Respectful Insolence

One of the stereotypes of anti-vaccine loons is that they are predominantly left wing New Agey ex-hippie types, usually well-educated and affluent. Certainly recent stories out of California indicating that Marin and Sonoma counties are ground zero for declining vaccine rates would seem to back up that stereotype. However, there is a right wing religious variety of antivaccinationist, and it’s hard not to point out that Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) is arguably the best friend the mercury militia has in Washington. But if you want to get a true flavor of right wing paranoid whackaloon, you can’t get much worse than a blog to which I was referred yesterday, that of the wife of Pastor Steven Anderson of Faith Word Baptist Church. In her blog, Anderson’s wife Zsuzsanna holds forth on Vaccines and Population Control:

We do not allow any of our children to be vaccinated. This decision was not based on emotion, but on studying the issue in depth over the course of several months.

As you’ll see, if this is the sort of “study” Zsuzsanna engaged in, I’d hate to see what she says when she doesn’t actually look into an issue. If you really want to see crazy in action, watch Zsuzsanna go:

Today, I would like to draw attention to the fact that as parents, we really do not know what our children are being injected with, some of which will stay in their blood stream for the rest of their lives. I do not trust our government with its anti-God agenda and our modern medical establishment that knows next to nothing about health with my child’s lifelong wellbeing.

For example, one way to be able to identify all humans beings for life would be to inject them with a harmless virus that is unique to each individual. The body would then develop antibodies to that specific virus, and for the rest of his/her life, this person could now be identified after a simple blood test. I agree that this is a crazy notion, but sadly, governments are wicked and often pursue wicked ideals at the expense of human population.

Did you just see that? She just admitted her ideas are crazy? She’s basically equated vaccination with the “number of the beast” or some sort of method of permanent identification. She even admits her idea is crazy, but nonetheless thinks it plausible because…well, she’s a paranoid loon, that ‘s why.

Even if the government did have some sort of nefarious designs on the population and wanted somehow to make sure they can identify each and every person residing in the U.S. for life, there’s a much more straightforward and more accurate way to accomplish that end than injecting them with individualized vaccines with a virus that’s “unique to every individual.” Instead, the government could just mandate that every newborn had to have its cheek swabbed for a DNA sample. If such a database were ever established, then any person could be identified by simply taking a DNA test and searching the database. No need to make millions upon millions of “individualized” viruses, which would require technology that doesn’t exist yet! The technology already exists!

Be afraid, Zsuzsanna. Be very afraid.

From her paranoid ramblings and utter lack of understanding about vaccines or science, Zsuzsanna then runs straight to a non sequitur, by pointing out that she read somewhere that It said that the number one cause of unnatural death worldwide is being murdered by one’s government. Even if that’s true, it does not follow that the guv’mint is preparing a vaccine Armageddon to control her children. In fact, it’s even worse! It’s a plot to destroy women’s fertility:

This is an interestig article about the WHO’s mass tetanus vaccination program in the 1990s in developing countries. It raised suspicions because only women of child-bearing age were vaccinated. After the vials were tested, it was found out that they were contaminated with hCG, a hormon women produce in order to sustain their pregnancy. After being vaccinated with it, women then developed anti-hCG, with the result of repeated miscarriages due to the anti-hCG in their blood stream.

That’s right! Vaccines are a New World Order plot to implement population control, whether the populace wants it or not! Here’s what really happened. The campaign to link the tetanus toxoid vaccine to hCG was to discredit efforts to develop an anti-fertility vaccine designed to prevent pregnancy for 1-2 years by targeting hCG. Here’s how the rumors were started and intentionally spread:

After these rumours were spread, attempts were made to analyse TT vaccines for the presence of hCG. The vaccines were sent to hospital laboratories and tested using pregnancy test kits which are developed for use on serum and urine specimens and are not appropriate for use on a vaccine such as TT, which contains a special preservative (merthiolate) and an adjuvant (aluminum salt). As a result of using these inappropriate tests, low levels of hCG-like activity were found in some samples of TT vaccine. The laboratories themselves recognised the significance of these results, which were below the reliable detection capabilities of the adjuvant or other substances in the the vaccine and the test kit. However, these results were misrepresented by ‘pro-life groups with the resulting disruption of immunisation programmes.

When the vaccines were tested in laboratories which used properly validated test systems, the results showed that the vaccines clearly did not contain hCG.

So, in other words, where it’s New Age nonsense that tends to drive left wing resistance to vaccines, but in right wing circles it tends to be very much based on Christian religion. Either that, or you can look at it as antivaccinationists using whatever tool will work for whatever audience. For a religious conservative, suspicious of the government to the point where she views President Obama as a “liar and deceiver, and the puppet of a global shadow government run by financiers,” believing that in vitro fertilization is “politically correct eugenics,” rejoicing when her little kids parrot anti-Obama nonsense that Obama is “worse than the faggots,” and believing “homos are filthy animals,” concocting rumors that vaccines somehow impair fertility and prevent women from pumping out the mandatory “quiverfull” is a great propaganda strategy, as is labeling them some sort of “New World Order” conspiracy to control people. Unfortunately, Zsuzsanna was more than receptive to both lies. Also, like the crunchy, ex-hippie-types with whom she shares antivaccine views, she’s also into other woo, like water birth.

Depressingly, like the woo it is antivaccinationist nonsense is the pseudoscience that knows no political boundaries, although somehow I find it even scarier in a woman like Zsuzsanna. Against such stupidity derived from a combination of the arrogance of ignorance and scientific illiteracy, all yoked to homophobia and paranoid conspiracy mongering, the gods themselves contend in vain.

Comments

  1. #1 Stacy
    April 17, 2009

    She almost makes the folks at whale to seem sane. Almost.

  2. #2 Matthew Platte
    April 17, 2009

    The General points us to a brand new film starring the Pastor, wherein he is beaten to a “bloody pulp” by Obama’s minions. Eight minutes of crazy.

    http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/2009/04/pastor-anderson-treated-like-hes-brown.html

    Where do they find the time and energy…?

  3. #3 yoyo
    April 17, 2009

    This woman is not only a fundie bigot, she is also a violent stalker of people who dont agree with her preacher hubbie. For more funny details try http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/.

  4. #4 Pareidolius
    April 17, 2009

    On my best day, I couldn’t create a parody of a batshit crazy christian like Szuszanna. She’s like one of those energy monsters on the old Star Trek, you know, the one that gets stronger the more you shoot it with phasers and photon torpedoes? The more you hate her and her gawd, the more she seems to like it. Christian masochism at its finest.

  5. #5 Shay
    April 17, 2009

    What do you expect from someone who spells her name “Zsuzsanna?”

  6. #6 sff
    April 17, 2009

    I have a feeling some of the motivation is the same. Extreme left and extreme right wing people are both often very distrustful of the government, so if the government is so happy about vaccination, it must be at least suspicious.

  7. #7 Gen. JC Christian
    April 17, 2009

    Damn. I’ve had a post on this ready for two days, but haven’t published because of other things. Now you’ve scooped me.

  8. #8 Richard Eis
    April 17, 2009

    Which came first? the insanity or the religiousness.

  9. #9 Michael Simpson
    April 17, 2009

    Orac is equating New Age to Christianity? I’m just flabbergasted, flummoxed, and…I couldn’t find a perfect word to finish the alliteration. Oh well.

    Pseudoscience always requires faith, and political inclinations are probably not part of the equation. It seems that both the right and left have their anti-science types.

  10. #10 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 17, 2009

    The vaccines were sent to hospital laboratories and tested using pregnancy test kits which are developed for use on serum and urine specimens and are not appropriate for use on a vaccine

    Thank you. I always wondered where that rumor came from and how they were getting HCG in of tetanus vaccine (which isn’t even grown in anything with live human cells).

  11. #11 DebinOz
    April 17, 2009

    I love this response in her blog:

    trish said…

    “I understand what you are saying and I have a few good friends who have chosen not to vaccinate. The issue they are facing now that their kids are teens is -the church is sponsoring mission trips to other countries. These kids cant go unless they catch up on ALL their missed vaccines. Obviously they wont be going. They may never be able to leave the country to spread the Gospel. It is something to consider.”

    I can’t see anything wrong with letting them leave, but hey, let’s not let them back!!

  12. #12 Whitecoat Tales
    April 17, 2009

    See this is the failure of the DSM-IV in action.
    All of these people have paranoid delusions. The only reason they don’t justify anti-psychotic medication is because the DSM-IV says delusions don’t count of their consistent with your “cultural” background.
    Pshaw I say, give them all risperdal.

    In all seriousness. There is one big strand in common between the new ageys and the religious wingnuts: their intelligence is outclassed by their ambition.

  13. #13 sophia8
    April 17, 2009

    She already believes that the gubmint is building a DNA database of all newborns:

    I am even more wary of the state-sponsored genetic newborn screenings. I think it is the government’s way to obtain blood (i.e. DNA) samples of every person born in the country, since they make no secret out of the fact that all samples will be stored indefinitely and entered in a database. I think that if people want to do those tests they should hire a private lab to do so instead.

    So why would the government need to inject everybody with an individalized virus as well?

