. But you can’t know that ahead of time. There’s always a slight chance it turns out that you/your baby will die without Immediate access to expert medical care, and you want to have that on hand.

    Feminists of the past, I might add, fought desperately for access to anesthetics at childbirth. Now we have this hateful idea that you should endure as much pain and suffering as possible at birth without it or you’re selfish and horrible. No. Properly used anesthetic does not hurt babies, and even mommies deserve to think of their own needs also.

    • EG says:

      There’s always a slight chance it turns out that you/your baby will die without Immediate access to expert medical care, and you want to have that on hand.

      This is where I dislike pressure on the medical side as well. What you want is for every pregnant person to have a good, accurate understanding of what she/he is at risk for and what the available responses to those concerns are should any of them materialize. You want them to have that knowledge based on data and accurate understandings of biology and experience, and then what you want is for each of those people to be able to make the choice she or he wants with a clear-eyed idea of what that choice entails.

      I still wouldn’t choose a home birth–my ideal would be a birthing center with midwives, but due to a number of regulations there aren’t many in NYC–but if, in those circumstances, someone chooses homebirth, well, that’s her/his choice.

      What I don’t want are people making stupid choices based on bullshit woo, or on pressure of the “you’re a bad mother” variety from either side.

      • Jill says:

        What I don’t want are people making stupid choices based on bullshit woo, or on pressure of the “you’re a bad mother” variety from either side.

        That’s fair, but the question for me is, is it ever a good or rational choice to give birth at home with no medical attendant whatsoever? I mean yes, that should be your choice if you want it and have access to accurate information about the risks, but I’m not sure that all choices deserve to be free of judgment. Are you a bad mother if you decide to give birth alone or never see a doctor during your pregnancy or refuse medical care (assuming, of course, that other options are available to you)? No, but you’re also not a particularly responsible person.

      • EG says:

        is it ever a good or rational choice to give birth at home with no medical attendant whatsoever?

        No, but that’s not what the bit I was responding to said. The bit I was responding to said that there was always a chance, however small, that you could die without immediate expert medical attention, so that you want access to that. I understood the implication to be that the one-size-fits-all best choice for birth is in an advanced research hospital, and damn any other factors. If I was mistaken, then I will apologize for jumping the gun. But I do think that options such as a home birth under the care of a medical professional can be the right choice (though not for me) for some women based on the full complement of their concerns.

      • Jill says:

        Gotcha EG. Sorry, missed the context!

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I don’t get the leap from “no medical assistamce whatsoever in childbirth” (which I suspect is a lot of straw anyway – how many home births are entirely unassisted by choice?) to “you’re not a very responsible person.”

      • Lolagirl says:

        Hattie, this is actually why so much of the data wrt to home birth is not really consistent. Because it usually does not separate out planned home births from unplanned and accidental ones (from didn’t realize one was in labor to precipitous births that happened before transportation or EMS could get there.). But there is plenty of data to indicate that planned home birth with a midwife present are really quite safe.

      • Angie unduplicated says:

        Check privilege, please. Some, possibly many, rural hospitals, even off reservations, do not deliver babies. Husbands, grandmothers, Latina lay midwives and the occasional LEO attend more rural births than ever make the statistical abstracts.

    • Angel H. says:

      I agree with everything you said except the endorsement for Dr. Tuteur.

      Remember when the commenters here got into it with her not too long ago?

    • Past my expiration date says:

      Good medical care in childbirth is a good thing. Amy Tuteur’s website is not a good thing.

    • Lolagirl says:

      “Dr.” Amy has not at all a good source of information on this subject for a number of reasons. Most importantly, she has not actually been a practicing OB for over 20 years. Her licensure is no longer active, and there is no indication that she has participated in any formal continuing medical education courses of any kind during at period of time to keep her knowledge has current. Furthermore, she has not actually put her hands on a patient or been in a facility that provides patient care during that 20-plus years period of time. Save possibly for obtaining her own medical care or that of her family since leaving the practice of medicine.

