Fears as bloggers push home births, alternative medicine
POPULAR mummy bloggers are questioning traditional medicine and pushing alternative health treatments like "natural flu shots" in posts doctors fear are putting babies at risk.
One video post promotes a home waterbirth without a midwife or doctor present but with the family dog close by.
The video has been slammed by Australia's leading obstetrician as "dangerous" and features the father delivering his own baby while an Ed Sheeran song plays in the background. It has been viewed more than 45,000 times after being shared by popular Instagrammer "australianbirthstories".
It includes the caption: "So many young women are told not to consider homebirth for their first baby … I believe your very FIRST experience of birth is the most important one to plan to have at home."
Obstetrician Dr Michael Gannon, a former president of the Australian Medical Association, said it "beggared belief" that someone would promote giving birth in the bathtub next to a family pet.
While the home water birth was successful, studies have found babies delivered during a home birth are seven times more likely to die from complications.
'IT'S AN EMERGENCY'
LEADING doctors last night said they were so concerned by mummy bloggers they were now vetting the websites prospective parents viewed.
One "motherhood influencer", Sydney-based Marcia Leone has promoted a naturopath who claimed gluten and dairy increase the risk of miscarriages.
Multiple doctors told The Daily Telegraph there was no evidence this is true. It comes as a new survey from Murdoch University found that less than 35 per cent of new mothers said their doctor was their primary source of health information.
Leone has also published a blog sponsored by a supplement company titled "Kid's Health Turns Out Its Not What You Eat After All".
In the blog post Ms Leone claims digestion is more important than diet, and describes how she gives her child prebiotic supplements to "optimise" his health.
"Did you know it's not what you eat but what you DIGEST that makes the most impact on your health?" Ms Leone writes.
The posts were paid for by the supplement company. In response to questions, Leone said she agreed supplements were not more important than diet.
"I am an advocate for natural health and whole foods - supplements don't replace a diet, it's clearly labelled on every product. But every mother also knows how stressful it can be if we have fussy eaters to ensure they are getting all their nutrients," she said.
"The title is referring to how a prebiotic can help you get the most out of the vitamins in the food - it's not just what you eat, but how you digest your food."
NSW AMA councillor Dr Kathryn Austin said there were "ethical concerns" about bloggers being paid to promote supplements.
THE GLUTEN MYTH
LEONE has also written multiple posts spruiking fertility naturopath Gabriela Rosa who tells parents to take up dairy- and gluten-free diets during pregnancy and conception.
Marketing material on Ms Rosa's site includes an article which is titled "You Don't Think Gluten and Dairy Impact Your Chances of Taking Home A Healthy Baby? Think Again!" which states "all dairy" is best avoided.
The Daily Telegraph has spoken to four different doctors who all said there was no evidence to suggest dairy and gluten would have any impact on miscarriage.
Dr Gannon said there was a "huge over diagnosis" of gluten and dairy intolerances because of this kind of misinformation which was creating a "daily battle" for doctors.
"These claims are not only misleading, they're dangerous," Dr Gannon said.
"When you're growing a baby you need extra calcium, only a very small portion of the population experience intolerances and there is nothing like dairy to provide calcium."
Ms Leone said she had followed Ms Rosa's program with "the support" of her GP and IVF doctor.
"I don't give health advice. I occasionally share what I use and believe in with links for people to make their own decisions," she said.
In comments sent via email, Ms Rosa said her website "describes the contributing impact gluten and dairy can have on the biochemistry of susceptible individuals".
She claimed "the scientific evidence is mounting against the "health benefits" of milk - even in pregnancy".
WATER LOAD OF …
OBSTETRICIAN Dr Alexander Polyakov said he was seeing patients who had adopted "ridiculous" health beliefs after reading misinformation online, posted by bloggers not named in this report, multiple times a week.
This included a couple who falsely believed IVF caused cancer and would-be parents who had self-diagnosed dairy and gluten intolerances.
Dr Polyakov said bloggers promoting at-home waterbirths were particularly disturbing given the risk of a child drowning. He said Australia had a much lower rate of neonatal deaths than Third World countries where hospital births were rarer. "Even in prehistoric times people knew not to give birth in water, there is no justification for it," Dr Polyakov said.
Dr Gannon said waterbirths were a new age, countercultural phenomenon that could be potentially deadly.
A study published in the Medical Journal Of Australia in 2010 which compared every single birth in South Australia between 1991 and 2006 found that babies delivered in home births were seven more times likely to die from complications than those born in hospitals.
'NATURAL' FLU JABS?
BLOGGERS promoting "natural flu shots" include ex-Master Chef contestant Kira Westwick who describes herself as a "nutrition coach".
In one recent post Westwick shared a recipe for a "natural flu shot", drunk out of a shot glass, which she claimed would "kick your flu to the kerb".
Westwick has criticised "conventional medicine" on her blog writing: "The more I sort (sic) the help of conventional medicine, the sicker I got. There were no answers for me in the doctor's office, only more pills that caused even more side effects."
But she says that her blogs should not be construed as medical advice, and was based on her own experience.
Queensland "influencer" Loni Jane, who feeds her children a gluten-free, raw vegan diet, has posted a recipe for what she describes as a "home antibiotics/antiviral medicine" which she said she used to fight the flu.
She added: "I want everyone to make their own medicine and heal from it."
Dr Austin said "natural" flu shots were not evidence-based and that she was concerned that by describing their homemade remedies as "medicines", bloggers might deter parents from getting their child an actual flu shot which is proven to reduce rates of influenza.
CAN A BABY DROWN IN A WATERBIRTH? I SUPPOSE
AN AUSSIE woman who starred in a viral video where she gave birth in a bathtub alongside the family dog has conceded she was not aware babies can drown in waterbirths.
However Jessie Goetze told The Daily Telegraph she did a "lot of research" into the "evidence-based benefits" of her decision.
When asked about the drowning risk, Ms Goetze, whose baby was born healthy, responded: "Can a baby drown during a waterbirth? I suppose but I highly doubt there is a credible study that supports this."
Ms Goetze, who did not have a registered midwife at the birth, went on to claim: "You are more compatible with the bacteria in your home than the unfamiliar bacteria of a hospital that your body hasn't had the opportunity to build an immunity against".
She also said although it was "very rare" babies could "try to breathe underwater".
She said she did not give birth in a hospital because they would not grant her "birth wishes" which included "no monitoring".
"It was very important to me to have an intervention-free birth including cervical checks but due to policies and regulations this could not be promised," Ms Goetze said.