  14. #14 sophia8
    April 17, 2009

    I’ve been reading some more of her blog. She describes women who have abortions as “monsters”, regardless of the reasons; and in spite of her belief that a woman’s highest calling is to have kids, women who have IVF are also “monsters” as well as “murderesses”, because IVF requires the culling of embryos (plus, it requires the use of those horrible Big Pharma drugs).
    She reproduces a blog post of a woman detailing her 8 years of IVF, miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births. Here’s what our lovely Christian Jesus-lover has to say:

    In the case of this woman, I have no pity for her losing a few babies “naturally” because she is a mass murderer who willingly killed scores and scores of her children. In fact, the pregnancy that ended with the premature death of the twin boys started out with 4 babies, two of which she “selectively reduced” i.e. had killed. If she herself didn’t feel bad about killing two kids, why should I feel sorry for her that two more died? Shouldn’t someone feel bad for the 76 babies?

    Don’t bother trying to comment on her blog – she only allows comments from her friends.

  15. #15 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 17, 2009

    And another commenter says, “many older people I know had mumps, measles , chicken pox and other things and I am happy to report that they are alive and well today”

    Yes, because those that aren’t alive and well are, you know, DEAD! They died before you were born.

    Just like everyone I ever met who was in WWII was alive, so I concluded that war isn’t all that bad.

  16. #16 Jud
    April 17, 2009

    Oh Zsuzsanna,

    Now don’t you cry for me,

    I have gotten all my shots,

    For to beat path-o-lo-gy.

  17. #17 Matthew Cline
    April 17, 2009

    Assuming she wasn’t being impersonated by a troll, the anti-vax Dawn who used to post here is on the right-wing side of the anti-vax loons. However (if I’m remembering correctly) her contention was that population control is only a minor use of vaccines, with the main use being causing brain damage, since a less intelligent population is easier for the New World Oder to manipulate and control.

  18. #18 Jud
    April 17, 2009

    Tsu Dho Nimh writes: And another commenter says, “many older people I know had mumps, measles , chicken pox and other things and I am happy to report that they are alive and well today”

    Yes, because those that aren’t alive and well are, you know, DEAD!

    Lucky I wasn’t drinking my tea when I read that, or you’d owe me a monitor.

  19. #19 Orac
    April 17, 2009

    Damn. I’ve had a post on this ready for two days, but haven’t published because of other things. Now you’ve scooped me.

    General,

    You haven’t been scooped. I hadn’t even heard of these clowns before someone forwarded the antivaccine posts to me. Since that is a major topic of this blog, it caught my attention. Obviously I’ve fallen behind in my reading of Jesus’ General, or I would have recognized Zsuzsanna and her husband when my reader forwarded the post that provoked this bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence.

  20. #20 D. C. Sessions
    April 17, 2009

    there’s a much more straightforward and more accurate way to accomplish that end than injecting them with individualized vaccines with a virus that’s “unique to every individual.” Instead, the government could just mandate that every newborn had to have its cheek swabbed for a DNA sample.

    Or even simpler, a simple heel stick for a blood sample.

  21. #21 techskeptic
    April 17, 2009

    What wrong with water birth?

    I mean perhaps it doesn’t do anything for the baby or provide a higher chance of some better outcome. But if the mother is more comfortable….what could possibly be the problem? Unless there is something wrong with it,its like calling eating while sitting a form of woo because there is no medical advantage of sitting.

  22. #22 sophia8
    April 17, 2009

    Well, giving birth in water carries a high risk of exposure to bacteria; and I’ve heard of at least one baby drowning in an unsupervised water birth. And I don’t see how it’s ‘natural’ – is there any evidence that women ever chose to squat in the nearest pond while giving birth?

  23. #23 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    “Well, giving birth in water carries a high risk of exposure to bacteria”

    Any data to support this? I’ve never seen any studies that show waterbirth increases the risk of infection for mother or baby when hygeine rules are respected. A quick PubMed search brings up a 2005 article from the Journal of Fetal Neonatal Medicine that shows no increased risk of infection with waterbirth and decreased rates of episiotomy and analgesic requirements.

  24. #24 The Perky Skeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Right, sophia8. I was dead set on a water birth, but my OBGYN very sweetly and with data talked me out of it. The risk of infection and complications was just unacceptable to me.

  25. #25 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    Perky Skeptic,

    Just curious about what data your OB used to convince you? As far as I can tell, there have not been any studies that suggest water birth increases the risk of complications for women without certain pre-existing conditions (GBS+, PROM, etc).

    I just wonder why a practice that is used fairly frequently in European hospitals as a pain-relieving measure is considered woo here in the States.

  26. #26 TK Kun
    April 17, 2009

    What do you expect from someone who spells her name “Zsuzsanna?”

    Zsuzsanna is a pretty ordinary Hungarian name.

  27. #27 Joseph
    April 17, 2009

    Several months of study? Wow.

    I could’ve told you anti-vaxers are not generally left-wing new-agers. Just look at John Best.

  28. #28 sophia8
    April 17, 2009

    I would ordinarily expect an American with that name to have had a mother who was a fan of Zsuzsanna Budapest. However this particular exponent of Christian love says she was bought up under Communism, so she’s evidently Hungarian.

  29. #29 ababa
    April 17, 2009

    Babies don’t always hold their breath until the doctor tickles their feet (for those that don’t know, they don’t slap them on their back anymore). My last started crying the moment his face hit light. Had he been underwater at the time? I don’t even like to think about that.

    And that doesn’t even begin to cover the bacteria problem. What about the inevitable feces that comes out? You want your baby born into that?

    It’s unnatural. It’s unsafe. Bacteria infections are an issue. Drowning/breathing problems are an issue.

  30. #30 Adrienne
    April 17, 2009

    Yeah, I’ve seen right wing fundie sites that blast vaccinations on the premise that the Bible says not to inject yourself with unclean matter derived from animals. Or some such.

    And actually, Phyllis Schlafly, no small potato on the RR, has come out against mandatory vaccinations on the grounds that it’s more government intrustion and takes away parents’ rights to raise their children how they see fit.

  31. #31 iain
    April 17, 2009

    I’d like to see some references for studies showing dangers of water birth. Most of what I’ve read says that few studies have been done yet, but that what has been done suggests no additional risks for low-risk deliveries. This, for example (it includes references tp the published research):
    http://www.babycentre.co.uk/pregnancy/ref/waterbirth/

  32. #32 HMW
    April 17, 2009

    Perhaps the right-wing extremists formed their opinions about vaccines after watching Children of the Corn IV. Josiah, the little demon boy, was adopted by these traveling preachers who wanted to make money by having a forever-young preacher. So they injected the boy with mercury to stunt his growth. Eventually they ended up selling his soul because the whole mercury poisoning thing just wasn’t working out.

    Makes sense to me. Children injected with vaccines = demon babies. Not cool.

  33. #33 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    “It’s unsafe. Bacteria infections are an issue. Drowning/breathing problems are an issue.”

    I’m not denying that these are valid concerns, I’m just asking for actual evidence (ie Not anecdotes) that the practice of giving birth in water measurably increases the risk of poor outcomes for the mother or baby. I haven’t seen any, though I’m certainly not an expert in that field.

    Just because something is outside of our comfort zone, or adopted by people with whom we disagree on other issues, does not mean it’s necessarily woo. Granted, some of the reasoning given for using water birth is woo-i-licious, but that’s irrelevant to the actual benefits reported in the literature.

    If I’m missing something here, I’d love to hear it. (And, no, I’ve never had a water birth.)

  34. #34 Chris
    April 17, 2009

    Superia, go to http://www.pubmed.gov, put the word “waterbirth” into the search box. There are 41 cites, including 5 reviews.

  35. #35 dmcw
    April 17, 2009

    Has no one heard of the Aquatic Ape hypothesis? I was impressed by the book Elaine Morgan wrote (with the same title).

  36. #36 Madman
    April 17, 2009

    I guess due the circles I travel in, I always assumed that the majority of anti-vaccination lunacy came from right-wingers, and more importantly Christians. I’m involved with many evangelical/fundies and can verify that a lot of them are extremely anti-Doctor, and fall for many new-age or just general pseudo-scientific medical beliefs. These are regular people, who have made terrible medical decisions. I believe this is a growing phenomenon, unfortunately.

  37. #37 Esther
    April 17, 2009

    Anti-vaccination sentiments, like believing in other conspiracy theories, have always historically been the mark of extreme political views, regardless of whether they originate on the Left or the Right.

    The problem these days is that antivax is now encroaching upon the mainstream.

  38. #38 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    Chris,

    As I mentioned in a previous comment, I did do a PubMed search and found no articles that reported an increased risk of poor outcomes to mothers or babies. (Granted, I didn’t read any published by Midwifery Today because I’m not sure it’s a very reliable source. Something tells me, though, that they aren’t pumping out studies on the dangers of waterbirth.)

    If there is an article among that list that shows an increased risk associated with waterbirth, please point it out. Maybe I missed it.

  39. #39 Badger3k
    April 17, 2009

    The aquatic ape hypothesis was pretty thoroughly shot down (at least) a few years ago. I can’t remember where I found it (google might work), but the author used a lot of different tacks to show the lack of support for that (physiology, behavior, etc). Now I’ll have to try to make time to look for it again, just to have it handy. Afarensis mught have something on it, off the top of my head.

    Taking the “logic” one step further to parody, death must not be a problem, since everyone I know is alive.

  40. #40 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    dmcw:
    yeah, I have heard of aquatic ape hypothesis. I’m pretty sure that is bunk. One of the bits of evidence that was used was the idea that our hair grows in the directions that it does due to the way water flows over us as we swim or wade. I did a project in college to actually show how the water flows…needless to say just drew those pictures without even checking.