      Amy Tutuer is not a medical expert in any real way, not by a long shot. If I or any other attorney retained her to provide medical expert testimony in a medically related case, that would be legal malpractice, because she has not been a medical expert since she chose to cease practicing medicine and permitted her license to lapse. In addition, her providing medical care or acting as a medical expert herself would also likely be considered medical malpractice at this point for the above reasons discussed above.

      Finally, Amy Tutuer has an extreme agenda that makes it impossible for her to be at all impartial on obstetrically relate issues. Every time we have a discussion regarding obstetric care here at Feministe, people throw around Tutuer and her words as though she is an expert medical opinionator, when she is not.

      And now we are virtually guaranteed that she will crash into this debate and dump all over it because her google alert alerted her to it.

      • EG says:

        Ugh, her.

        I really have nothing more to say. Just that soon this thread will just be scorched earth smelling of sulfur.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I’m not certain that I spelled her name properly, and I left it that way because I was hoping it would evade the google alerter. Alas, I wouldn’t be surprised if she set her alerts to all possible mis/spellings of her name, just in case.

      • ldouglas says:

        Finally, Amy Tutuer has an extreme agenda that makes it impossible for her to be at all impartial on obstetrically relate issues.

        I agree with most of what you said, but not this. Her agenda, as far as I can tell, is getting people to stop making stupid decisions. Her tactics are extreme, but not her agenda.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Ive been reading Amy’s opinions on OB care for years, and I really disagree. Because her definition of stupid includes things like using a midwife for medical care and/or birthing a child, including Certified Nurse Midwives, home births with a midwife present (because again, she’s against midwives), foregoing routine epidurals during delivery, VBACs, and I’ve even seen her state that she’s in favor of routine c-sections for ALL deliveries because it would further reduce the potential for death or disability of the fetus.

        Things like midwife care, foregoing epidurals, vaginal births and so on are perfectly medically sound practices. Thus, not at all stupid. However, taking the position that c-sections should be the primary means of delivering a fetus IS a medically unsound opinion. It’s not based in actual science, and it is contrary to the data out there regarding the risks to the pregnant patient and even the fetus itself.

        So, no, I’m not going to agree that Amy’s mission has anything to do with agitating for better patient outcomes, or to prevent dead babies. But it is about continuing to get attention for herself, regardless of how ridiculous or offensive she has to be to garner that attention.

      • ldouglas says:

        So, no, I’m not going to agree that Amy’s mission has anything to do with agitating for better patient outcomes, or to prevent dead babies. But it is about continuing to get attention for herself, regardless of how ridiculous or offensive she has to be to garner that attention.

        Huh, I didn’t know about that last part on c-sections- I’m on the same page as you, then.

      • Carey says:

        I’ve even seen her state that she’s in favor of routine c-sections for ALL deliveries because it would further reduce the potential for death or disability of the fetus.

        I’ve read her site for years and she’s never said this. She once wrote a post about risk-benefit analysis with regards to CS and that there is a tipping point where the risk is too high (when the number of mothers who die from CS complications outstrips the number of babies save). I know she’s kind of a [redacted] but she’s not [redacted] enough to say everyone should have c-sections.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Carey, if you know anything about Amy, you should also know that she does not limit her commentary to her own blog. Amy loves to troll the internets spoiling for fights over anything vaguely obstetrically related, and she has been doing so for years. From the comments sections on various online news sources like Slate, to various blogs like The Feminist Breeder, and mommy boards like Mothering.com.

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she limits some of her more out there nonsense to sites outside of her own blog. And I know for a fact that when I saw her go off on her tangent about routine c-sections as the best means to prevent dead babies it was some place like MDC or the comments section of Slate. The last time she crashed into a discussion here at Feminists she actually backed herself into a corner about post-partum hemorrhage resulting in dead babies. Except PPH has nothing to do with babies because it happens to the newly-postpartum patient.

        But that’s how she operates. Carry on about how we should be Up In Arms about the Dead Babies! But because we don’t, we are all stupid tools of the midwife industrial complex, or some such nonsense.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Oops, sorry, the issue was aspiration by the pregnant patient while undergoing a c-section. My bad. Still, the point stands that this complication has nothing to do with causing dead babies. Here’s the linkey to the discussion:


  11. Lawrence says:

    Naturalism phalacy! Just because something happens in nature doesn’t mean it’s good. Most natural living advocates don’t seem to realize this, and consequently end up acting dumb.
    Also, if you’re going to try to emulate an animal, for the love of god don’t use chimps. They are horrible little rape apes who love murder, and the males practice infanticide with something approaching a fervency. Bad parental role-models, in other words.

    • Donna L says:

      Here’s a heartwarming little story about chimps that I think nicely illustrates your point:


    • Ledasmom says:

      Hey, let’s be fair to chimps. The females also practice infanticide, sometimes following up by eating the infant.
      If the author of the xojane piece is using chimps as her model, I would recommend against having her as your birth attendant.

    • Goldenblack says:

      Naturally, I would have died in agony while giving birth. As it was, it wasn’t any picnic, more like a horror movie – I just wanted to die instead of doing it. As it was, I experienced the almost overpowering sensation after birth that abandoning the baby was necessary – like folk at the time said, my body was fully into survival mode and IT knew there was no way it could recover with a small baby. Nature is not up to date on medical science.

  12. Donna L says:

    Placentas and chimps aside, I think what she’s written about vaccinations and childhood disease is 100 times worse. I feel sorry for little Ulysses. After warning everyone about Mercury and Aluminum and so forth, she concludes as follows:


    So there’s just a few reasons why I said no to vaccination. Along with my heart-felt instinct that I’d be somehow cheating my child who trusts me dearly. I simply could not ignore the warning bells sounding in my head and arising as a vague and uncomfortable feeling of dread and fear.

    What may you ask would I do then if my child contracted one of these diseases?

    Well firstly I would visit a homeopathic practitioner to ease the symptoms using a ‘like CURES like’ principal and secondly I rest assured in the knowledge that because of the general advancement in health care, it is now very rare that anyone is permanently damaged from contracting such childhood diseases. Furthermore, I continue to do my utmost to build his immune system using natural, raw living foods, juices and herbs and steer clear of food chemicals, refined sugars, dairy, meat and processed grains…more about diet and natural health promotion to follow in other blogs.

    NB: since writing this blog my child has contracted both Scarlet fever and Chicken Pox. We used solely natural methods for managing the symptoms whilst his body healed itself and this resulted in a non-traumatic and speedy recovery. Since then his health has been exceptionally good.

    • Donna L says:

      And lest anyone misunderstand, she adds in a comment:

      I treat all disease holistically without drugs and understand it is the terrain, not the germ that causes the issue. I would therefore treat with herbs, food and other methods supporting the body’s natural healing channels. I believe such healing crises such as childhood diseases are beneficial for cleansing the body of toxic overload.

      I shudder for her son’s future classmates. In the unlikely event she ever sends him to school.

    • EG says:

      Scarlet fever and she didn’t get antibiotics? She’s riding for a fall, and I’m disgusted by these “natural practitioners” who acquiesced and abetted her idiocy. Vaccines are what strengthen your immune system.

      I had chicken pox (actually, I had scarlet fever too, and despite the fears of friends and family members who knew of it before antibiotics were widely available, I was fine within 24 hours–penicillin for the win!). If I can prevent my kid from going through what I went through, I damn well will. Because “vague alarm and dread” is nonsense. I have “vague alarm and dread” of the dark, but that doesn’t mean I’m never going to turn the lights off in my kid’s room, because vague feelings are not the same as knowledge.

      It’s like she’s decided to give the entire Enlightenment a miss.

      • ldouglas says:

        This is the part that blew my mind:

        Well firstly I would visit a homeopathic practitioner to ease the symptoms using a ‘like CURES like’ principal and secondly I rest assured in the knowledge that because of the general advancement in health care, it is now very rare that anyone is permanently damaged from contracting such childhood diseases

        How is it possible to hold both of these thoughts in one head at the same time? How? HOW?

      • EG says:

        Right? I wonder what she thinks the “general advancement” is, if not antibiotics, vaccinations, and germ theory….maybe she imagines it’s all down to digital thermometers and automatic blood pressure machines?

