Most of us tend to believe that
the awesome responsibility of parenting begins when we take our
new baby home from the hospital. Actually many decisions that will
affect the health and vitality of your child are made long before
that. Your first opportunities to build a healthy foundation for
your child's growth and development come before he or she is born.
While it is too late to take advantage of these opportunities
if you already have your child, you should know about them anyway,
in the event that you plan to have another. If, however, you are
reading this book in anticipation of the birth of your baby, this
chapter will be of immediate importance to you.
The future well-being of your baby will be affected by choices
you can make throughout your pregnancy. It can be affected by the
attitudes of the obstetrician you choose. Then, when the long wait
is over and the first pangs of labor appear, you may even choose
to avoid the hospital and deliver your baby at home.
Please don't dismiss that choice out of hand. At first glance
it may sound like radical advice, but I assure you that it isn't.
A steadily increasing percentage of mothers are demanding home
births for their babies, because they have examined both options
and determined that home birth is the sensibly conservative
What is radical – and dangerous for you and your child – is
the arsenal of obstetrical intervention that lies in wait for you
in the hospital, as well as the threats lurking in the hospital
nursery that may damage your baby after he is born. There is ample
evidence that the medical technology, drugs, anesthetics, surgery,
and other obstetrical slings and arrows employed in most hospitals
expose mothers and babies to needless risk. They have a
frightening potential for inflicting severe, even
life-threatening, damage on you and also on your child.
Childbirth Should Be A Natural Process
The classic family doctor of my own childhood
"assisted" in the delivery of babies when, and to the
extent that, his services were required. To him, childbirth was an
uncomplicated natural process, and he did not interfere with it
except in those rare instances when something went terribly wrong.
If labor was prolonged, he didn't give the mother a shot of
Pitocin so he could get to the golf course on time. He was content
to give nature a chance and would sit with a laboring mother for
hours until her body, not Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Company,
decided it was time for her to deliver.
What a contrast with the often irrational obstetrical behavior
we see today! Contemporary obstetricians, for the most part, no
longer "assist." They consistently interfere
in a natural physiological process that they insist on treating as
though it were a disease. In a shocking percentage of cases this
medical interference with a normal bodily function adversely
affects the physical or intellectual capacity of the child for the
rest of his life. Sometimes it even ends that life before it
really has a chance to begin.
If you have your baby in a hospital, you will be exposed to an
array of obstetrical hazards so broad that I can't possibly
describe them fully here. However, they were thoroughly documented
in my previous book, Male Practice: How Doctors Manipulate
Women, so if you want more information about the obstetrical
risks to mothers, you will find it there. What I discuss in this
and succeeding chapters are the secondary effects of obstetrical
intervention on your child, and the primary damage that your
doctor and the hospital's routine procedures may inflict on your
baby after his birth.
Obstetricians, in defense of their own fouled nest, insist that
a hospital is the only safe place for you to have your child. On
occasion they even go to court to try to prevent mothers from
using midwives and having their babies at home. There is no
statistical or scientific evidence to defend their position; in
fact, the available evidence proves them wrong. Meanwhile,
observation of the iatrogenic (doctor-caused) damage to children,
coupled with simple logic, is enough to demonstrate to any
impartial judge that the safest place to have a baby is at home.
The reason is almost self-evident. Having your baby at home is
less risky than going to the hospital because much of the most
dangerous technology employed in hospitals is not available to
doctors or midwives who deliver babies at home. This reduces the
opportunity for needless, hazardous intervention and virtually
assures that you will be permitted to have your baby naturally, as
God intended that you should. Procedures such as ultrasound
diagnosis, internal fetal monitoring, excessive use of sedatives,
pain relievers and anesthetics. Pitocin-induced labor, and the
temptation to resort to delivery by cesarean section, are largely
avoided when you play it safe and have your baby in your very own
Obstetricians who practice in hospitals decry home birth as
reckless, because hospital facilities are not available in the
event a complication arises. If those doctors, whose practice is
limited to hospitals, were determining which mothers were
appropriate candidates for home birth, and were then required to
deal with any emergencies that arose, I would agree with them.