    Further, this hypothesis assigns the reason for head hair to be a result of exposure to the sun (which certainly doesnt explain my head!). But then fails to assign other areas of high density of hair (like the groin) or other area that would also be exposed but have little hair (lik the shoulders).

    Superla,
    you are right on asking for evidence. It seems that others here have fallen into the same naturalistic fallacies that woo meisters use when showing disdain for vaccinations. It doesnt matter if it is natural or not.

    Further, its not like the tubs aren’t cleaned between each use, you don’t step into a bath filled with poo and amniotic fluid. Its clean when you start (or at least you should check that it is clean!). And not everyone poops when they give birth.

    As for risks, there are tons of risks with childbirth. Epidurals pose risk. C-sections pose risk. The question is, is there actual data that shows there is significant risk from water birth, at a hospital (or near medical help) with a clean tub?

    I am totally open to the idea that water births pose risks that a normal birth does not. I, like superla, am just wondering what the data is. Basicaly as far as childbirth goes, the woman should be as comfortable as possible. If that’s in a tub, or with an epidural, hey that’s good to.

    I’ll do a search myself an put up a post on it tonight.

  41. #41 Marcus Ranum
    April 17, 2009

    I’ve never seen any studies that show waterbirth increases the risk of infection for mother or baby when hygeine rules are respected.

    That’s a semi-circular argument, isn’t it?? Somewhat like saying “skydiving is safe, assuming good parachute-opening practices are observed.”

    With respect to it’s being natural – I’m hard pressed to think of a witty response to that other than to observe that having your child in the water is about as natural as having them a burning fire-pit. Have you considered childbirth while skydiving? Nothing is more “natural” than gravity and I’m sure the tyke would appreciate the feeling of zero-G… you idiot.

    It seems funny to me that science based medicine has struggled and managed considerable improvements in birth safety for both child and mother – and – what, is it getting too safe for you?

  42. #42 catgirl
    April 17, 2009

    I guess Zsuzsanna never considered the possibility that women of child-bearing age might be singled out for vaccines that are in short supply because many diseases can cause birth defects if a woman gets the disease while pregnant, but the disease has a less severe effect on the person who actually catches it. Sure, it would be best to vaccinate everyone, but if vaccines are limited, then they should be used for best outcome.

  43. #43 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    Marcus,

    The part about hygiene rules is a reflection of the parameters of the studies that have been conducted. That is, the authors can only say that there was no observed increase in risk under the conditions they studied. They can’t comment on whether or not the risk would be increased if they didn’t follow their own protocol, which includes rules for hygiene. That’s pretty standard in any scientific document.

    And as far as whether or not it’s natural? Well, who cares? If it has demonstrated benefits without an increase in risk, then what does it matter if no woman ever gave birth in water prior to 1970?

  44. #44 Prometheus
    April 17, 2009

    “I guess due the circles I travel in, I always assumed that the majority of anti-vaccination lunacy came from right-wingers, and more importantly Christians.”

    Since I live in an area populated by aging hippies and New-Agers, most of the anti-vaccination rhetoric comes from the granola groupies. It’s interesting to note that their views are actually very similar to the right-wing fanatics in a lot of ways.

    [1] Both groups reject logic and science in favor of “received wisdom” – the source of that knowledge is either “God”, “Jesus”, “The Bible” (in the case of the right) or “Gaia”, “Universal Consciousness”, “The Force” or other mystical “source” (for the left).

    [2] Both groups not only distrust “the government”, they believe that “the government” is actively and deliberately trying to destroy the world (and they don’t live in Iran, where that is actually true). There are days when I think that the US govenment will destroy the world, but I think they’ll do it by accident, with the best intentions.

    [3] Both groups have no difficulty believing that there are large conspiracies operating to hide “the truth”, despite the abysmal record most governments have when it comes to keeping secrets. Even the Mafia has informants.

    In addition, the fact that the people yammering on about these “massive govenment conspiracies” continue to draw breath speaks against the existence of said conspiracy. A real conspiracy of that scope and scale would have to be able to “silence” whistle-blowers rather effectively in order to reach the size neccessary to do what they are accused of doing.

    [4] Both groups feel that any evidence or data that contradicts their “beliefs” is either fraudulent (the “conspiracy” again), erroneous or irrelevant. They do not let themselves be swayed by the evidence – they have their beliefs to guide them.

    [5] Both groups feel that the existence of people who disagree with them is proof of a conspiracy, since only a paid mis-informant would fail to acknowledge the “truth” of their beliefs.

    [6] Both groups are indifferent to the suffering their actions cause to innocent bystanders, feeling either that “the ends justify the means” or “nobody is innocent” (or both).

    Prometheus

  45. #45 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    If it [waterbirth] has demonstrated benefits…

    I wasn’t even going that far. I have no idea if there are any benefits. I’m just talking about comfort. If the idea of waterbirth is more comfortable for the mother, then why not? Why is that woo-ey? My original analogy was that sitting down while eating may not have any benefit at all, besides comfort.

    do you have anything that can be referred to that claims that waterbirth produces any benefit other than comfort? If there are claims like this, then depending on how they are supported, we may enter the land of woodom.

  46. #46 catgirl
    April 17, 2009

    Both groups are indifferent to the suffering their actions cause to innocent bystanders

    I think this is actually the most important point and should have been at the top of your list. Most parents of young children have never experienced the devastating effects of the diseases that vaccines prevent. They have lived their lives in relative health, and have never had to live with the constant fear of a disease like polio striking you or your loved ones without warning. They have never had to face the reality that it was almost guaranteed for every family to lose at least one child. They think that diseases that vaccines prevent are just trivial inconveniences.

  47. #47 Adrienne
    April 17, 2009

    How did a post about fundie antivaxers turn into a debate over the dangers (or not) of water birth?

  48. #48 Adrienne
    April 17, 2009

    Yeah, “aquatic ape” had already been thoroughly fisked by the time I was in college, back in the early 1990s.

    …having your child in the water is about as natural as having them a burning fire-pit. Have you considered childbirth while skydiving? Nothing is more “natural” than gravity and I’m sure the tyke would appreciate the feeling of zero-G

    Thanks for the chuckle.

  49. #49 Ktesibios
    April 17, 2009

    There’s a tradition of paranoid conspiracism, especially about health issues, in the loony right. Remember how fluoridation is a Communist plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids?

    After several years of hanging out on the JREF forum, I’ve become convinced that for reasons I don’t yet know, conspiracist thinking is peculiarly congenial to authoritarian-follower personalities, who are way overrepresented among fundies.

  50. #50 Dr Rocketscience
    April 17, 2009

    If comfortable childbirth is what you want, I have two syllables: epidural.

    Effective – my wife napped through her last two labors.
    Safe for baby: the meds aren’t injected into the bloodstream, so they can’t cross the placenta.
    Safe for mom: the major risk is a badly placed catheter resulting in leakage of spinal fluid, a risk probably on order with the baby drowing in a water birth, or the parachute not opening.

    (I think “Skydiving births” are becoming a meme.)

  51. #51 Superla
    April 17, 2009

    TechSkeptic,

    The consistent benefits reported in studies from the UK, Austria, and Switerland were mostly with respect to pain management. One showed fewer lacerations in water birth, though another showed the opposite. A couple suggested shorter duration of labor, but others failed to show a significant difference between waterbirths and controls on that outcome.

    I wouldn’t call that woodom, though it’s certainly not anything to jump up and down about, either. I just don’t get why it’s so maligned in the US.

  52. #52 Natalie
    April 17, 2009

    Did I miss something? I haven’t seen any posts here suggesting that waterbirth is somehow “natural”, but there are people arguing against that point.

    If we want childbirth to be “natural”, we’re basically stuck squatting above the ground and hoping everything goes well. I don’t think that sounds like a very safe or pleasant experience.

  53. #53 Chris
    April 17, 2009

    Oh sorry, Superia, I guess I should have made my thoughts a bit more clear. I had a high risk pregnancy, and without being in the hospital with actual medical care both I and my baby would have died.

    So my feelings towards the options available to those who can give birth “naturally” is: I just don’t frakking care.

    The reduction of herd immunity by anti-vax idiots, which can put my health impaired child at risk: that I care about.

  54. #54 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Adrienne,

    I started it becuase Orac said:
    she’s also into other woo, like water birth.

    Natalie,

    From a post above by ababa:
    It’s unnatural. It’s unsafe.

    Dr. rocketscience,
    I doubt very much I will have to worry about childbirth within my lifetime. as far as I know it is simply not something I am equipped for. However my wife is interested in doing it. She also does not like the idea of an epi. Neither do many mothers. Its not fear of science, its a discomfort with the lack of experience. The last thing she would want is to nap through it.

  55. #55 LAB
    April 17, 2009

    I see this all the time where I live–the right wing evangelical crowd united with the liberal, over-educated hippy/”natural” types. They’re both into homeschooling, homeopathy, fear-mongering and home remedies. Both groups tend to boast about having given birth “naturally,” many at home (with or without a midwife and/or doula). They’re all religious nuts, as far as I’m concerned, even if, as in the case of the “natural” liberals, they don’t follow “organized religion.” If you believe God (or Nature?) made your body perfectly and designed it to give birth, then it follows that you would not need a doctor or any pain medicine to have a baby. Still waiting for them to explain why they get Novocaine at the dentist, though. Did God do a super job designing the birth canal, but screw up royally when he made teeth?

