Without assuming we are all aware of what fake news is, I’ll share my understanding. Fake news is when misinformation is published, passing itself off in the form of commentary, news or journalism. Unfortunately often real news is hard to distinguish from fake news.
Last week the birth world was a buzz reacting to ‘media’ claims that the midwives of the United Kingdom had turned their back on their ‘natural birth’ campaign . The reasons given for this abandonment was due to the death of babies caused by midwives blind pursuit of a natural birth. In addition to those damning accusations it was highlighted that the heavy push for ‘natural birth’ was causing immeasurable feelings of guilt and anxiety in mothers.
These reports were all fake news. A few years ago the midwives of the UK did change their focus from ‘natural birth’ to ‘better births’ to be more inclusive, informative and for many other reasons. Everything that was reported in the media last week was fabricated, outdated and misguided. Fake news in the media is dangerous to its readers, none more so than the women in our society who will be, are, or were pregnant.
Throughout history birthing women have looked to their peers and elders for guidance as they navigate their maternal path. Slowly our villages became larger, industrial, medicalised, and as individuals we became more isolated. Today, in Australia, most birthing women have access within our medical system, to midwives and other experts in the field of childbirth, however with varying and often conflicting advice, time constraints making all to clear the current crisis that our maternal health system faces, women are turning to current, accessible, objective sources of information to make decisions about their pregnancies and births.
Sadly what they are faced with is article after article of opinion, conjecture, misinformation, and fake news. Simply because an author has medical credentials, quotes experts, and provides evidence, this does not make their word real. There are plenty of agendas to be supported and all of us have bias, whether we pretend to or not. No one is truly objective when giving advice to you about your body, your health, your choices, or your birth.
So what can you do to avoid this. There are a few basic checks you can make.
- Is the source reliable. Seek out information about the writer and where the article is being published
- Read the entire article, not just the headline and first paragraph which are often there to get clicks and sell papers
- Check for bias. There are two sides to every story. If both are not represented than you are not reading objective information
- If any links, evidence, or references are made, look at them. Do they actually support what the writer is saying? Are they current and still relevant?
- Check the date of the article, old articles are often no longer relevant. I’ve been caught out on this myself
- Finally and most importantly ask the experts…but who are they?
No one is going to be more objective about your body, your health, your choices, or your birth than you. No one is better at objectively loving and protecting you and your babies than you! Pregnancy and childbirth can be all-encompassing and at times overwhelming. Find YOUR experts. Not the hospitals, not the governments, not societies but yours. Research them, know them, contact them. I have yet to meet a genuine and objective expert that is not willing to answer questions. More often than not if they can’t answer your questions they will refer you on to someone who can.
Value your investment in your outcome. Embrace the importance of your ownership and leadership of your journey and your birth. Consider the impact of what you read and hear on your decision-making. Are they YOUR experts or are they fake news?