They don't have the skill and experience to select the appropriate
home birth candidates and to anticipate problems in other mothers.
They also would be at a loss to cope with an occasional problem
they did not cause and without the assistance and technology
available to them in the hospital.
Home birth doctors and midwives are experienced in identifying
mothers who can safely give birth at home and rejecting home birth
for those who are not. They can also anticipate problems, but
without the intervention that occurs in the hospital setting,
these problems are few and far between, and home birth doctors
know how to cope with those that do arise.
How Babies Are Damaged During Hospital Births
There are five distinct stages during which you should be alert
to actions of your doctors that could result in the birth of a
deformed, brain-damaged, or mentally retarded child. The first is
the period prior to conception; second, the nine months of
pregnancy; third, while you are in labor; fourth, during the
delivery of your baby; and, finally, the period during which your
child remains in the hospital for newborn care. Let's examine
them, and the risks they entail, one by one.
The Preconception Stage
The behavior of doctors can influence the health of your baby
long before the thought of having one has even crossed your mind.
The fact that you are reading this book suggests that it is too
late for you to do anything about that, but it is not too late for
you to take the precautions in the future that will protect your
Fetal deformities and mental retardation may occur as the
result of excessive exposure to x-rays throughout your life, and
these radiation effects are a threat to the health of both men and
women and the children that are born to them.
Among women, the consequences of excessive exposure to
radiation are usually noted among those who have their first
babies in their later years. That's because the effects of X-rays
are cumulative, so the older you are, the more opportunities there
have been for radiation to accumulate and take its toll. This
increases the possibility that Down's syndrome, a form of mental
retardation, will afflict your child. Nor is this form of X-ray
damage limited to women. Fathers may also be responsible for
offspring with fetal deformities and mental retardation if X-ray
exposure has damaged their sperm.
This potential impact on fetal development is one of many
reasons why you and your children should avoid X-ray exposure to
the extent that you can, from the earliest age. You can expect
your doctor and dentist to downplay the risks of X-ray diagnosis,
which they will maintain are minimal. Your dentist will also
insist that his X-rays are harmless because the dosage is very
low. Don't be misled by these assurances. It doesn't make any
difference how low the dosage is during any single exposure to
x-rays if you accumulate enough during your lifetime to damage you
or your child.
I advise my patients to reject all X-rays unless they are
essential to the diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening
disease. If you must submit your child to an X-ray, don't hesitate
to let your doctor know that you are concerned, even if you feel
uncomfortable doing so. Your child's health is more important than
your doctor's feelings. Insist that X-ray examinations be
conducted at the lowest dosage possible. Ask your doctor whether
his technician has been specifically trained and whether the
equipment has been inspected recently to assure that it delivers
the appropriate dose. Observe whether the technician provides
proper shielding for the reproductive organs of your child.
Never let yourself forget that X-ray machines can be lethal.
Study after study has shown that a shocking number of X-rays are
performed in the United States with defective equipment, operated
by untrained medical personnel who don't know how to use the
machine properly. To make matters worse, most of the time the
x-rays weren't essential in the first place.
You face another major risk if conception follows too closely a
period of contraception with birth control pills. This, too, can
result in a deformed or brain-damaged child. Women who have used
the Pill should allow several months to pass before they attempt
to have a child.
What to Watch for during Pregnancy
The babies who are at greatest risk during the first days,
weeks, or months of life are those born prematurely, before all of
their organs are fully developed, and those who lack physical
stamina because of abnormally low weight at birth. You can help
assure that your child will develop normally if you eat an
adequate, nutritious diet from the moment of conception until the
day he is born.