  56. #56 dt
    April 17, 2009

    If comfortable childbirth is what you want, I have two syllables: epidural.

    Isn’t that four?

  57. #57 Erika
    April 17, 2009

    2009 Cochrane systematic review on water birth (pmid 19370552):
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=DetailsSearch&Term=19370552uid

    If they didn’t find evidence, it’s not there yet.

    AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS: Evidence suggests that water immersion during the first stage of labour reduces the use of epidural/spinal analgesia. There is limited information for other outcomes related to water use during the first and second stages of labour, due to intervention and outcome variability. There is no evidence of increased adverse effects to the fetus/neonate or woman from labouring in water or waterbirth. The fact that use of water immersion in labour and birth is now a widely available care option for women threatens the feasibility of a large, multicentre randomised controlled trial.

  58. #58 Adrienne
    April 17, 2009

    I doubt very much I will have to worry about childbirth within my lifetime. as far as I know it is simply not something I am equipped for. However my wife is interested in doing it. She also does not like the idea of an epi. Neither do many mothers. Its not fear of science, its a discomfort with the lack of experience. The last thing she would want is to nap through it.

    Let me go out on a limb here–your wife hasn’t been through childbirth yet, has she?

    I had two friends pregnant with their first babies who wanted natural births, no epidurals…flash forward to the two of them in labor for 12+ hours….guess what they decided on getting?

    My one friend’s description of her labor pains: “My contractions started at five minutes apart, and stayed that way through the whole labor. Every five minutes, I thought I was going to die.”

    I haven’t been through child labor myself, mind you, but I’m certainly not ruling out epidurals or even napping through labor should I be so lucky.

  59. #59 Marcus Ranum
    April 17, 2009

    Techskeptic writes:
    I wasn’t even going that far. I have no idea if there are any benefits. I’m just talking about comfort. If the idea of waterbirth is more comfortable for the mother, then why not? Why is that woo-ey? My original analogy was that sitting down while eating may not have any benefit at all, besides comfort.

    This is an excellent illustration of how and why woo-woo is sometimes extremely difficult to eradicate. And your implicit question (“why should we?”) is really really interesting.

    Here’s the problem: suppose that I propose skydiving as a birth process and justify it with some woo-woo. Let’s say that skydiving birth is good because of, um, feng shui. OK? Feng shui says so. Then someone points out the obvious sad fact that feng shui is nonsense. “But that doesn’t mean that skydiving birth still isn’t comfortable for the mother!!” It’s just had its intellectual underpinnings ripped out but – hey, it might still accidentally have some usefulness, right??

    Let’s take another example: circumicision. It’s a ritual rooted in woo-woo from the bronze age. Any intellectual underpinnings it has (“it’s a covenant with god!”) have been fairly conclusively gutted. Yet, apologists for the ritual occasionally come up with results that argue for its health benefits, etc. Maybe there are health benefits and maybe there aren’t – but if there are, they are purely accidental.

    So, if water birth woo was born of woo-woo, and that underlying theory has been conclusively fisked, then what? Now we’re left with apologists talking about risk/benefit analysis and it’s basically the same thing as arguing about whether or not accupuncture is “safe” assuming the needles are properly sterilized, etc, etc. Someplace in all the noise we forgot to ask “does it make sense to do this?” So – yeah, it’s woo. Because it got the cause and effect loop backwards. Not “here’s some woo, now let’s justify it!” if water birth made sense there would have been some argument leading scientists toward that conclusion, not a search for “how do we make it safe now that we’ve decided to do this rather weird thing?” and “is it natural?”

    The “is it natural” question comes up because that’s a really reality filter for scientific thinkers. It’s based on the observation that behaviors which tend to be advantageous tend to happen, while behaviors that aren’t tend to die out along with their practitioners. Perhaps water birth was popular among certain tribes that are all gone now because they drowned too many of their kids? Rationalists don’t ask “is it natural” because it’s some kind of go/nogo filter – but it’s a crucial step toward exploring whether there’s a survival mechanism at play or not.

    f the idea of waterbirth is more comfortable for the mother, then why not? Why is that woo-ey?

    For the same reason that accupuncture and homeopathy are woo-ey! What’s the intellectual basis behind it? Is it something contradicted by science, debunked, or impossible? There’s a clue. Second, is the intellectual basis behind it supported by evidence? Is the evidence anecdotal or double blinded? There’s another clue. Who started the movement? Follow the money. There’s a final clue.

    Lastly – for those who point to studies supporting water birth: maybe, maybe not. We’ve seen ample evidence that the CAM community is not above concocting evidence. Indeed, they’re neck and neck with big pharma. Who sponsored the studies? Who paid for them? Are there conflicts of interest? How many studies? etc, etc.

  60. #60 Dr Rocketscience
    April 17, 2009

    dt

    This is the internet. No one counts on the internet.
    :)

  61. #61 CyberLizard
    April 17, 2009

    Whilst I agree to some extent with Marcus Ranum, there is a significant difference to the practice of water birth to the other woo he mentioned. In this case, there is a plausible intellectual basis for the hypothesis that water immersion during various stages of labor could be of some pain reduction benefit to the mother. Setting aside all the aquatic ape stuff, water immersion has been used in other various forms of therapy where it can provide a benefit through its buoyancy and reduction of stress on various joints. It is not entirely illogical to assume that a woman in labour might experience some pain relief by having her mass supported by water. No one is saying that all women going through childbirth must be in a tub, or even that if you use the tub during the early stages of labour that you must deliver in said tub. But to throw a practice wholesale under the woo bus when a) it has a plausible mechanism and b) there are actual studies that at least somewhat verify the pain relief factor as well as fail to find any increased risk, just doesn’t make sense.

    Full disclosure, I’m a guy. Never had a baby myself (as Tech Skeptic said, not built for it), but I have participated in the birth of my two children. [anecdote]My wife would have loved to get into a pool, even a bathtub, hell, even a shower, if she had been able to (we were in L&D for 3 days). Unfortunately, internal monitors don’t like to go in the tub. If that is woo-y, then I’m all for that particular woo.[/anecdote]

  62. #62 Natalie
    April 17, 2009

    Techskeptic, ababa seems to be arguing against water birth. I am perplexed because, as far as I can tell, no one has argued in favor of water birth being “more natural” but several people have responded as though someone has.

  63. #63 catgirl
    April 17, 2009

    If you believe God (or Nature?) made your body perfectly and designed it to give birth, then it follows that you would not need a doctor or any pain medicine to have a baby. Still waiting for them to explain why they get Novocaine at the dentist, though. Did God do a super job designing the birth canal, but screw up royally when he made teeth?

    You see, women are supposed to feel pain during childbirth. It’s punishment for Eve eating that apple. This is actually a thinly disguised way of saying that it’s their fault for going and choosing to be female. Anyway, the Bible doesn’t dictate that people need to suffer at the dentist as a punishment for our ancestors, so pain medication is fine and dandy then. Also, dental work is rarely the result of dirty, naughty sex the way pregnancy is. And of course the most important reason is that men get dental work as often as women do.

  64. #64 sff
    April 17, 2009

    Marcus Ranum: At the risk of being nitpicky, circumcision has originated independently, fell out of favor, been revived, etc. several times for different reasons in different parts of the world. It doesn’t all trace back to Old Testament Israel. In mid-1800s Europe you even had doctors arguing for it for medical reasons and contradicting other doctors who argued for it for different medical reasons. Some were complete bullshit, but not all – and it’s not at all clear that that was a later rationalization as opposed to a reinvention of the practice for different reasons.

  65. #65 sophia8
    April 17, 2009

    What Adrienne said. I’ve been through four labours and I would have loved to have napped though them.
    But I also have friends who have given birth at home without pain relief and wouldn’t have had it any other way, so I’m certainly not knocking ‘natural’ childbirth of any sort. It just wasn’t for me, and I’m glad I had the choice.

  66. #66 catgirl
    April 17, 2009

    I think everyone is misunderstanding techskeptic. If a woman chooses water birth just for own comfort and not because she thinks it’s natural or healthier for her baby, it’s not woo. Obviously the woman needs to consider the risks, but people need to do that with any activity. People use acupuncture and homeopathy because they think it will make them healthier. They are wrong. Women who think that water birth is more healthy are also wrong, and that is woo. But if a woman wants to have a water birth simply because it’s more comfortable to her, then it’s not woo as long as she is realistic about the risks.

  67. #67 JustaTech
    April 17, 2009

    It seems to me that all these people who think “they” are out to get them, where “They” might be the government, NWO, lizard people, religious people, non-religious people, or any other group, are they epitome of huberius.

    Really, what are the chances that anyone really wants to track all the children of the RR? I would think that there has been more than enough evidence recently that the federal government is not at all capable of carrying out a large, wide-reaching conspiracy. These people can’t build functional bridges, keep track of millions of dollars, or, in more than a few cases, keep their pants on! When the heck are they going to have time to worry about watching you, as long as you don’t have a stockpile of AKs? Even if you do have a stockpile of AKs! Pay your taxes and nobody cares what you do.

  68. #68 Diane
    April 17, 2009

    Are we drawing a distinction between laboring in a tub and birthing in a tub? That seemed to be what the studies on pubmed were talking about (I didn’t read the Midwifery today ones, nor the ones from homebirth advocates).

