Saturday, September 12, 2009

Open letter to NBC

A few days ago, NBC aired an "investigative report" titled "The Perils of Midwifery". Watch it and decide for yourself whether the story should be considered truly "investigative journalism". (Obviously, I didn't think so!) I was incensed enough to write a letter to NBC, and I am posting it here in the interest of getting the word out beyond their mail room.


Dear NBC,

In your recent story “The Perils of Midwifery”, Peter Alexander makes the nebulous claim that “doctors say it is impossible to compare [home vs. hospital births] because hospitals deal with so many high risk cases.”

First I’d like to note that simply using “doctors say” without attributing the idea to anyone specifically, is a subtle appeal to authority without facts, or even a specific person to back it up. If that claim is going to be made, there needs to be someone actually saying it.

Second, it is not true that it is “impossible to compare” home and hospital births, and it is irresponsible journalism to let that implied fact stand. In fact it is possible, and has been done multiple times. In the Netherlands, a comparison of “low-risk” women birthing at home with those birthing in hospital found no difference in death or serious illness among either baby or mother.[1] A Canadian study, released just last month, showed that planned home births were associated with comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of adverse maternal outcomes compared with planned hospital births.[2] A study of birth in the United States concluded that home birth for low risk women using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention, and comparable neonatal mortality to that of low risk hospital births.[3] Finally, the American Cochrane review of 11 separate studies came to the conclusion that midwifery care confers benefits for women and their babies and is recommended.[4]

True investigative reporting should have found and reported this information, instead of claiming that it does not exist.

Sincerely,
Emily Moothart

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7998417.stm

[2] http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.081869

[3] http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/330/7505/1416

[4] http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004667.html

5 comments:

Kristen said...

EXCELLENT! I hope that you are also considering actually sending this to the producers of The Today Show. It's precise and succinct and clearly directs them to the sort of research that they should have looked at before they aired their story!

Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE said...

Thanks for sharing this, I too hope you send it and that others send many more like it.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Kristen and Robin, thanks for your kind words! Yes, I am sending a hard copy to the producers of the Today Show. I also wanted it as an "open letter" online so that others could read it, learn about the issue, and get ideas for their own letters!

Kari Birchler said...

I would also like to remind them that many high-risk women (such as myself) who choose home birth with midwives almost across the board have better outcomes than they would in hospital. Where do women go who are carrying multiples, breech babies, want to vbac, have insulin-dependent diabetes, are fat, have been told their babies are too big, or their pelvises too small--yet want normal births, unfettered by fetal monitoring, IVs, prophylactic pitocin, clocks, and surgeons with knives who keep telling us c-sections are better because...? We choose homebirth, of course!

Bonnie B Matheson said...

I hope you will keep chipping away at the misconceptions surrounding home birth. 16 years ago on September 13th I caught my granddaughter as she slipped out of her mother's body. (my daughter agreed to let me catch her baby) The thrill of catching that warm, slippery, energetic child helped heal my horrific memories of my own first birth. The calm and peace and lack of fear in that room as my daughter labored was amazing. All women should have the right to have a birth like that one.