When I was young, doctors were fond of encouraging mothers to
do this by reminding them that they were "eating for
two." Today's obstetricians are more likely to be preoccupied
with the insistence that you restrict your weight. Not too long
ago, the maximum weight gain that many obstetricians would
tolerate was 10-15 pounds. More recently, the reins your doctor
will try to place on your appetite have been loosened a little,
but most doctors will still try to limit your weight gain during
pregnancy to 20-25 pounds. That's more rational, but the
limitation still doesn't make any sense. On the contrary, maternal
dietary and caloric restrictions may lower your child's birth
weight and threaten his development or even his survival.
The possibility that your doctor may try to subject you to
excessive weight restrictions is very real. A federal agency
reported that in 1975 one of every three pregnant women in the
United States suffered from malnutrition – more than a million
women a year. Obviously, some of them were malnourished because
they couldn't afford proper food, or for cosmetic reasons of their
own, but the overwhelming majority suffered from malnutrition
because their obstetricians wouldn't let them eat. Don't let your
doctor do this to you, because it is virtually inevitable that, if
you are malnourished, your baby will be, too.
Your primary concern during pregnancy should not be with how
much weight you gain but with how adequately and well you eat. If
your doctor tells you to hold your weight gain to 15-20 pounds, he
will probably insist that this is important because it will make
your delivery easier. He may also tell you that it will forestall
the possibility that you will develop toxemia, one of the most
dangerous and sometimes fatal complications of pregnancy.
These sound like persuasive reasons to control your weight, and
you obviously would be wise to heed them if they were true. You
needn't, because all of the available evidence indicates that in
terms of ease of delivery and the threat of toxemia the truth is
the other way around.
If you are malnourished, your uterus may not function properly
and labor will be prolonged or even stop. The obstetrician who
restricted your diet has now turned that lemon into lemonade for
himself by creating the opportunity to do a cesarean section.
That's a bonanza for him but potential trouble for you and your
And so it also is with toxemia. Evidence has been accumulating
for half a century that it is improper maternal nutrition, not
excess weight, that causes toxemia in pregnancy. Because the
proper nutritional elements are not present in your diet, your
liver malfunctions, and your body's responses produce the symptoms
that are associated with toxemia.
Many women find it difficult to adhere to the weight
restrictions imposed by their doctors and find themselves nearing
the outer limits during the final two months of pregnancy. If they
take their doctors' instructions seriously, they go on
near-starvation diets, cutting down their food intake at the worst
possible time. This is the period when their child needs maximum
nourishment, because he should be gaining the most weight. It is
also the crucial period in the development of the brain. If you
starve yourself to hold to some arbitrary, medically imposed
weight restriction, you also starve your baby, endangering his
life and health as well as your own.
My advice to expectant mothers – no matter what their
obstetricians are telling them – is to exercise common sense
about food intake and how much or how fast they gain weight. But
don't lose any sleep over it if you find yourself gaining more
than your doctor would like. You'll feel better about it if you
remember that the chances that an underweight baby will die during
the first month after delivery are 30 times those of babies born
at normal weight. Because they have been denied the nourishment
they needed to develop properly, some degree of mental retardation
is found in half of the low-birth-weight babies, and their
incidence of epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and learning or behavioral
problems is three times that of babies of normal weight. That's a
good reason for you to eat a well-balanced, nourishing diet, avoid
starving yourself or your baby, and tell your obstetrician to go
fly a kite if he fusses at you because you've gained 30 pounds.
Be equally firm in your refusal if he tries to put you on
diuretics should your hands and feet begin to swell. Nearly all
pregnant women display swelling due to water retention at some
time during pregnancy. This is almost always a normal condition
and a valuable one, because the stored fluid that produces the
edema is needed to support the increased blood volume that you and
your baby require.
Many doctors seize this condition as an indication of toxemia
and prescribe a diuretic to eliminate the stored fluids. In most
cases that's wrong, because it simply deprives you and your baby
of fluids you need. The result can be catastrophic. The death rate
of babies born to mothers without edema has been shown to be 50
percent higher than that of babies born to mothers who stored
ample fluid. You are also at risk if you take diuretics, because
these drugs can kill you by lowering your blood pressure and
pushing you into hypovolemic shock!