  69. #69 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    adrienne,

    Let me go out on a limb here–your wife hasn’t been through childbirth yet, has she?

    We have a 2 year old…so you are on the wrong limb. No drugs. No tearing. No poop. Her choice, I was cool with epidural or not. Now her choice is for waterbirth. Again, if the is nothing wrong with it (thanks Erika), then I don’t really she why she shouldn’t try it if its more comfortable.

    Natalie,
    apologies, I misunderstood you. Yeah, you are right. I was confused about them also. In fact, many said that it really doesnt matter if its natural or not, thats not relevant.

    Marcus ranum,
    You and I don’t disagree often, but here is a time we do.

    For the same reason that accupuncture and homeopathy are woo-ey!
    The difference is that I don’t think you have your analogy correct. I’m not claiming, as homeopaths or acupuncturists do, that water birth cures or helps anything.

    I refer you back to my eating and sitting analogy. Actually there is a better one…. pooping. Is there some medical reason to sit while pooping instead of the squatting method? Yet, we sit on a toilet (yes, I am being western-centric here), becuase, lets face it, its simply more comfortable.

    There is no medical reason to use a knife and fork, but we do because its easier. That is all I am suggesting with waterbirth. Further, unlike some idiots with acupuncture or homeopathy who forgoe actual medicine, my wife wants to do it, but in a hospital. If you are in hospital, and you choice is to be on your back, on your knees, or in a tub…it just seems that the right answer is the one you are most comfortable with.

    I don’t really know when it started. I remember some studies out of Russia about 20 years ago….is there something about it that resembles ancient chinese secret type crap?

  70. #70 Liz Ditz
    April 17, 2009

    Back to the original point of Orac’s post

    Doctor reflects on reality of measles suffering from a UK physician, Dr. DeeTee

  71. #71 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    catgirl,

    thanks, I couldn’t have said it better myself…and obviously didn’t.

  72. #72 Liz Ditz
    April 17, 2009

    Sorry munged that up

    Doctor reflects on reality of measles suffering from a UK physician, Dr. DeeTee

    But recently 2 cases I saw reminded me of measles’ potentially devastating legacy. The first was a patient who had lost one of her 2 children in infancy. “Measles”, she said, matter-of-factly, when I asked her why. The other case was a patient in her fifties who came in for an unrelated problem, but had a lifelong severe disability because of a paralysed left side, and who had poorly-controlled epilepsy. I imagined these were the result of a congenital problem such as cerebral palsy. “No”, explained her carer. “It was encephalitis from measles”.

    Much of my time is spent battling illnesses that are largely unavoidable, but from time to time I see things that are totally preventable, like the measles cases last summer, and it rankles, big time. Knowing that there are those who actively campaign against vaccines makes me unspeakably angry

  73. #73 lemons
    April 17, 2009

    Labor is a complicated subject because the state of the mother -relaxed, tense, scared – has something to do with the way her muscles respond. Sitting in a hot tub felt incredible during my first labor, although it did slow down the process because I got soo relaxed. But trying to deliver in water seems like it would make a hard job even more difficult for the midwife or doctor. Feces are a concern, as is the exposure that would occur during an episeotemy.(Don’t know how to spell it!)Of course, if you could ensure that there would be no complications it sounds great, but who can ensure that?

  74. #74 ababa
    April 17, 2009

    Yes, catgirl is spot on. I have to admit the majority of my interaction with water birthing has come from the “natural sanctimommy” side who see it as natural and therefore healthier – and they will beat you over the head with how much better they are because they did it.

    Laboring in the tub and giving birth are also vastly different. If it is to ease labor pains, then go for it. I just don’t think it is healthy to have a baby’s first breath potentially be a mouthful of poo water.

  75. #75 Interrobang
    April 17, 2009

    As to the question of whether certain forms of woo are a left-wing or right-wing phenomenon, I recently encountered a claim on another site that laetrile and some other forms of woo got their first real boosts from far-right types like Birchers. Is there any truth to that rumour? (I honestly haven’t had time to look it up, but am planning to do so.)

  76. #76 The Perky Skeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Techskeptic wrote:
    “We have a 2 year old…so you are on the wrong limb. No drugs. No tearing. No poop. Her choice, I was cool with epidural or not.

    %$#& her!!! …I’m totally kidding, of course. I’m glad it worked out so well for her/you/baby.

    Now her choice is for waterbirth. Again, if the is nothing wrong with it (thanks Erika), then I don’t really she why she shouldn’t try it if its more comfortable.”

    IANAD, but since her first birth was so easy, it kinda sounds like she is low-risk. If she wants to labor in water, knowing her history and all, fine, go for it.

    Me, I was high risk because of my GIANT-HEADED ENORMO-BABY, so I’m rather glad not to have been in a tank of water when it was time for the C-section. ;)

  77. #77 Carrie
    April 17, 2009

    I don’t know anything about vaccination, so hopefully someone can answer this question. If you vaccinate a pregnant mother, does the benefit also transfer to the child? It seems like this would be a “two-for-one” deal.

  78. #78 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    I dont think the give episiotomoies in the tub. If there are complications I think the woman is raised out of the water.

    As for poo breath for baby?
    that happens even without waterbirth

  79. #79 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Perky,

    %$#& her!!!

    if it helps any, the poor woman was in labor for 28 hours.

  80. #80 ildi
    April 17, 2009

    My two dimes re. the water birth from what I recall from gradual school was that it was supposed to be less stressful for the baby; i.e., the water is warm, the lights are dimmed… I also seem to recall that one of the infant behavioral reflexes is to hold their breath underwater.

    “But that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead.”

    Oh, Zsuzsanna, why must you be an embarrassment to other Hungarians! We still haven’t lived down the guy who hacked away at the Pieta…

  81. #81 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Carrie,

    If you vaccinate a pregnant mother, does the benefit also transfer to the child?

    I don’t think this is the case. If it were, then you would expect the baby to be immune to everything that the mother has acquired immunity for over the previous decades, vaccination or not. Immunization is not some special thing we do that give us immunity. Its a process that tricks our immune system to do what it normally does, but using nasties that don’t affect us so seriously wether they be inactivated or attentuated versions of bad viruses, or live versions of viruses for which we make antibodies that work for other nastier viruses.

  82. #82 Erika
    April 17, 2009

    Perky Skeptic, as I recall, the plural of anecdote is not data. Nobody is suggesting that water birth, or drug-free birth, or any other sort of birth, should be for everyone. If you’re high-risk, follow the high-risk protocols and guidelines. But if a low-risk woman wants to use non-pharmaceutical methods to control pain, etc., the data shows that laboring in water (in stage 1) can significantly reduce the usage of epidural/analgesia, etc. There’s no woo in that. And there’s no evidence of increased adverse effects to mother or child.

    This is one of the tenets of EBM–take a look at the evidence, and combine it with the situation/values/etc. of your patient. If the two don’t match up, on to plan B (or whatever).

  83. #83 Adrienne
    April 17, 2009

    We have a 2 year old…so you are on the wrong limb. No drugs. No tearing. No poop.

    TechSkeptic, I’d say your wife is a lucky woman. And/or she has a tremendously high pain threshold.

    I think I remember reading that Cindy Crawford had two home births with no drugs for either one. Wow. Don’t know about her tearing or poop experiences during labor, though.

  84. #84 JF Sebastian
    April 17, 2009

    Up here in the pacific northwest the vast majority of anti-vaxers are most definitely granola educated left-wing new-agers. And water births typically only happen when you don’t get inside soon enough. ;-)

  85. #85 WonderingWilla
    April 17, 2009

    @ JF Sebastian, I am not so sure about that as the measles outbreak here last year was in a fundamentalist Christian community in Grant County. Not sure about the pertussis outbreak on Whidbey Island as you have both flavors of anti-vaxers there. That said, I agree the crunchies are attending classes by naturopaths that reveal the truth about vaccines… all over Seattle.

    About the waterbirths, I wonder if the population inclined toward laboring in the water are also likely to refuse the epidural, so kind of a self-selecting group.

  86. #86 Marcus Ranum
    April 17, 2009

    In this case, there is a plausible intellectual basis for the hypothesis that water immersion during various stages of labor could be of some pain reduction benefit to the mother.

    Absolutely.

    I’m not an expert on the topic (and I’m not going to bother to be!) but a quick glance at the wikipedia entry for water birth shows all the signs of woo-woo. It sounds to me like a couple of doctors went “HEY this sounds like a cool idea!” and started doing it. Using mothers as test subjects; how…. nice.

    If you really want to see what a woo-load water birth is, I suggest you read a few of the choice quotes from intellectual founder Igor Charkovsky, who appears to believe that “Human development has been at a standstill for many thousands of years; has reached an impasse. A life in the water offers new possibilities for development”

    Or “”Not until I had done thousands of experiments with animals did I begin to understand what kind of problem I was attempting to solve. Up to then I hadn’t really realised how deep down in the unconscious mind of all land animals —-including man — the fear of water lies.”

    ‘Thousands of experiments with animals’ should set your woo-meter ring-a-ding-dinging. There’s also some Dr Igor spent time with Siberian healers… woo-woo ding ding ding ding! What animals did he experiment with, I wonder? Coliform bacteria? Anyone want to check pubmed?