      • Brennan says:

        My “favorite” part was in one of the comment sections where she said she’d use only homeopathy if her son ever developed cancer. If, God-forbid, anything life-threatening happens to that child (who is two and has apparently had *asthma attacks* without seeing a doctor), I really hope the authorities are directed to her blog.

      • Willemina says:

        More precise pipettes for multiple dilutions, don’t want to give something too close to the molar limit by mistake.

      • EG says:

        Someone I love died of asthma when she was young, She didn’t have health insurance when she was growing up and went to the ER at least a couple times a year. What Allen is doing is putting her child’s life at risk. I’m really starting to hate her.

      • Donna L says:

        More precise pipettes for multiple dilutions, don’t want to give something too close to the molar limit by mistake

        Well, one does have to be careful, lest there be an actual entire molecule of active ingredient in the medicine you use.

    • Chataya says:

      Right, because permanent heart damage from untreated Scarlet fever is so much better than having autism.


      • EG says:

        Better dead than autistic, I guess.

        She’s an idiot.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Or, more accurately, permanent heart damage is better than not even having autism, because vaccines don’t cause autism.

        …Or, perhaps most accurately, mom getting to be a special little snowflake is better than her baby getting medical care. Because fuck children, mommy’s unique!

      • karak says:

        My mother has permanent heart damage from untreated scarlet fever.

        Her parents believed in modern medicine–they just simply didn’t realize how horrifyingly sick she was because she was a tough little kid. It wasn’t until she passed out in the living room and started seizing that they realized there was something terribly wrong.

        Little Ulysses may not live to grow up. Or he may be the vector through which other children die. Awesome.

    • Miranda says:

      Holy shit….

      I don’t have anything to add, I just want to register my utter astonishment at all of this.

    • Miriam says:

      Those quotes make me wonder at what point extreme medical beliefs like hers are cause for removing the child. She hasn’t learned anything from her child having scarlet fever or chickenpox–she thinks those illnesses were a way for his body to detoxify itself (seriously!). She appears to have been lucky in that her son hasn’t suffered any permanent damage, but from her own description, he’s been sickly (gee… perhaps the all raw food diet she had her BABY eating might have contributed to the intense digestive problems!).

      • EG says:

        I doubt at any point. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept blood transfusions, and they don’t lose custody; Christian Scientists don’t lose custody. Why make an exception for New Age Bullshit?

      • Donna L says:

        Sometimes after the kid dies they get charged with manslaughter.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Well at least she wouldn’t have done something so icky as vaccinate him before he died; let the little thing perish horribly in a pure and natural way, amiright?

      • Safiya Outlines says:

        From a UK perspective, if the parents refuse treatment for their child, the hospital can take them to court and if the parent’s grounds for refusal are religious objections, the court will always order that the child is treated.

        In life or death situations, the doctors can treat the child as they normally would and AFAIK, seek retrospective permission.

        This is a rather interesting recent court ruling: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24493422

      • JetGirl says:

        My mom used to work as a social worker in neo-natal intensive care. Every so often, a baby needed a transfusion or other procedure and the parents had religious concerns. They would have a mini-hearing as soon as possible with a judge, a lawyer for the hospital, my mom (appointed as the baby’s advocate), the opposing parents and their legal representative (usually a member of their church). The parents and their representative would ask for all possible alternatives to transfusion/procedure. In most cases, the baby wound up getting the treatment needed. To me, this kind of advocacy is one reason a hospital birth can be a good thing. In a home birth situation, the baby would have had no recourse or protection from his or her parents’ harmful beliefs.
        But it’s certainly a slippery slope.

      • Chataya says:

        She is letting her son suffer through asthma attacks untreated. That is abuse, pure and simple. It is one thing for an adult to choose homeopathy over medicine, but to force a toddler to do the same? Child abuse.

      • zaebos says:

        Not to mention that those attacks are super duper scary. Like “Yup, I’m dying.” scary (to me).