Your doctor will almost certainly warn you sternly about the
hazards of cigarettes, alcohol, and other mood-altering drugs
during pregnancy. He should warn you about them, and you
should heed his warnings, because there is strong evidence that
even moderate use of these substances may have a negative impact
on your unborn child. For the same reason, he should also warn you
not to take any over-the-counter drugs during your pregnancy –
aspirin, cold remedies, and the like.
Unfortunately, he probably won't warn you about the even
greater risks present in some of the treatments that he may
employ. Fetal damage can also be caused by prescription drugs,
x-rays taken during pregnancy, ultra-, sound, and procedures such
as amniocentesis, which is used to detect abnormal conditions of
the fetus. I won't go into these hazards here, but you should
inform yourself about them. Many books about the medical hazards
of pregnancy are available, including my own book, Male
Practice: How Doctors Manipulate Women.
Intervention during Labor and Delivery
At the beginning of this chapter I urged you to consider home
birth for your child in order to avoid the greater opportunities
for medical intervention that are present if you enter a hospital.
Almost every form of obstetrical intervention in what should be a
natural process of birth has the potential for causing brain
damage and mental retardation. The risks of such intervention, and
thus the consequences, are substantially reduced if you have your
baby at home.
A few years ago Dr. Lewis E. Mehl, of the University of
Wisconsin infant development center, studied 2,000 births, nearly
half of which had taken place at home. The differences between the
home and the hospital births were striking:
- There were 30 birth injuries among the hospital-born
children and none among those born at home.
- Fifty-two of the babies born in the hospital required
resuscitation, against only 14 of those born at home.
- Six hospital babies suffered neurological damage, compared
to one born at home.
The extent of the intervention in the birth process that
typifies hospital deliveries is appalling. True, some of the
procedures that are used have merit when they are appropriately
applied – situations in which the risks of doing the procedure
are justified by the benefits it may provide. The menace to the
mother arises from the syndrome "What can be done will be
done," which pervades American medicine. Procedures developed
specifically to deal with critical situations are used routinely
on every patient who comes in the door.
The typical hospital delivery, in most hospitals, is
characterized by one needless intervention after another. Again,
because I have covered them in previous books, I will not go into
the details here. Included, however, are internal and external
fetal monitoring, intravenous feeding, analgesics and anesthetics,
Pitocin-induced labor, episiotomy, and cesarean sections.
I do want to take the opportunity here to share with you
emerging information about the risks of fetal monitoring through
the use of diagnostic ultrasound. I do so only because it is not
generally available to lay readers, nor is it information that is
apt to be shared by your doctor. The use of ultrasound for fetal
monitoring or any other diagnostic purpose raises some alarming
questions that can't be answered by those who employ it. It is
another way in which modern obstetrics violates the medical
imperative, passed down by Hippocrates, "First, do no
External fetal monitors consist of two bands that are strapped
around your abdomen and connected to a monitoring unit that
records the device's findings on tape. One band is
pressure-sensitive and measures the strength and frequency of your
contractions. The other employs ultrasound to determine the
condition of the fetus. In most. hospitals doctors use fetal
monitors routinely, although one study of 70,000 pregnancies found
no difference in outcome between monitored and unmonitored
patients, and other studies have shown that monitoring results in
an increase in infant mortality among the patients monitored. This
suggests that, at best, monitoring does no good, and at worst it
may do harm.
There is, at this writing, no conclusive evidence directly
linking ultrasound to fetal damage, nor is there any hard evidence
that it will not cause damage. Unlike X-rays, which impart an
electrical charge to matter through a process called
ionization, ultrasound rays are nonionizing. Proponents of
ultrasound seize this as proof that it is not dangerous, but there
is no evidence that this defense is valid. In short, I can't prove
conclusively that ultrasound may damage your baby, but the doctor
who uses it on you can't prove that it won't.