    Anyhow – yes, and then there are anecdotal accounts of mothers thought water birth was great. But the woo came first. Then came the “now that we have a vested interest in this how do we make sense of it?” process. Perhaps even some of you have supported spouses or others who have done this process, and now you’re reading this, trying to deal with the cognitive dissonance of “it’s bullshit” and “but … I did it.” Sorry. That’s not my problem.

    The point is that if there is pain reduction and it confers benefits, we’d expect studies – not testimonials, siberian healers, experiments on pregnant women, and thousands of experiments on animals.

    Heck, reading the wikipedia article on this woo is really instructive. It follows all kind of woo reasoning: “water birth is hydrotherapy” – then a huge quote from a study of whether hydrotherapy is good pain management. Gotta love that backwards reasoning!! It’s always easy to hit your target if you shoot first and draw the rings afterward.

    Techskeptic writes:
    I’m not claiming, as homeopaths or acupuncturists do, that water birth cures or helps anything.

    Obviously, it’s believed to do something, or why bother?

    is there something about it that resembles ancient chinese secret type crap?

    Loads. I’m reading now, and I’m horrified. Even the French doctor in the 60s who was promoting it appears to have mostly just pulled it all out of his ass one fine spring day. There’s a lot of freudian-sounding mumbo-jumbo about kids consciousness and birth trauma, etc. Woo woo ding ding ding ding.

    Do your own research, of course.

    For what it’s worth, I’m horrified by modern birthing practices. A lot of them appear to be based on nonsense that the victorians made up, crossed with lawyers’ recommendations to reduce the risk of baby-stealing. I can’t blame you in the slightest for wanting to explore options.

    Erika writes:
    the data shows that laboring in water (in stage 1) can significantly reduce the usage of epidural/analgesia, etc

    Cite?

    Aren’t patients who are likely to prefer alternate birthing processes likely to be the ones who’d disprefer epidurals, etc, anyway? I’d need to see some citations first, of course.

  87. #87 Dawn
    April 17, 2009

    @Techskeptic: guess this is one time my midwifery skills can come out. I have done water births, attended women who thought they wanted water births but ended up delivering elsewhere, and done transports of women from tub to c-section room. The births I attended would all be anecdotal,but there are some studies out there (try the American Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, which is peer-reviewed research).

    Many women enjoy the warmth of water during labor to aid in relaxation. A hot shower, a warm tub, can really help. If a baby is born in the tub, they don’t tend to breathe until their faces hit the air (we always brought the baby’s face up to the air immediately, although I have read of births where the baby remained underwater for some time. Until the umbilical cord is cut or the placental releases, the baby is getting oxygen through the cord. At least in the births I attended, I never saw any breathing from the baby until they felt air on their face.

    For a LOW risk pregnancy, water for relaxation during labor is fine, and even water birth if the women so desire and are fully educated about the risks. (Poop isn’t a risk. We would scoop out the little that most women pass with a typical aquarium fishnet). We had no problems with infections. Some tears would occur with water births, which were repaired after mom left the tub if they needed repair. If an episiotomy were needed, the mom HAD to leave the tub. We would not do an epis with a woman in the tub.

  88. #88 Marcus Ranum
    April 17, 2009

    Wow.. It claims that Dr Charkovsky has assisted in over 20,000 water births since he, uh, invented the procedure. That’s 1 a day for 54 years, 365 days/year with only the occasional break to go study with siberian medicine men.

    This will make you wail with laughter:
    http://www.psychicchildren.co.uk/3-6-BirthWithDolphins.html
    It’s got some amazing stuff that implies that Dr Charkovksy was supervising a birth in 2 feet of water in The Black Sea. Talk about sterile!

    And a dolphin came. And kids who have dolphin-assisted births sometimes have IQs of 150. Woo woo ding ding ding!!!!!!

  89. #89 TechSkeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Marcus,

    Is quantum mechanics woo simply because deepak chopra twists is description and results in weird ways that apply to nothing? This is how you are trying to defend your opinion that water birth is woo.

    You cant say water birth is woo simply because there are a couple of lunatics who are making bizarre claims about it. Thats like saying all herbs are nonsense because Ginko remedies are nonsense.

    Here is the claim: some women are more comfortable giving birth in a tub filled with warm water than on their back or on their hands and knees.

    Do you dispute this claim? Is it really extraordinary to you? If you wish to dispute that claim then dont try to conflate it with other nonsense claims that some charlatan or another is making.

    Dawn,

    Thanks. However I am glad you recognize that your examples are anecdotes. I have a hard time trusting data from nurses (no offense). My bias comes from the rapid spread, by nurses, of therapeutic touch, which is complete nonsense.

    That being said, thanks for clearing up what happens if there are problems in the tub.

    . If a baby is born in the tub, they don’t tend to breathe until their faces hit the air

    umm…. is there another time prior to their faces hitting the air that they would breath? That would be an amazing baby! :)

  90. #90 JF Sebastian
    April 17, 2009

    @WonderingWilla
    Grant County is in eastern Washington which is a completely different state than western WA. (as I’m sure you know) Not surprised at the antivax change in demographic from east to west given how conservative and unedgimacated ya’ll are on that side of the mountains! ;-)

  91. #91 David Marjanović
    April 17, 2009

    What do you expect from someone who spells her name “Zsuzsanna?”

    Zs is the way the Hungarians spell the sound of French j, you know, the -si- in vision or Asia.

    Why they chose that sound for that name is a mystery internal to the history of the Hungarian language; they also did it with József.

    I just wonder why a practice that is used fairly frequently in European hospitals as a pain-relieving measure is considered woo here in the States.

    Fairly frequently? In hospitals?!? Not on this planet. For the record, I live in Paris and Vienna.

    At the risk of being nitpicky, circumcision has originated independently, fell out of favor, been revived, etc. several times for different reasons in different parts of the world. It doesn’t all trace back to Old Testament Israel. In mid-1800s Europe you even had doctors arguing for it for medical reasons and contradicting other doctors who argued for it for different medical reasons. Some were complete bullshit, but not all – and it’s not at all clear that that was a later rationalization as opposed to a reinvention of the practice for different reasons.

    Does anyone outside the USA defend it on any but religious reasons anymore? You know, I was shocked when it finally dawned upon me that most male Americans above my age are circumcised.

  92. #92 Anne
    April 17, 2009

    Michael Simpson:
    flabbergasted, flummoxed, and ferklempt?

  93. #93 The Perky Skeptic
    April 17, 2009

    Erika, I thought I already said exactly what you accused me of not saying. Maybe my follow-up based on Techskeptic’s wife’s specifics hadn’t come through by the time you posted yours. :) I was high-risk for birthin’, therefore we used different guidelines. Tech’s wife seems to be low-risk, therefore she can use the water-labor if she wants. See, I agree that no one sort of birth should be for everyone.

    Anyway– back to the topic, yeah, Whidbey Island is quite full of the Extremely Wealthy woo-subscribers. From what I’ve seen of the place, it’s more a concentration of left-wing antivaxxers than right-wing.

  94. #94 Donna
    April 17, 2009

    My anti-vaccine relative is also a Fundamentalist Christian, and her reasoning is, as LAB said, that God made us perfectly, and if we live as God intended us to live then we will be healthy. She thinks that it is natural and healthy for us to get the diseases that are prevented by vaccines, and she believes other related things, like that if you eat a pH balanced diet (instead of drinking those acidic sodas that God didn’t intend us to have) then you won’t get cancer.

    After years of uselessly trying to talk to her about the evidence, I’ve come to the conclusion that her views have to do with her wanting to feel important which she does by being a rebel. She started by rebelling against mainstream religion, then mainstream science, and then mainstream medicine. She feels that she is living a very purposeful life, fighting battles at every turn.

  95. #95 Marcus Ranum
    April 17, 2009

    Techskeptic writes:
    Is quantum mechanics woo simply because deepak chopra twists is description and results in weird ways that apply to nothing? This is how you are trying to defend your opinion that water birth is woo.

    Not at all. QM has experiments backing it up. If Chopra had anything as compelling as the 2-slit experiment backing him up, everyone would be taking him a lot more seriously, not just woo-woos.

    And QM is a great example of what I’m talking about. Scientists look for experiments that they can run which will confirm or deny hypotheses and move forward from there. Sometimes those open up new avenues of discovery, like the 2-slit experiment did, and unexplained phenomena. These are great opportunities to explore and learn. But scientists don’t reason backwards from them (which is why we laugh at Deepak) Deepak, in effect, says “there’s QM, therefore – wahoo – universal onness!” Sorry, Depak, but that does not follow from QM.

    The intellectual evolution of water birth, from what I can glean with a few minutes of looking around, is that there’s a “birth trauma” and it helps avoid the child growing up afraid of water. Um. OK. But then the French doctor says “it’s good for the mom too!” Um. OK. Now people accept that it’s got benefits similar to hydrotherapy and they ignore the “reasoning” that got them there in the first place. What about this is not exactly the same woo-woo logic that gets people going “sure, accupuncture’s qi lines are bullshit. but it makes me feel better anyway!”?

    You cant say water birth is woo simply because there are a couple of lunatics who are making bizarre claims about it.

    The “couple of lunatics” I was listing WERE THE FOUNDERS OF THE WHOLE THING. Introducing their random ravings is as relevant to this discussion as mentioning that D.D. Palmer had no medical education would in a discussion of chiropractic and whether it was science or medicine or woo-woo.