      • EG says:

        They’re horrible and terrifying and they can actually kill you. It is abuse. And she’s horrible.

      • Donna L says:

        And she’s horrible.

        Perhaps needless to say, her husband is equally horrible. Whether he believes the same garbage or not, he apparently goes along with every bit of it.

      • JetGirl says:

        My brother-in-law died from asthma (technically a heart attack brought on by a severe bout) while still in elementary school. Even with treatment, asthma is serious. This woman is not doing her child any favors.

    • shfree says:

      Ugh, I just don’t have the tolerance for people like this anymore. And I nursed my daughter until she was two or so, (had to stop once I started my meds) and she slept with us until she was four. But fuck if I can get behind the lack of vaccines, and the bullshit woo of homeopathy.

      I mean, why always this disdain for advances is technology and sciences? There was one time on another website that a poster was going on and on about how she was going to put up a line so she could hang all her laundry to dry instead of using a machine. It actually got a bit classist, because she just couldn’t understand why people might not enjoy hanging their own clothes to dry. This whole thing with the woo, the chimps, and wanting to be “natural” reminds me of that. I like my modern conveniences, thank you very much, and I’m glad my daughter never has to worry about whooping cough. And I hope the herd immunity is strong where that little boy is, because obviously she and her husband are counting on it.

      • Jenna says:

        Whooping cough is unfortunately not a thing of the past, at least where I am. They are requiring people who come to visit babies at the hospital near me to get vaccinated.
        Meaning that near me, the herd immunity to whooping cough has thinned dangerously.

      • EG says:

        These days they’re requiring, I think, that everybody who has contact with babies get DTaP again. Apparently the immunity to whooping cough is not permanent, and wears off by the time you’re an adult. Also, public service announcement, get a tetanus booster every 5-10 years! Don’t find out that you need one after you step on a staple at 3 in the morning!

      • theLaplaceDemon says:

        Do you know if it just tetanus and DTaP you need boosters for as an adult?

      • Lolagirl says:

        You can also opt to get your vaccine titers checked by your doctor. My IVF doctor required that patients get titers checked for all vaccine prone diseases, and that they get boosters as needed. Mine all came back fine and fortunately I didn’t need anything updated.

        The major woman’s hospital here also requires that L&D patients be offered a pertussis booster, if the want it. Other than that, I haven’t heard anything about requiring additional vaxes, DTaP or otherwise.

      • shfree says:

        Oh, I know that whooping cough isn’t a thing of the past, but she’s been vaccinated for it. Hell, when I started at the clinic, I got vaccinated for it, again.

        I should get my tetanus updated, though.

      • Kerandria says:

        I’m seconding getting titers to check on immunity levels, especially on varicella/chickenpox — I had a severe case as a child but when my titer came back a few months ago, I was no longer immune and went through the shot series (two shots four weeks apart). I was pretty suprised when my levels came back low!

      • Lu says:

        I think a lot of people, women in particular, have lost faith in the medical profession. I’m a firm supporter of vaccines, and other evidence based medical practice, but I can see why people who don’t understand science might just decide to not trust medical advice at all. There are still doctors pushing bottle feeding over breastfeeding, who schedule unnecessary caesareans to fit in with their schedule (not because the mother asked for, or needed one) and other such rubbish. If you don’t know how to sort the wheat from the chaff, then it’s probably easier to go the other way and just listen to other parents, not matter what nonsense they are pushing. I keep being surprised by the number of parents I know who think that amber necklaces somehow cure teething problems.

        Is the clothes line vs. dryer issue an American thing? I live in a hot and sunny part of Australia, so nearly everyone has clothes lines unless they live in an apartment (and some of those have communal clothes lines). It isn’t a class thing here.

    • Caperton says:

      Well firstly I would visit a homeopathic practitioner to ease the symptoms using a ‘like CURES like’ principal

      Well, there’s the little darling’s problem. He’s just trying to get better, and his mom keeps feeding him homeopathic remedies that remember all the poop that’s been in the water. How is he supposed to heal with the memory of poo and industrial waste in his medicine?