Alice Stewart, a British epidemiologist who heads the Oxford
Survey of Childhood Cancers, commented in mid-1983 on "very
suspicious hints" that children exposed to ultrasound in the
womb may be developing leukemia and other cancers in higher
numbers than unexposed children. A World Health Organization
report calling for extensive research on the hazards of
ultrasound, and restraint in its use, had this to say about
benefits versus risks (all italics mine):
Choosing end points for study [of ultrasound] is especially
difficult in human subjects. Latent periods easily could be
as long as 20 years in the case of cancer development, or the
effect may not be seen for another generation.... Because
the human fetus is sensitive to other forms of radiation there
is considerable concern that it may also be sensitive to
ultrasound....Animal studies suggest neurologic [sensory,
cognitive, and developmental], immunologic, and hematologic
possibilities for studies in humans. There is some evidence that
if the exposure is within the period of organogenesis,
congenital malformations may result from exposure to
ultrasound in laboratory animals. In general, these end points
in animal studies have been unexplored in humans and should
be followed up wherever possible....
It is not clear at this time whether ultrasound fetal
monitoring is beneficial to the mother or fetus in terms of
pregnancy outcome and this, above all, should be examined
closely; if there is no generally acknowledged benefit to the
monitoring, there is no reason to expose patients to increased
costs and possible risk.
If, despite the concerns that have been raised about leukemia,
suppression of the immune response, congenital malformations of
the fetus, and other possible effects of ultrasound, your doctor
still insists on using it on you, what can you do? I suggest that
you tell him you will permit it when he presents you with
convincing scientific evidence that it is necessary, that you and
your baby will benefit from it, and that it won't harm you or your
baby now or 20 years down the road.
He can't very well object to your desire for this reassurance
in your own behalf and that of your unborn child. He will also be
unable to provide it, because such evidence doesn't exist. Perhaps
that will persuade him to do what he should have done in the first
place: forget about ultrasound and use his stethoscope instead!
If you have already given birth to a healthy, normal child, you
need not be concerned with these prenatal risks until you decide
to have another. If you are awaiting the birth of a child, I urge
you to study the potential hazards that await you with great care.
It is because of risks such as those I have described that I find
home birth so appealing. That is why I was overjoyed when both of
my own daughters opted to have their babies at home. My own
beautiful, healthy grandchildren are now two, three, and five
years old, and each of my daughters is due to present me with
another. They, too, will be delivered at home.
If you're not ready to accept home birth as an option, and
elect to have your child in a hospital, be on your guard. Make
good use of what you have learned in this chapter, and in the
other books that you read, and you should be able to avoid most of
the risks to yourself and your baby that I have described.
Hazards that Lurk in the Hospital Nursery
Although competitive pressures have brought improvements in
some hospitals, the probability remains that your baby will be
whisked off to the nursery moments after he is born. He will be
subjected to a number of procedures, some of them legally mandated
in most states, and then compelled to lie there – probably
screaming his head off – for at least four hours. Only then, and
only once every four hours after that, will you be allowed to
breastfeed your baby or give him his bottle, if that is the option
Your obstetrician will waste no time in giving your new baby
his first exposure to the chemicals that dominate medical practice
in the United States. He'll squirt a few drops of silver nitrate
into the baby's eyes. This treatment is predicated on the
ridiculous presumption that all mothers must be suspected of
having gonorrhea, which may have been transmitted to the baby
during delivery. Doctors have, in fact, fostered legislation
requiring this treatment in every state.
Doctors reject the argument that the mother could be tested for
gonorrhea instead of inflicting silver nitrate on her baby,
claiming that this won't do because the test is not 100-percent
accurate. That defense is pure nonsense, because the silver
nitrate isn't 100-percent effective, either. Whether one is more
effective than the other is moot, because if your baby were to
develop gonorrheal ophthalmia for either reason, the problem can
and will be solved by using antibiotics to treat the disease.
