The ability to fire up Google does not make you a doctor
What is it with not trusting doctors anymore? Everywhere I look, be it Facebook, Twitter, or just Dr Google, there is some poorly informed eejit spouting dubious medical claims about vaccinations or medications or giving birth in a, gasp, hospital as opposed to an inflatable pool in your living room. Women’s bodies were designed to give birth, after all, or haven’t you heard?
As a health reporter for a metropolitan newspaper, I have spent a fair amount of time speaking with medical professionals about a huge range of issues.
By no means does this make me a doctor or expert in health (it’s probably responsible for my acute hypochondria though…) but it has reinforced my trust in the abilities of those who care for us. These people study for years – decades - and dedicate their lives to very specific areas of knowledge, and practice and refine that knowledge every day.
Given the choice between believing something the ill-informed anti-vaccination folk spread online or something that has been extensively scientifically-tested, peer-reviewed and published in an academic journal before being adopted by doctors, I choose the latter.
Anecdotal “evidence” cannot compare with large-scale scientific studies that test hundreds or thousands of people to prove or disprove a hypothesis.
Due to give birth to my second child in five weeks, I recently joined a FB group for women due in the same month. Admittedly, heavily pregnant women are among the most paranoid people on the planet (myself readily included) but the conspiracy theories that fly around about pharmaceutical companies putting the bottom line above vaccination safety and efficacy, or home births being repeatedly touted as being just as safe as hospital births are starting to do my head in.
(My doctor fully vaccinates his kids - would he really do that just for the sake of some multi-national’s profit margins??)
Statistics that compare home birth with hospital birth, and claim to prove the safety of the former, are skewed. Home births are usually attempted by those with “low-risk” pregnancies. Hospitals deal with every pregnancy eventuation, including the super premature, the mothers with serious health issues, and so on.
To compare one set of stats with the other (even though hospital births are still safer statistically) is like comparing apples with elephants.
Giving birth used to be the most dangerous thing a woman could do. Now, thanks to modern medicine, it is a rare event for a woman to die giving birth. Fair play to those who want to go for it at home but don’t claim it is just as safe as doing it in a hospital. That’s just not true.
Recently, a very sane woman shared a link on the FB page I mentioned above. Reportedly written by a nutritionist, the story questioned the wisdom of strictly policing what we eat as expectant mothers - cutting out soft cheese and deli meats etc - by comparing it with the number of mothers who take prescription medication throughout their pregnancies, including women with mental health issues and those suffering from serious diseases like cancer.
Note I say “prescription” meds, needed for legitimate health issues, not a bucket bong behind the garden shed. The comments contained a veritable cornucopia of idiocy.
“Considering the use of unproven technology and drugs is normal in pregnancy and birth, this seems unsurprising. Is ultrasound safe? We don’t know but so far it’s not looking good.“Huh?
“Unbelievable that antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed drug in pregnancy - isn’t this one of the most exciting times of a woman’s life?” Clearly never heard of clinical depression…
“I don’t think there could be any benefit an antidepressant could provide that raw organic food couldn’t.” There are no words.
And this, from the author of the article itself. “The whole chemical imbalance theory for depression is now defunct.”
I guess what bothers me the most about the ability of the internet to propagate untruths, rumour, exaggeration, and innuendo, is that it’s not just being read by those with an ability to clearly judge its merit.
I’m not advocating blindly swallowing everything you are told, no matter who is doing the telling. Ask questions, get second opinions. By all means, do your research before vaccinating your kids, choosing where to give birth, or accepting a medication.
Just make sure you are looking for information from credible sources, from someone who has studied and worked in an area, not from those with dubious medical qualifications, an ulterior motive, or Dr Google.
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