Off the Line
Sweet Homebirth (Video)
Midwives have existed since the
beginning of humanity. Why, then, is it so difficult to find a midwife in America?
What events occured between the mid 1800's until the present day which nearly made
midwifery extinct in America? And why are more families now looking into homebirth as a
refuge from hospital care?
Home Sweet Homebirth
provides the answers. Interviews with noted doctors, historians and midwives. Very
interesting and informative video.
The conclusions of medical research are so
overwhelmingly in favor of natural childbirth that, I would like to take this opportunity
to offer $25,000 to the first person who can show me a study published in an industry
journal in any country, in any time period, showing hospital birth to be safer, in any
category, for most mothers and babies than home birth with a trained midwife in
attendance. This offer has no expiration date and supersedes all previous offers of a
similar nature. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jock Doubleday is my kind of guy. He is unafraid of reproach.
Below is reprinted an article he sent to a newspaper which was a response to a Canadian
doctor's diatribe on midwives. Visit Jock's incredible website at: http://anatole.org/nwnm.org/index.htm
To see the Dr. Nesbitt's article go here: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/bel/power/nesbitt.htm
Which is just part of Bernard Bel's (a good Web buddy of mine and an incredible fellow
as well) website: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/bel/sorcier.htm
A Walk In The Snow With Dr. Nesbitt
Reading Dr. Patrick Nesbitt's letter "Midwife Training Looks a Bit Skimpy to
Me" (Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows News, January 20, 1999) is like taking a stroll with
Santa Claus down a snow-covered lane.
Dr. Nesbitt's mood is good. He is chipper and self-assured. He chuckles at his own wit
as he explains to you the facts of childbirth. If he is slightly patronizing, you know it
is only because he has so much to teach you. He obviously has only your best interests in
mind. His very words are like gifts.
He talks nostalgically about his New Year's Day deliveries. You feel a sudden fondness for
him when he says he has lost track of how many he's performed.
But then a curious comment passes his lips. "Much as I respect and admire
midwives," he says, "I don't think they should be doing home deliveries. Home
deliveries are just too dangerous."
A chill creeps in beneath your coat. You know that medical research studies from every
developed country in the world show home birth with a trained midwife in attendance to be
safer in every category than hospital birth, for most mothers and babies.
His words, once comforting in their music, now ring harshly in your ears. The winter
landscape, once magical, now seems full of hidden dangers. The spell has been broken. All
is changed, changed utterly. You no longer believe in Santa Claus.
In his letter, Dr. Nesbitt expresses his concern that there is little "specific
training" required for British Columbia midwives. He complains in particular that,
while physicians take neonatal resuscitation courses every year, midwives are required to
take only a single "crash course."
I don't know how many times Dr. Nesbitt has to learn to resuscitate a baby to become
truly competent in the process, but it is true that obstetricians need infant
resuscitation skills more than midwives do.
It is an unfortunate fact that obstetricians routinely cut the umbilical cord within a
few moments after birth. They don't know (or don't care) that at birth 30 percent of the
infant's blood is still in the placenta; that by cutting the cord before the oxygenated
blood has travelled through it into the infant, they throw the infant into a state of
oxygen deprivation; that the "need" for resuscitation is caused by their own
Although Dr. Nesbitt may not be one of the majority who routinely performs this assault
on babies in the guise of good medicine, the doctor is certainly derelict to indict
midwives on the point of resuscitation without indicting his colleagues as well.
Dr. Nesbitt does, however, seem to exhibit a grand generosity when he expresses a
desire to allow midwives to work in the hospital. But let's take an X-ray of his
There are two kinds of midwives: direct-entry midwives and nurse-midwives. Direct-entry
midwives learn through apprenticeship and typically have a profound respect for, and
belief in, birth as a natural process. Nurse-midwives undergo rigorous medical training in
which they learn to regard birth as a medical event. They rely heavily on diagnostics,
monitoring, and other technology. They are specifically trained to defer to physician
Thus, one believes that Dr. Nesbitt has no problem with midwives working in the
hospital because such midwives will virtually always be nurse-midwives, and nurse-midwives
will always 1) go along with the entrenched fear-based model and 2) defer, in every
instance, to physician authority.