The use of silver nitrate made some sense before antibiotics
became available, but the price your baby pays because its use is
continued today, when it is no longer needed, is not
insignificant. Silver nitrate causes chemical conjunctivitis in 30
to 50 percent of the babies who receive it. Their eyes fill up
with thick pus, making it impossible for them to see during the
first week or so of life. No one knows what the long-term
psychological consequences of this temporary blindness may be. The
treatment may also produce blocked tear ducts, which necessitates
difficult surgical intervention to correct damage done by a
senseless procedure. Finally, some doctors – including me –
believe that the high incidence of myopia and astigmatism in the
United States may be related to the placing of this caustic agent
into the delicate, tender membranes of your baby's eyes.
In some states doctors may now substitute antibiotics for the
silver nitrate, although there is no evidence that this
prophylactic use of antibiotics to prevent gonorrhea is effective.
This does eliminate the immediate damage that may be done by
silver nitrate, but it also provides the first example of
indiscriminate use of antibiotics, which probably will be
oft-repeated by your pediatrician and may cause problems for your
child later in life.
In many hospitals a second example of indiscriminate use of
antibiotics may follow on the heels of the first one. In an effort
to prevent the cross-infection that threatens babies in hospital
nurseries, many doctors are now giving routine injections of
penicillin. Because every use of antibiotics contributes to the
possibility of sensitization in later life, it should be avoided
unless the treatment is appropriate and essential in dealing with
a disease. There is also the risk, in some children, of an
allergic shock reaction to antibiotics of all kinds.
When your baby reaches the nursery he will be bathed
immediately, and there is a strong probability that the nurse will
use hexachlorophene soap. It has been known for many years that
hexachlorophene is absorbed through the skin and that it can cause
neurologic damage in some children. Yet hospitals continue to use
it, despite the risk to your baby, to try to avoid the onus of a
bacterial epidemic in their germ-laden nurseries.
What makes this ridiculous, and even reckless, is the fact that
hexachlorophene soap and antiseptic preparations afford no
advantage over bathing with plain tap water. In five carefully
conducted trials involving 150 newborns, 25 infants were bathed
with each of four different antiseptics and 50 were bathed with
plain water. Bacteriologic samples taken from each group following
the initial bath and on the third and fifth days showed that all
of the baths were equally effective.
Don't let the hospital expose your baby to a potentially
dangerous chemical to reduce the danger of infection when plain
water will work just as well!
Another beloved procedure that your infant child will be
subjected to is the PKU (phenylketonuria) test. Legally mandated
in most states, it is given to determine whether an infant is a
victim of a rare form of mental retardation. The condition is
caused by an enzyme deficiency, but it occurs in less than one out
of 100,000 babies.
The PKU blood test itself is not dangerous, except that it does
require insertion of a needle that will open a pathway for the
bacteria that abound in every hospital nursery. The problem lies
with the test results, which are notoriously inaccurate and result
in many false positive findings. If your child is diagnosed as a
victim of PKU, he will be placed on a restricted diet composed of
protein substitutes that have an offensive taste, tend to cause
obesity, and become terribly monotonous. There is disagreement
among doctors on how long the diet should be continued. The range
is from three years to life. Most doctors who diagnose PKU will
not permit the mother to breastfeed.
It is ridiculous, in my judgment, to condemn children to an
obnoxious special diet based on a test that may be wrong, for a
disease that rarely occurs, when the prescribed diet itself raises
serious questions. Seven years ago treatment centers in the United
States, Australia, England, and Germany revealed that some
children with PKU showed progressive neurologic deterioration
"even though their disorder had been diagnosed early and
dietary treatment had been promptly instituted." All of these
children labeled as having "variant forms of PKU," which
differed from the classic form, died.