    • Jenna says:

      Scarlet fever…..
      Dad’s story on scarlet fever was that having that as a child made the tooth enamel on his adult teeth more porous. He had enormous amounts of dental work over his lifetime. He was a fan of vaccinations and was very happy that the only one of those previously common childhood diseases that I caught was chicken pox.
      I’m a fan of flu vaccinations, too. I am especially a fan of vaccinations in general because my immune system at the moment is compromised due to my cancer treatment this year. I don’t have the blood cells that I want right now, and need to ask if I can do the vaccination. Herd immunity. I love it when I can have it.

      • miga says:

        This raises a good point on dental care. What if the poor kid needs a wisdom tooth extracted later on? Those things can be dangerous if they’re impacted, and are painful at least.

    • MH says:

      She’s broadly ignorant (and deliberately so, I think) of facts. I just read her post about being shoeless. Some nonsense about how picking up electrons from the earth will prevent you from having disease, as disease is linked to free radicals. While this is true for many diseases, I’m not sure that electrons from the ground really make it to the cells of your heart that suffer from, say, diabetes-induced complications.

      Also…given her refusal to vaccinate her child, this seems like a great way for him to get tetanus.

      Also…she asserts that people did not wear shoes until recently, with some implication that even in cold climates, people only wore shoe-like (sock-like?) animal skins at night. That just seems false. I mean, frostbite is a real thing. I can’t imagine ancient people of Scandinavia or the northern Americas just slogging through the snow barefoot. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that information is out there. And it just seems deliberately uninformed, as a blogger, to not seek out some amount of fact before shoving your ideas into the ether.

    • Kierra says:

      I would visit a homeopathic practitioner to ease the symptoms using a ‘like CURES like’ principal

      Which is funny because vaccines are actually the only example where “like CURES like” (ie giving a small dose of the causative agent of disease to prevent that disease) actually works.

    • Coraline says:

      So her unvaxxed kid got scarlet fever, which she also left untreated?

      Well, if she passed any of her stupidity genes along to her son, we can all rest assured that they will not propagate into the next generation since her kid is now extremely unlikely to have biological children of his own. (One of the most common side effects of childhood scarlet fever is sterility.)

      Yay Darwin!

      • EG says:

        No, you know what? No. Not “yay Darwin.” It’s not joyous or funny that her kid suffered a life-threatening illness without treatment; it’s not joyous or funny that the kid is now at risk for serious lifelong complications; it’s not joyous or funny that this actual human being may not be able to have children in the future regardless of his desires.

        And “stupidity genes”? Christ.

        Can we not be assholes, here? It’s not OK to find glee in a child’s possible lifelong health complications.

      • Donna L says:

        Thanks. It’s easy and tempting to mock the stupidity of this woman (and her husband), but I agree that there’s nothing funny about the suffering they’ve inflicted on their two-year old in the name of their ideology. It’s very depressing, in fact. There’s a reasonable chance that they’ll end up killing him.

        Do the child welfare authorities in Britain ever intervene in cases like that? They do in the U.S., especially where withholding of medical care is what’s going on — at least if they find out about it before it’s too late.

      • Lyndsay says:

        It seems like case after case have been coming up in the UK where child welfare authorities should’ve intervened but didn’t. I think they are a little too slow in taking kids away from parents.

      • SkyTracer says:

        I loved Darwin’s On the Origin of Karma: The Stupidity Gene Meets An Avoidable Childhood Illness.

        It wasn’t as good as Idiocracy though.

      • SkyTracer says:

        (One of the most common side effects of childhood scarlet fever is sterility.)

        I tried, but I couldn’t anything to source that. Would you provide yours, please?

      • Chataya says:

        Scarlet fever is just strep run amok, they might be thinking of mumps instead?

      • Librarygoose says:

        Maybe it’s one of those old wives tales? M y aunts inability to have kids was attributed to her having scarlet fever as a kid.

      • Ophiuchus says:

        Yeah, I don’t know about sterility. But scarlet fever (or, maybe, meningitis) is the reason Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing when she was 19 months old.