Dr. Nesbitt decries the lack of "medical" training for midwives. Let's see
what typical medical training (always technophilic and generally gynephobic) leads to in
- Anesthetic (pain-numbing) drugs are administered to the mother.
- The natural synchronous movements by which the infant is expelled from the womb are
- The slowing of labor (coupled with the increased activity from hospital staff) causes
increased fear in the mother.
- The mother's fear causes her lower uterine muscles to tighten, stopping labor and
causing pain as her upper uterine muscles continue their contractions.
- The mother's increased pain justifies increased medication.
- The increased medication (each dose of which passes through the placenta to the infant
in forty-five seconds) destroys the delicate hormonal conversation between mother and
- The drugged infant is unable to send its final "I'm ready" hormonal signal to
- The possibility of a vaginal birth is precluded.
- The mother receives a C-section.
- The infant's umbilical cord is cut too soon, leaving the infant oxygen-starved and
gasping too soon for air through mucus which has not had time to dry.
- The doctor proceeds (heroically) to "resuscitate" the baby.
- The baby is taken from the mother for "observation."
- The mother, needing recovery time, is advised to stay "a few days" in the
- The mother, upon returning home, finds a bill for several thousand dollars from the
- The mother's need to recover from her C-section precludes the formation of a bond with
her newborn childin the first critical moments after birth. The lack of this bond (what
Pearce calls "a safe place to stand") will affect her child in untold (and told:
see Pearce's Magical Child) adverse ways his or her entire life.
The above scenario is just one of many in which one medical intervention creates the need
for another. This series of interventions is known as the "cascade effect" in
the medical literature (see Henci Goer, 1995).
Although Dr. Nesbitt is unaware of the negative consequences of medical training for the
natural event of childbirth, I am certain that he cares deeply about the health of mothers
and infants. My feeling is that, were he to discover that the routine use of obstetrics
technology is consistently harmful to the majority of mothers and infants, he would leave
the low-risk majority to the midwives and concentrate on the small percentage of high-risk
cases that come his way.
Let's see what John Robbins has to say in Reclaiming Our Health (1996) about the routine
use of obstetric technology:
"The medical literature is full of studies which reveal that the practices that lie
at the heart of modern obstetrics, when used as a matter of course, do not save lives. In
fact, study after study shows that they actually lead to higher death rates for both
mothers and babies."
In my own recent article, "Obstetricians Should Be Heroes" <http://anatole.org/nwnm.org/index.htm>,
I show that at least 1,282,500 deaths of live-born American infants up to one year of age,
in the past 50 years alone, are directly attributable to the routine use of hospital
Indeed, in eight years of research, I have found that there is no evidence, not a single
study, in this or in any other country in the history of the world, to support the routine
use of obstetrics technology.
The conclusions of medical research are so overwhelmingly in favor of natural childbirth
that, I would like to take this opportunity to offer $25,000 to the first person who can
show me a study published in an industry journal in any country, in any time period,
showing hospital birth to be safer, in any category, for most mothers and babies than home
birth with a trained midwife in attendance. This offer has no expiration date and
supersedes all previous offers of a similar nature. Contact: <email@example.com>.
I would like to make it clear that the term "midwives" in the above offer does
not include Certified Nurse Midwives, who, because of their conventional medical training,
and in spite of their good intentions, bring the fear-based medical model of childbirth
with them into the home, thus skewing home birth data toward the technological. Fear, in
any guise, is contagious and has a direct negative effect on birth outcomes.
Dr. Nesbitt and all obstetricians should be heroes. They should save the day in those rare
cases when nature fails. In delivery rooms today, nature doesn't stand a chance.
I wonder if Dr. Nesbitt is willing to put his money where his mouth is, as I have done. If
not, the next time he gets a desire to derogate midwives in print, he should probably just
put on his bright red coat and go out for a walk in the snow.
President and founder
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