Unless there is a history of PKU in your family, my advice is
to avoid the test and breastfeed your baby, which I believe to be
the best treatment anyway, even if he has the disease. If you
can't escape the test, and the finding is positive, insist that it
be repeated a couple of weeks later to assure that the first
result was accurate. If it is still positive, make sure that the
doctor determines whether the PKU is the classic or a variant
form, and make certain that the diet your child is given is
appropriate for its type. Finally, insist on continuing to
breastfeed along with the diet, because that's the best overall
health protection your child can have.
If the second test is negative, don't fret for years wondering
whether the first one might have been right. One of the
unfortunate consequences of all forms of indiscriminate mass
screening is the emotional trauma parents go through when a false
positive reading is given. I have had more than one mother ask me
years later, "Do you think 'it' (late talking, late toilet
training, etc.) might be PKU?" The same thing happens when a
pediatrician tells a parent that a child has "a slight heart
murmur." This sounds threatening, but unless there are other
symptoms, they are simply an innocuous finding that does not
The list of obscure diseases for which mass screening of
newborns is required is steadily expanding, although the
requirements vary widely from state to state. Doctors are the
prime movers behind this legislation, and in my judgment they are
also the prime beneficiaries. It is ridiculous to expose all
children and their parents to the physical and emotional risks of
screening for diseases that aren't seen more than once in a blue
Also add to the dangers that await your child in the newborn
nursery the possible use of bilirubin lights to treat infant
jaundice. This is a common condition in newborn babies, and the
chances are somewhere between 30 and 50 percent that your baby
will be mildly jaundiced. How great that chance is will be
determined to a large extent by the degree of obstetric
intervention you experience in the delivery process.
It seems that every generation of doctors creates a new set of
interventions that create problems that can only be resolved by
further intervention. Most of the things a mother goes through
when her baby is delivered in a hospital – the analgesia, the
anesthesia, the induction of labor, all of the drugs – increase
the chance that her infant will develop jaundice, because it is
one of their side effects.
Many doctors routinely give vitamin K to newborn babies because
they have been taught that infants are born with a deficiency of
this vitamin, which influences how rapidly the baby's blood will
clot. That's nonsense, unless the mother is severely malnourished,
but most doctors do it anyway. Administration of vitamin K to the
newborn may produce jaundice, which prompts the pediatrician to
treat it with bilirubin lights (phototherapy). These lights expose
the baby to a dozen documented hazards that may require still
further treatment and possibly affect him for the rest of his
Bilirubin is the bile pigment found in the bloodstream, which
your doctor will probably describe as a potential source of brain
damage through transfer of the pigment from the bloodstream to the
central nervous system. Actually, bilirubin is a normal breakdown
pattern of the red blood cells. This breakdown converts them into
bilirubin, which is what gives your infant the jaundiced, yellow
coloring. The condition is not threatening except in rare
instances when it is very high or rapidly rising on the first day
of life. This is usually caused by Rh sensitization and requires
treatment with bilirubin lights or exchange transfusions. The
transfusion simply replaces your infant's blood with other blood
that is not contaminated with bilirubin, while the bilirubin
lights hasten its excretion. Light in the blue part of the
spectrum, which can be supplied artificially in the hospital
nursery, or naturally by the ultraviolet rays in sunlight,
oxidizes bilirubin more rapidly so that it can be excreted through
If jaundice does not appear until after the first day of life,
the risks of treating it outweigh the benefits. The bilirubin is
normally excreted naturally, and the process of excretion can be
hastened by exposing your child to natural sunlight, but it may
take a week or two to get rid of all of it.
Despite the normal and non-threatening nature of most cases of
infant jaundice, doctors usually insist on treating the condition
with bilirubin lights, rather than permitting natural sunlight to
do the job. Now your child's health is threatened by using
phototherapy to treat a non-threatening condition! Responsible
medical authorities have reported that phototherapy for infant
jaundice may be responsible for increased mortality, particularly
in very small infants. The higher risk of death results from lung
problems (respirator distress syndrome) and hemorrhage. Infant
deaths have also been reported from aspiration of pads placed over
their eyes to protect them from the lights.