    Here is the claim: some women are more comfortable giving birth in a tub filled with warm water than on their back or on their hands and knees.
    Do you dispute this claim? Is it really extraordinary to you?

    Not at all.

    There are probably also women who are more comfortable giving birth if they’re getting accupuncture or taking homeopathic tinctures, too. I’m sure it works.

    I’m not trying to conflate it with the other claims that the people who came up with the idea are making. But you call yourself “skeptic”? What, exactly, are you a skeptic about?

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, FYI. Whether some woman I don’t know is comfortable or dead is completely irrelevant to me. I did the research that I did because it amused me to do so. For damn sure, if I had someone I cared about about to undergo a medical procedure, I’d look into its intellectual history and decide whether it set my bullshit detector off.

    I love that you say:
    I am glad you recognize that your examples are anecdotes. I have a hard time trusting data from nurses

    Go read up on water birth and who invented it and their backgrounds and the anecdotes they throw around. Then ask yourself what kind of skeptic dismisses a nurse’s anecdotes (good call) but accepts whole-cloth something that appears to be based on pure, unadulterated BS.

  96. #96 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 17, 2009

    Carrie The purpose behind vaccinated the young women against tetanus is that the antibodies are transferred to the fetus and the baby is far less likely to get tetanus from an infection of the umbilicus and die. (which is very common in India and has been known to happen in the USA – the spores are everywhere!)

    Antibodies to several other diseases are passed from mother to fetus: notably chickenpox, pertussis and measles. In the case of pertussis, it’s been suggested, and some OB/GYNs recommend it, booster shots before pregnancy gives the baby the benefits for a few months (about 6 months, regardless fo the duration of breastfeeding).

  97. #97 Erika
    April 17, 2009

    Perky Skeptic–I think I must have missed your follow-up. Sorry about that.

    Marcus Ranum, if you look at my first comment (or do a search in PubMed for water birth) you find a citation to a *systematic review* from the Cochrane Collaboration that looks at risks & benefits of laboring in water, analyzing several studies. Cochrane reviews are very, very highly regarded. If it was bunk, they’d say so.

  98. #98 RossM
    April 17, 2009

    Let’s not forget that fundamentalism is not just an affliction of Christians.

    The UN was doing a great job exterminating polio in Afica and had just northern Nigeria left where polio wasn’t under control. Then some Muslim fundamentalists in Nigeria decided (with no evidence) that inoculation was a Christian plot, so they opposed it. Then some Nigerians with polio went on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Now polio is spreading through several nations around the world, all of them predominantly Muslim.

    And of course the Chiropracters opposed the polio inoculation back in the 1950s on the grounds that all diseases could be cured by back rubs.

    Not to mention Trofim Lysenko.

    I think the problem is not religion per se, but has more to do with some people just having a need to think they alone are right and the rest of the world is wrong.

  99. #99 Marcus Ranum
    April 18, 2009

    Erika,
    I just went and reviewed the cite you posted. I was under the impression that it was about health risks for water birth rather than claims of relaxation/analgesia. Sorry about that.

    If I’m reading correctly through the medical jargon there was a reduction in the anaesthesia rate of 478/1254 versus 529/1245 Am I reading that right? Is that an impressive result? I notice that it says it had benefits in stage 1 of birth; what about the other stages?

    I’m trying to think how something like this can really be put to the test. How do you factor out autosuggestion? It’s not as if they can do a fake water birth to factor out placebo effects. I am not being facetious, here, but what if it turns out that it works as well as, say, acupuncture?

  100. #100 techskeptic
    April 18, 2009

    Marcus,

    Until now, I didnt realize this , but you are kind of a kook aren’t you? You continually make bad analogies like skydiving birth while ignoring more relevant ones, then whine about wacko claims of water birth that no one here is making.

    Then ask yourself what kind of skeptic dismisses a nurse’s anecdotes (good call) but accepts whole-cloth something that appears to be based on pure, unadulterated BS.

    You are, again trying to conflate all of waterbirth woo (your attempt to smear me with accepting waterbirth whole cloth) with the simple claim that it is a comfortable way of giving birth for some women. Is giving birth on hands and knees also woo? Must it be done on the back and in the bed, otherwise nonsense is being promoted?

    I am skeptical of everything. That doesnt mean I should scream bloody murder when something doesn’t have a distinct medical reason for it other than comfort. It also doesnt mean I have to shut something out automatically, even if its origin is questionable. Your attempts at conflating nonsense claims about water birth and comfort of water birth are not compelling. Why aren’t you squatting when you poop? Why sit when you eat? Could it be because you are more comfortable? Are you then endorsing woo? We’ve been pooping in the sitting position since before ancient greek times, oh noes! Thats an appeal to ancient ways! thats like TCM! It must be bogus!

    I’m seeing your fight against water birth as a fight against placebo. This is one that I share with you. If there was a claim being made that was relevant (and erika pointed out a wishy washy study on one of those claims – yes cochrane, good – reported conclusions weak) , Like water birth produces brainiac kids, I would probably object. But that is not the case here. Some people like music when they rest, some don’t. Some people like an air conditioner when it is hot, some like a fan. That doesn’t make music or air conditioning woo.

    Teflon and Viagra for erectile dysfunction (it was developed for angina) were found by accident (among numerous other things). They had no provenance. Does that make them useless and woo? We examined what they were and what they did, and hey! its useful. OK, so some idiot thought of a way to give birth and made silly claims about it. Some women tried it and liked it. Sound the alarms! Wooooo Woooo! can’t have that!

    if I had someone I cared about about to undergo a medical procedure, I’d look into its intellectual history and decide whether it set my bullshit detector off.

    Which is exactly what both you and I have done. The risks are minimal (they are the same as for any childbirth) and there are no benefits other than comfort. The ‘medical procedure’ you are talking about here is having a woman who feels like a gigantasaurus rex while in pain, floating in a tub filled with warm water. Gimme a break. You’ve got your skeptics hat on too tight.

  101. #101 Dawn
    April 18, 2009

    @Techskeptic…I guess that did sound strange to a layperson, about the baby not breathing till their face hits the air. I worded it that way for a reason: a lot of people think the baby will drown in a water birth because the baby will try to breathe while underwater, not realizing that babies “breathe” while in the uterine setting, expanding and contracting the lung area (one sign of a healthy fetus that is measured on some ultrasound tests). So, after birth, while still in the tub, a baby may again “breathe” but the lungs don’t have air in them yet so the baby doesn’t drown. The lungs obviously don’t expand and fill with air until the baby is exposed to the air. I hope that makes sense.

  102. #102 ababa
    April 18, 2009

    I just don’t understand people. On my local forums a woman posted about her mother in law giving her a hard time about not vaxing her child for measles (apparently there was an outbreak near her). The anti-vax ring leader responded with this gem:

    Some of us would like for our child to get the measles. Good grief. Measles is such a mild disease (unless you have a compromised immune system, in which case a common cold could be serious). Chickenpox is way worse. I had measles so I just don’t understand the fear.

    followed by the usual suck ups cheering her on and asking where they can go to expose their children. Sadly, it is going to take a death or major disability before some of the followers snap to their senses. It’s sad a child has to pay the price for parent stupidity.

  103. #103 Marcus Ranum
    April 18, 2009

    Techskeptic writes:
    Until now, I didnt realize this , but you are kind of a kook aren’t you?

    Am I only worth this amateurish ad hominem? Can’t you do better?

    You continually make bad analogies like skydiving birth while ignoring more relevant ones, then whine about wacko claims of water birth that no one here is making.

    I apologize for the skydiving birth comment; it was an attempt to be funny, back before you appear to have started taking this personally. If I’ve managed to convince you I’m a kook thereby it was truly a tragic mistake on my part. If you assume that I hold precious whether you think I’m a kook or not, that is. (Hint: don’t)

    then whine about wacko claims of water birth that no one here is making.

    Why do you think I don’t understand you? I understand you perfectly well. You’re saying “it appears to work” I got that. I got it: “it appears to work” Do whatever you like that appears to work and makes you feel good. There, have I said that enough times to make you happy?

    You are, again trying to conflate all of waterbirth woo (your attempt to smear me with accepting waterbirth whole cloth) with the simple claim that it is a comfortable way of giving birth for some women. Is giving birth on hands and knees also woo?

    I’m not trying to smear you with anyhing; don’t get defensive. You’re a lousy excuse for a skeptic if this is how you react to being challenged.

    Must it be done on the back and in the bed, otherwise nonsense is being promoted?

    I strongly suspect that doing it on the back in a bed is also nonsense. What does that have to do with anything, though? Or were you just trying to earn your skeptic’s red herring throwing merit badge?

    From what I know about birthing procedures and from the (mercifully!) limited exposure I’ve had to them, I suspect that there’s a whole lot of completely ridiculous nonsense going on. I observed that earlier in one of my comments, perhaps you were too busy saddling up your high horse to notice?

    Your attempts at conflating nonsense claims about water birth and comfort of water birth are not compelling

    Yeah, I can tell they aren’t working on you. So, either I’m failing to explain myself or you’re not very capable at reasoning. Let me try to divorce this from humor/emotional content for a second:
    - I’m not trying to conflate nonsense claims with a current practice
    - I’m not saying the current practice doesn’t work
    - I established to my satisfaction that the practice is based on nonsense claims
    - The practice may still work but, if it does, its effectiveness has to just be a lucky accident

    There are lots of lucky accidents in medicine. They’re still effective. OK? I rejoice that someone has hit upon a worthwhile medical procedure by taking a bunch of woo and getting people to try it and, wow, it works. Great!

