Thursday, January 03, 2008

The pernicious nature of homebirth lies on the web

Here's an example of why I feel so strongly about correcting the lies and half truths of homebirth advocacy on the Web. Because of the nature of the Web, such lies and half truths spread like lice, eagerly transmitted back and forth.

As I wrote recently, Rixa of the True Face of Birth, puportedly providing medical information about group B strep sepsis, deliberately leaves out the most important information: group B strep is the major cause of neonatal sepsis. The actual incidence is 1.8/1000 live births (7200 cases per year) and more than 15% of affected infants will die (1080 deaths).

Her deliberate attempt to minimize the significance of group B strep by posting misleading statistics (Taking "worse case scenario" ...--if we did not screen, did not give antibiotics, did nothing at all...* .0225% (1 in 4444) babies would die of early onset GBS) and her careful ommission of the fact that screening and antibiotic prophylaxis have reduced the incidence of group B strep sepsis by 70% is unconscionable.

Now, of course, her deliberate attempts to mislead are echoing their way across the Web.

Kat of Empowering Birth Blog has taken up the cause of spreading misinformation. In her post Thoughts on Group B strep, she makes this irresponsible suggestion:
If you don't have any risk factors present, why not consider skipping the test and avoid the stress.
Kat "helpfully" includes the following falsehoods:
Prenatal treatment with antibiotics will not prevent neonatal infection...

In many cases mom will transfer antibodies to fetus which will protect fetus from GBS infection...
She too has left out the most important information about group B strep. Group B strep is the leading cause of neonatal sepsis. Group B strep sepsis has a mortality rate of over 15%. Screening and prophylactic antibiotics have reduced the incidence of group B strep sepsis by 70%.

Kat almost certainly left out the information because she doesn't really know much about group B strep. She is simply regurgitating the falsehoods and half truths from the writings of other homebirth advocates. Rixa, on the other hand, was very careful not to write anything that isn't true. She just failed to include the most important information and disingenuously tried to minimize its signficance; an incidence of "only" 0.025% means 1000 neonatal deaths, the majority of which could have been prevented.

The take home message is clear. NEVER rely on "medical" information on homebirth advocacy websites. ALWAYS check an independent source to find out the truth. For accurate information about group B strep and how women can protect their babies from this preventable cause of death, please check:

Group B Strep Organization;
American Academy of Pediatrics Group B Strep;
CDC: Preventing Group B Strep.

Rixa and Kat: I implore you to amend your posts about group B strep, remove the falsehoods, include the critical information about risk, incidence and the dramatic success of screening and prophylactic antibiotics in preventing disease. Women deserve nothing less than the truth.

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