Although your doctor will probably assure you that treatment
with bilirubin lights is completely safe, no one actually knows
what the long-term effects may be, and plenty of short-term
effects have already been identified. They include irritability
and sluggishness, diarrhea, lactase deficiency, intestinal
irritation, dehydration, feeding problems, riboflavin deficiency,
disturbance of the bilirubin-albumin relationship, poor visual
orientation with possible diminished responsiveness to parents,
and DNA-modifying effects.
If, because of a misguided cesarean, excessive weight control
during pregnancy, or for other reasons, you have a
low-birth-weight baby, you will have to contend with the treatment
he gets in the neonatal intensive care nursery. Doctors and
hospitals take intense pride in these facilities and all of the
technological wizardry they employ – an attitude that mystifies
me, because there is no evidence that they benefit the children
who are isolated in them.
They do, however, expose your child to additional risks. If
your low-birth-weight child is sent to intensive care, he will be
separated from you immediately after birth and placed in a radiant
warmer. This involves some element of risk, because babies have
been burned in them. The risk that should cause the greatest
concern, however, arises when your child is given oxygen while he
is in this incubator.
Failure of your doctor to limit the flow rate of oxygen
properly can in premature babies result in a disease known as
retrolental phibroplasia, the leading cause of blindness in
children. To avoid this, the oxygen level in your baby's blood
must be closely monitored, which means drawing blood, and that in
turn can produce a condition known as iatrogenic anemia.
One intervention continues to lead to another, and the baby may
need a blood transfusion, which exposes him to the risk of
acquiring serum hepatitis or AIDS.
If your child is placed on oxygen in intensive care, let your
doctor know that you are aware of these risks and that they are
causing you great concern. That may forestall any carelessness on
the part of the medical personnel.
Circumcision And Other Surgery – Unnecessary Procedures
The odds are high that if you have a male baby your doctor will
recommend that he be circumcised. About 1,500,000 circumcisions
are performed each year. That represents about 80 percent of all
the male babies that are born in the United States. If performed
for other than religious reasons, it is a useless, unnecessary,
and potentially dangerous procedure.
Every generation of doctors has found a new excuse for
circumcision, despite the fact that even the American Academy of
Pediatrics has advised that "There is no absolute medical
indication for circumcision of the newborn." If your doctor
suggests circumcision for your baby boy, ask him why he wants to
expose the poor kid to the pain, the possibility of infection or
hemorrhage, and the risk of death from surgery that has no medical
Although it is not likely that they will be performed
immediately after birth, you should also beware of two other
surgical procedures for conditions that may exist at birth. The
first of these is the umbilical hernia, a small defect in the
abdominal muscle that permits the abdominal contents to protrude.
The condition is quite common and can usually be expected to
correct itself before your baby's first birthday. However, even if
it doesn't, surgery should not be considered until your child is
three to five years old, because there is still a good chance that
the condition will correct itself.
Finally, there is the possibility that your baby may be born
with an undescended testicle, and your doctor will recommend
surgery to bring it down. The need to do so is dubious, at best.
Some doctors maintain that it is essential because of the threat
that cancer may develop in the undescended testicle. That
reasoning may seem persuasive, but it shouldn't be, because the
mortality rate from the surgery is higher than the potential
mortality rate from testicular cancer. Consequently, it is safer
for your child to leave the undescended testicle alone. It is
another matter if your child has two undescended testicles. In
that event surgery deserves serious consideration because
sterility is almost inevitable if neither of your child's testes
is in its proper place.
I have tried to forewarn you in this chapter of all of the
risks that you and your child will face if you are hospitalized
when he is born. Yet these are only the immediate dangers. In
addition, there are psychological and nutritional risks that arise
from your separation from your child and the interference of
hospital procedures with normal breastfeeding.