    • lawtalkinggirl says:

      I am still looking for the natural remedy that will weaken my immune system. It is so “strong” that it tries to kill me by giving me asthma attacks when it encounters benign things like kittens, ponies, and jogging. Obviously this condition is due to my parents over-supplying me with fresh fruits and vegetables as a child.

  13. Fat Steve says:

    Some of the comments on xojane were hilarious.

  14. TimmyTwinkles says:

    Is there anyone who actually agrees with this lady? I’m just surprised xoxoJane gave her a platform. Almost like they set her up to get taken down by their commentariat. I think it was nothing but an elaborate click-bait scheme.

  15. Miriam says:

    I did some reading on lotus births last night because I couldn’t believe this was actually a thing rather than just one crazy woman. Per what I could find, it doesn’t sound like there’s any documentation of harm (and I read primarily anti-lotus birth info both because they seemed most likely to mention harm and the woo of pro-lotus birth stuff makes my head hurt). The practice calls for drying out the placenta, so it’s not rotting, and the cord typically falls off or is pulled off by the baby within 10 days. It’s apparently been going on since the late 70s among the woo-indulging natural birth crowd, so I’d expect there to be at least some anecdotal horror stories if they existed.

    So I don’t think xoJane was being irresponsible to publish a lotus birth story in general. That type of thing fits with what xoJane publishes. I, personally, think lotus births are one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of, and I hate that people will buy into the belief that it’s good to leave a placenta attached to a newborn because the newborn is made from sperm and egg and so is the placenta (NOT joking… this is seriously one of the “reasons” a pro-lotus birth site gives for doing a lotus birth). But if it doesn’t actually lead to more risk than a cord stump (which is not risk free, either), then I say let the woo-affined have their woo.

    But, having read some of the Mama Naturally blog, I do think xoJane was irresponsible to publish the particular writer they did. She’s already endangered her child, is probably continuing to endanger her child, and what she’s advocating will endanger more children. She does not need publicity bringing more attention to her calls to eschew Western medicine in favor of homeopathy, raw food, and positive thought.

  16. H-nought says:

    What really angers me about these sorts of attitudes/beliefs is that they almost inevitably occur in the context of extreme privilege. This person and others with similar beliefs (in particular in regards to vaccinations) can believe these sorts of things because no matter what they’re kids will probably be ok.
    Of course the kids can still get sick and with the outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in the past few years it’s obvious that these diseases are still around in North America and western Europe, but those kids are more likely than not to be otherwise healthy. It’s extremely unlikely that they will ever be malnourished to the extent that it would affect their immune system function, if their parents decide to listen to medical professionals and get vaccines for their kids later on the vaccines are all but guaranteed to be available, there is good public health and sanitation in place so it’s unlikely that they will be exposed to contaminated water or food. My list could go on and on. (I do realize that people in NA and Eur do go hungry and it can be hard/impossible to afford healthy food or regular doctors visits)
    These types of beliefs to me exist so far from reality I can barely stand to think about it, and of course the only reason these beliefs can exist with out these people’s children dying at an elevated rate compared to the rest of the population is entirely because of modern technology, medicine and sanitation, much of which they think is bs. (This rant in my head is mostly focused at anti-vaxxers but it’s relevant for other baseless, potentially harmful beliefs too)

  17. Kes says:

    Not sure I see the point of all this, except to publicly shame and mock a woman for ignorance. Is there a point?

    • Safiya Outlines says:

      If you believe that children have rights, then pointing out violations of those rights is always valuable, yes.

    • Donna L says:

      If all the mockery makes one person think twice about abusing their own children in the same way, it’s more than worth it.

      • Kes says:

        When I’m on other websites, I see that rationale used to defend everything from classist attacks on women, to attacks on mothers who do sex work, to racist mockery by xenophobes who don’t like harmless cultural traditions, to anti-choice nutjobs who publicly harass women who have obtained or try to obtain an abortion. I don’t see coordinated shaming of a woman to be a feminist tactic, ever. The only reason it works so well and is such a go-to is because of the oppression and devaluing of women, and the vulnerability of women to shaming. I don’t think this post and all the comments are at all defensible.

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