    Why aren’t you squatting when you poop? Why sit when you eat? Could it be because you are more comfortable? Are you then endorsing woo? We’ve been pooping in the sitting position since before ancient greek times, oh noes! Thats an appeal to ancient ways!

    I understand that.

    Some of those behaviors are natural and comfortable, yes. And, yes, we’ve been doing them for a long time – for varieties of reasons. And comfort is a perfectly good reason. I’d go so far as to say that in all the examples you’ve given above, they’re so ingrained that nobody needs to have them explained to them.

    What we’re talking about here is making changes to established behaviors. “You know, instead of standing up while we eat, let’s sit down!” “Instead of giving birth in a bed in a hospital let’s do it in water!” – whatever. If you’re going to encourage someone to change a behavior the reason you give them for doing so is relevant. I’m not saying that people should go “OMG TEH WOO!” and stop doing water births. Apparently it’s comfortable. Great.

    Teflon and Viagra for erectile dysfunction (it was developed for angina) were found by accident (among numerous other things). They had no provenance. Does that make them useless and woo?

    Of course not! There are good theories of cause and effect that explain how they work. Why do you keep introducing red herrings into the discussion? Besides, it’s not as if the researchers who invented viagra were trying to balance a patient’s “qi” with the drug and accidentally invented something that worked, then had to retrofit their explanation onto “qi” – they understood vasodilation and so forth. I’d be a bit more suspicious if they’d found viagra while researching “qi” balance than angina, wouldn’t you?

    OK, so some idiot thought of a way to give birth and made silly claims about it. Some women tried it and liked it. Sound the alarms! Wooooo Woooo! can’t have that!

    Calm down a bit. Who said anything about “can’t have anything?” You’ve summarized it right, there. Except for the “sound the alarms” bit. As I said before, I don’t give a shit whether women do it or not. Have fun! Enjoy your woo! It’s comfortable woo! Go for it!

    Find one place where I’ve said people shouldn’t do water birth, or that it’s dangerous, or anything like “sound the alarms” please??

    I’m seeing your fight against water birth as a fight against placebo.

    You’ve got a load of projection here, I think. What “fight”? I’m questioning some woo and did some research and had a good laugh at it. I’ve nowhere said that anyone shouldn’t do it. And – yes – you’re right, I’m questioning whether it’s a placebo or not. Any skeptic would.

    It’s simply an interesting question and I have no moral or financial investment in it. Judging from the way you’re waving your arms and screeching, it seems that you’re taking this more personally than you have any business doing. I don’t care about you, or your wife, or whether you have a water birth or a conventional birth. Why should I?

    I told you earlier that it doesn’t bother me that you think I’m a “kook” and I meant it. But what got all this started was Orac’s casually calling water birth “woo.” I’ve done my research and it sure as hell sounds like a load of bullshit woo to me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have aired my amusement at some of the things I found during my research exercise. You’ve got to admit they were pretty funny. What a bunch of kooks!

    Stop taking this stuff personally. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings; I’d have to care about them first. I’m not making fun of you and your decision. It was the woo woos (among whom you clearly do not number!) that I was making fun of. There, there, take a deeeeeep breath.

    The ‘medical procedure’ you are talking about here is having a woman who feels like a gigantasaurus rex while in pain, floating in a tub filled with warm water.

    Yay. Whatever. I’m sure it works. You’ve convinced me. I’m a true believer now, too. Hydrotherapy has a long history with no intellectual baggage dragging behind it. Warm water feels good.

    You’ve got your skeptics hat on too tight

    Unlike yours, mine never leaves my head. I even sleep and bathe in it.

  104. #104 Joshua Zelinsky
    April 18, 2009

    Another example on the right-wing that is anti-vax is Andrew Schlafly the founder of Conservapedia. He is Phyllis Schlafly’s son. Most of his anti-vax seems to focus solely on Gardasil although he had anti-vax views before that. My impression is that he is not unique among the right-wing anti-vaccers in that regard. Anti-vaccination claims of all sorts have become much more common on the right after Gardasil came out. In that regard, it is clearly a reaction to not liking Gardasil and then wanting reasons to argue against it (possibly an example also of belief overkill?).

  105. #105 alufelgi
    April 19, 2009

    In my opinion the largest threat for California are cataclysms and ecological catastrophes. Not important is how many money we have because one tragedy can us take all.

  106. #106 Michael Simpson
    April 19, 2009

    Anne said:

    flabbergasted, flummoxed, and ferklempt?

    Well, it’s verklepmt, but it’s yiddish, it is almost a perfect alliteration, and sounds vaguely psychological. I’ll use it. Thanks. :)

  107. #107 techskeptic
    April 19, 2009

    Dawn,

    I was just joking around. I knew what you meant.

    Marcus,
    Am I only worth this amateurish ad hominem? Can’t you do better?

    That isnt an ad hominem. Its just a plain old insult. I didn’t say you were a kook and therefore you were wrong. And you are right about saying it, I wrote it last night after a night out with the pregnosaurus (yeah, she doesn’t mind). I had some wine, and she laughed at me. I shouldn’t have said that. Apologies.

    I understand you perfectly well. You’re saying “it appears to work” I got that.

    Apparently you have not understood me. Nor any of the other people who have commented here. But you continue to type away as if some medical claim is being made. None are. What do you mean by “it works”? Works to do what? The only thing “it works” to do is let a woman have another option by which to deliver a baby. That is it.

    I strongly suspect that doing it on the back in a bed is also nonsense.
    I think you continue to act as if there is some claim being made about the position or style that birth is taking place. There are a limited number of positions that a woman can be in to deliver a baby. The best way is basically the one she is most comfortable in.

    I don’t give a shit whether women do it or not. Have fun! Enjoy your woo! It’s comfortable woo! Go for it
    Again, i’m very confused as to why you continue to call “being comfortable while pushing out a watermelon” woo.

    Do whatever you like that appears to work and makes you feel good. There, have I said that enough times to make you happy?
    I guess, but its completely irrelevent. But if it makes you happy, you can say it as often as you like.

    I’m questioning some woo and did some research and had a good laugh at it.
    Yes, and to woo part is funny, just like all the quantum stuff that is out there is just as funny. Its also not part of the conversation (well, its part of your conversation, i guess).

    “Calm down a bit…” “You’ve got a load of projection here…” “Any skeptic would…” “You’re a lousy excuse for a skeptic…” “What, exactly, are you a skeptic about?..” “accepts whole-cloth something that appears to be based on pure, unadulterated BS”…

    I wonder why I get annoyed at your responses.

    I’m not saying that people should go “OMG TEH WOO!” and stop doing water births. Apparently it’s comfortable. Great.

    Well. If you had admitted that earlier there would have been nothing to discuss I guess, because that is all I have been saying from the very start. But instead you follow with:

    Have fun! Enjoy your woo! It’s comfortable woo! Go for it!

    But can’t leave without some snark.

    [a skeptic's hat] Unlike yours, mine never leaves my head.

    And again, I wonder why you think I am somehow endorsing any form of woo.

  108. #108 Nancy
    April 23, 2009

    I’m going to speak up slightly against vaccination, and I know I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for this.

    There have been a lot of vaccines in development in recent years for less common infections for more widespread viruses (Epstein Barr, HPV, etc.) These viruses cause no issues for most people that catch them, but because they are so widespread, the vaccine would be seen as needing to be applied to an entire population. So as an example, that means that before Guardasil’s competition comes out with another HPV vaccine, and before the vaccine’s patent runs out and it can go generic, Merck is going to make a billions of money at about $300 a shot. Merck has lobbyists pushing requiring the vaccine for young girls, advertising on TV and radio to ‘publicize’ HPV – something most people don’t think about as being related to the yearly pap smear (which already makes HPV-related cancer rare). The vaccine was rushed to market after being tested on a small population of young women, and there are many personal testimonials of its harmful side affects all over the Internet.

    I’m not saying that I’m against vaccines, but we have to approach this on the side of caution. Just because the government and pharmaceutical companies say that taking something is perfectly safe (Vioxx, anyone?) doesn’t mean it is.

    And for the record, I’m not a hippie or a right-winger.

  109. #109 ababa
    April 23, 2009

    Well the problem is you are looking to the Internet for “personal testimonials”.

    One thing the anti-vaxers love to point out are deaths related to Gardasil. Of course, the part of that they do not tell you about is that the deaths include a wide variety of causes including things like car crashes, etc. If you walk out of the doctors office after getting the shot and get hit in the parking lot, congratulations – you are now part of their “Gardasil related deaths”. They also make such creative accounting for injuries related to it. It’s an easy confusion for the headlines, which is what they are after.

    Yes, mistakes can and do happen (as with Vioxx), but the big thing that anti-vaxers like to ignore is the fact that it is doctors are the biggest critics of faulty drugs that are approved. They will turn on the Big Pharma companies in a heartbeat if they find problems. If flawed research is performed, they will tear it apart as Orac has done many times here. They are not the enemy, they are not protecting Big Pharma – in fact they tend to be the best watchdogs. That’s why it is so telling that they are almost unanimous in supporting vaccines – which have very low if any profit margins for the doctors.

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