Reply turned post, guilt and pain style

This is a reply to a post on the post Builds Character at A Little Pregnant. Hers is one of many responses to an article by a male midwife about the benefits of unmedicated labor.

OK, birth researcher here. Please excuse the scientific language to follow.

I think this is a difficult topic, but there are some tools to measure bonding or attachment. It is not impossible to discuss parental bonding as an advantage to an intervention (or lack of an intervention). It is actually a subject I am interested in possibly researching. We could argue the merits or accuracy of such measurements, but that is a different topic. Such tools exist. So do tools on other “mushy” sociological and behavioral outcomes.

Is there a possible negative group impact to the discussion of parental bonding due to method of delivery,or presence of a doula, or breastfeeding (or going back to work or having a TV on etc. and ad nauseum)?

Absolutely. Saying that one method of delivery or related variable influence something with social desirability, like parental bonding, can make people who did not receive that intervention or have that method of delivery feel a sense of guilt or even a sense of societal shame.

(Can you tell I have been reading the Belmont Report?)

Keep in mind we are talking about risk here, not causality. If I do research, hypothetically, following mothers who participated in a recent program that provided doulas for women of low socioeconomic status and tracking parental attachment, am I acting unethically? First of all, if I identify women of low socioeconomic status as being less attached i.e. “worse parents” (not my judgment, but the implied judgment there), and then if my research shows a significant difference between the attachment between the women who had the doulas and some peer comparison, I could be doing harm to groups of women by association just by doing the research. Imagine if I racially stratify the results.

This would also apply to breastfeeding initiation and/or continuation, mode of delivery, use of anesthesia, etc. I did read the original article. I would have preferred a source when he discusses “emerging evidence” about bonding centers of the brain and pain medications in labor. It is very typical of mainstream media discussion of medical issues to lack sources.

To me, the bigger picture is yes, it is a valid point to say that groups of women may suffer by association by possible research outcomes. But, is the benefits of the research to future practitioners, researchers and parents worth it? I think it can be, depending on how it is performed and presented.

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