Monday, July 31, 2006

How homebirth advocates twist information to mislead

Here is a classic example of misleading information presented on a homebirth advocacy website:
In the past, most Americans were born at home with lay midwives attending. The mortality rate for both mothers and babies was higher in 1900, at 700 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, than it is now... Obstetricians tend to emphasize that many women used to die in childbirth, implying that we should be grateful for current obstetric practice. However, even in 1900, the percent of women who died giving birth was only 7/10ths of one percent!
The author implies that the risk of dying in childbirth was trivial. Of course, if you consider that approximately 2 million women gave birth in the US in that year, that means that 14,000 women lost their lives in childbirth in one year alone. I don't think anyone would or should consider the deaths of 14,000 healthy young women in the prime of life to be a trivial event.

Just as important, the author "neglects" to mention that the maternal death rate in 1900 was approximately 100 times higher than it is today. In contrast to the 14,000 maternal deaths in the US in 1900, there were 396 in the year 2000, despite the fact that there were an additional 2 million deliveries.

Homebirth advocates say "even in 1900, the percent of women who died giving birth was ONLY 7/10ths of one percent!" The reality is that more than 14,000 women used to die in the US each year from complications of childbirth. The maternal mortality rate used to be 100 times higher than it is today. Had the maternal mortality rate remained at the 1900 level, approximately 28,000 women would have died in childbirth in 2000, instead of the 396 who actually died. Homebirth advocates don't tell you that though, because then you would understand what has happened. And if you understand what has really happened, it would be very difficult to take seriously other claims about homebirth. Evidently, they feel it is better to mislead.

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