Wick Communications

Be careful with medical ‘facts’

In Writing on 25 Jun 2010 at 10:04 am

The other day we at the Half Moon Bay Review played fast and loose with rather specific medical suggestions in an otherwise innocuous story about the benefits of infant massage. Too fast and loose, in retrospect.

The story quoted two local women, one a registered nurse and retired midwife, the other a massage therapist with a specialty in infant massage. They made some rather specific claims about the benefits of infant massage, including, “aiding circulation, moving oxygen along the bloodstream and helping bilirubin move out of the body.”

All of which may be true. It certainly seems logical to me that massaging your baby would be a pleasurable experience for all involved and quite possibly have some health benefits. There may well be documented, scientific evidence of all of those claims. But we certainly didn’t seek out that evidence. We probably should have sought some independent confirmation from a medical source – particularly concerning the claim about bilirubin, which is a waste product associated with jaundice in babies.

The story really went off the rails toward the bottom. The RN, who was promoting her own baby-massaging business, said: …

“In the next 10 years we will see a connection between the way we birth babies — having C-sections, whisking them away, bathing them, bundling them up (in cloths without the mother’s scent) and bringing them back to their mothers — and learning disabilities, mental illness” and more, said Pritchard defiantly. “Learning problems kids have may go back to those first moments after birth. The way we’re birthing babies in America is really backwards.”

Well, we heard from a perfectly rational reader who worried that such comments have no basis in facts as they are presently known and, further, that they tend to unnecessarily worry parents who deliver via C-section. “I hope parents that read this article and have children born via C-section understand that they have equal ability to bond with and to raise healthy children,” she wrote in her letter to us.

Well said.

We in the popular press are often much to cavalier with medical matters. Doctors aren’t always right and medicine is constantly evolving. We may find in 10 years that C-sections and other marvels of modern medicine are contributing to our health maladies. But be careful when you let people without an appropriate medical background say so. And be sure to seek actual experts to counterbalance or lend credence to such claims.

— Clay

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