Monday, November 28, 2022

All Natural Misinformation

This thread is from Dr. Kay M. Dingwell on her experience shifting from natural is necessarily best to incorporating some scientific research into her decision-making:

I used to be vaccine hesitant. Had my kids on a modified schedule and felt I was VERY educated. Here are posts I made in 2010 about visiting public health with Charlie, two months at the time:

When pregnant with Charlie, I was pretty resentful of 'unnatural ' obstetric care and was convinced I could do things better. I had 'done my research' and wanted an unassisted home birth. 

Thankfully, I was convinced out of that with gentle, caring discussion because I had complications requiring critical time-sensitive interventions, and there was no warning. Delivering at home could've killed me. This is when I started to develop the sense that the basic premise of my beliefs - that natural was better/safer - might be wrong. Started to. 

As a newborn, Charlie was in the hospital for almost two weeks. Bilirubin was above the transfusion threshold while I was still refusing any supplementation (despite a serious milk supply problem) because I thought I knew better than the 'uneducated' doctors. I was, obviously now, wrong. But I was stubborn and convinced I knew better. My echo chamber "crunchy" mom groups encouraged me. 

An MD involved in my baby's care sat me down and had a discussion with me. Started gently showing me where some holes in my thinking were. He made some resource recommendations (including @SkepticsGuide - new book out here). I started reading and listening. I started assessing the quality of my information sources and developing my critical thinking skills. Less than two years after all this, I started a science undergrad.

When Charlie started kindergarten, I started med school. As my education advanced, and I learned more about the ways I'd been scared into doing wrong by my kids, I got angry. 

Parents love their kids and want to do well by them. People who should know better prey on that for clout. There are broadly two groups: parents who really are just scared and misinformed, and then those who build themselves up by reflexively rejecting anything perceived as authoritative. The second group are often very adversarial. The first group are often willing to truly discuss. Kindness and coming from a place of caring reached me when I was wrong. 

I am grateful that people took the time with me, and that there are those who continue to communicate science with kindness, because people do listen. I'm proof of that. (Well, an anecdote). 

Check out this Thinking Is Power resource page and @ScienceBasedMed (website here) for accessible deep dives. 

After I had my first, I was prey to some well-meaning "crunchy" moms who insisted I shouldn't see a doctor about oversupply breastfeeding issues because all doctors are brainwashed and profit-driven (??), and I listened in pain for a few days, until finally headed to the hospital for some help, which was fast and very effective. (They basically hooked me up to a milking machine!) So I completely understand the push for all natural at any cost. 

Want further reading?? The book Why People Believe Weird Things can really help to understand why really intelligent people, highly educated, often get sucked into misinformation. And one of my favourite reads is The Drunkard's Walk which helps to clear up how statistical misunderstandings people often fall for.

One that I fell for was all the studies showing that home births are significantly safer than hospital births, with dramatically lower complication rates and death rates. The argument was that without access to machines and equipment in an OR room, midwives/doctors won't unnecessarily use the types of equipment that are associated with complications. It was presented, in all seriousness, as if the equipment found in a hospital causes complications. So I had a home birth and soon realized that, in these parts, if there's anything that could possibly go wrong in the pregnancy or labour, then you're no longer eligible for a home birth. I was close to going into labour two-weeks late, which would force me to go to a hospital, so I downed cod liver oil to start contractions, such was my desperation to avoid this institutional butchery! That data I was shown was accurate, but skewed because the home birth group doesn't allow anyone with complications, so of course there are fewer complication reported!! It's so clear now, but I really bought it at the time. Thing went well, so I had my others at home too. I mainly don't like having to get dressed if I don't have to. 

But please get your Covid shots and this year's flu shots. They do help. They're also not enough help, so also wear a mask whenever you leave the house. You can get infected just passing someone in the street, too!

No comments: