My response to another rant by Dr. Tuteur

In the November 7th, 2011 online edition of “Time Ideas” internet blogger Amy Tuteur attacks Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s sequel to the popular “Business of Being Born” and continues her rant against home birth and the midwives who support this option. Had Dr. Tuteur actually viewed the 4 part DVD, “More Business of Being Born”, she would find that the film was not an advertisement for home birthing but rather a documentary that presented evidenced based medicine and real life experiences in hopes of educating the viewers on their options for birthing in America. In her zeal to critique anything that has to do with the movement she argues, disingenuously, four major points.
As to point #1:
As a board certified and practicing obstetrician who has worked with both CNMs (certified nurse midwives) and LMs (licensed midwives, also called certified professional midwives CPMs), my experience is that they are both consummate professionals in their area of expertise. Licensed midwives in California are licensed by the Medical Board of California, the same agency that licenses physicians. This consumer protection agency sees fit to certify these professionals to care for low risk pregnant women. In my extensive experience spanning 30 years of collaboration with them in California I have direct knowledge of their work. They have extensive didactic education with accredited institutions and are trained in the care of normal birth through the mentoring and supervision process. The model of care they provide is based on prevention and nurturing and the trust that birthing a baby is a normal bodily function.
Dr. Tuteur believes that having a university degree and extensive in-hospital training is required to care for normal pregnant women. I would state without reservation that midwives do normal birth better than most obstetricians who are trained in surgical birth and rarely experience a normal labor from start to finish. By labeling licensed midwives second class, Dr. Tuteur demonstrates for us her pejorative style that is her reputation when confronted with facts and issue she disdains. In other developed nations the model of care of collaboration between midwife and doctor is the norm. Whether to choose a CNM or an LM is a matter of preference for the informed woman.

As to point #2:
Dr. Tuteur says “All the existing scientific studies…show that American planned home has triple the risk of neonatal death”. This is a stance she consistently takes on her blog site and when quoted in articles and is patently false. The use of hyperbole is also a trademark of Dr. Tuteur and strains further her credibility on this subject. Does any reader really believe that “All” the studies of any topic are on one side only? The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG), of which I am a member and Dr. Tuteur is not, has consistently taken a position against home birthing and the basis for their recent opinion relies almost entirely on a meta-analysis of his selection of 11 out of more than 50 studies encompassing several decades by Wax, et al. The criticisms of his conclusions are numerous in the literature and even include some by the authors he has cited. There is certainly no consensus. Dr. Tuteur seems to assume that her statistics end the discussion. Even Wax, himself, admits that if you accept his data as indisputable the overall increased risk of a fetal death at homebirth is 1 in 1,133. While every loss is significant the evaluation of this risk is a personal decision. No pregnancy is without risk and hospital birthing is no exception. Parents must be allowed to weigh the much greater risk of intervention and surgical birth and the multitude of complications that can arise from them in context with their own life experiences. True informed consent and respect for patient autonomy is not a virtue that Dr. Tuteur seems to value.

As to point #3:
Dr. Tuteur cites a Netherlands study in the 2010 British Medical Journal which had the surprising finding of a higher fetal death rate in low risk women cared for by midwives than for high risk women cared for by obstetricians. The analysis of scientific articles is not a simple task, often comparing apples to oranges and that is the case here. Recall that Dr. Tuteur states that the Netherlands does not allow licensure of CPMs therefore one must conclude that the midwives caring for Dutch women are the equivalent of CNMs, a category of midwife that Dr. Tuteur approves of. Secondly, the study does not clearly define location of labor as a factor, only the care provider. Also, as tragic as a fetal loss is, again, it cannot be used in isolation as the only endpoint when determining models of care. The use of this study as a condemnation of home birthing is, again, disingenuous. The authors’ conclusions are not the condemnation of the midwifery model but that a reevaluation of the Netherlands care system is warranted.

As to point #4:
I agree that if the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has meaningful data they should consider publishing it. Supporters of the midwifery model want the best for their patients and would be accepting of criticism if that is what the statistics showed. For those interested in seeking their data there is a legitimate application process that provides access. Dr. Tuteur seems to be eager to attribute sinister motives to MANA while bathing herself in righteous indignation. Those who know of her antics see her for the internet provocateur she is. One who calls for informed decisions but skews her information, refuses offers to debate opposing views publically, obfuscates her own background and motivation and seems to take pleasure in demeaning those with whom she disagrees. Unlike Dr. Tuteur, I applaud Ms. Lake and Ms. Epstein for bringing the issue of how American women give birth to the forefront. Honest dialogue, true informed consent and individual autonomy in life’s most precious moments are the business for us all.

Stuart J. Fischbein MD, FACOG
www.birthinginstincts.com

(This essay was submitted to the op-ed editors of online Time/Ideas more than a week past. Since I have yet to hear any response from them I have elected to post it here. Dr. F)

You can find the original article by Dr. Tuteur at:
http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/07/what-ricki-lake-doesnt-tell-you-about-homebirth/

Time Ideas did eventually publish an edited version of my comment to Dr. Tuteur. Read it at:
http://ideas.time.com/letters/the-home-birth-debate-continues/?iid=op-main-lettereditor