Book Review: The Business of Baby

 

Why is a Dog Mom like me reviewing a book about pregnancy and babies? Well, The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line by Jennifer Margulis is more relevant to the health decisions we make for our dogs than you might think. It’s critical reading for anyone planning to have children (or anyone who loves someone who will). And, yes, it’s written by one of my brilliant friends. I offered to help spread the word as a favor.

book review the business of baby by jennifer margulis

Many thanks to Jennifer Margulis and her publisher / publicists at Simon & Schuster for sending me a FREE advanced review copy of The Business of Baby (for Kindle) via NetGalley. This is the first book review I’ve done this way. And as warned, the book disappeared from my Kindle. I get to review it. I don’t get to keep it. Thank goodness I wrote my review early because it disappeared about a MONTH before the book was released on April 16.

Why Evidence-Based Medicine Matters?

An investigative journalist, who faced stiff opposition, corporate road blocks, and lots of skeptics, Margulis traveled the globe to look at prenatal care, childbirth, and infant / toddler wellness practices. She discovered that much of what’s done — especially in the United States — not only does nothing to improve outcomes for mothers and babies but actually might do real harm.

Just because something is often done, is recommended, or has become the norm, that does NOT mean it’s based in science or offers proven benefits. All too often, our ability to monitor a pregnancy leads to unnecessary scares, greater medical intervention, and poor outcomes.

Here are just a few examples …

  • I’m sure you’ve heard about suspected links between vaccines and autism, but did you know some researchers are starting to suggest that prenatal ultrasounds may also play a role?
  • If you’re old enough, you may remember the big toxic shock tampon scare. Guess where that technology ended up? Companies went on to use the same absorbent materials in disposable baby diapers, leading to scorching rashes. (Seriously, do NOT let your pets near diapers. Scary stuff.)
  • Even though research shows many breast feeding benefits, the system (with a heavy hand from food companies) undermines nursing moms at almost every turn, including using outdated, inaccurate growth charts to measure a baby’s progress and scare new moms into thinking their babies are starving or failing to thrive.

Relentlessly documented, the last third of The Business of Baby is devoted to:

  • An extensive glossary
  • A lengthy appendix of resources on key topics
  • Footnotes

Yes, you’ll read a bunch of first-hand accounts of terrible birthing outcomes, vaccine-related tragedies, and other awful experiences, but you’ll also see the cold, hard numbers that reveal some scary trends in the health and treatment of mothers and babies — at a time when they want and need to trust those providing expertise and care.

As I read The Business of Baby, it reminded me of discussions we have in dog communities about research into:

  • Pet nutrition
  • Certain preventive medications
  • Traditional advice about spay / neuter
  • Overvaccination in pets

Overvaccination, Ho!

Now that we’re 15 months and more than $20K into Lilly’s adverse rabies vaccine reaction, I read the chapter on vaccines in babies with extreme interest.

As bad as the situation with Lilly’s forever-changed brain and ongoing life / death battle is, I can honestly tell you that the chapter about adverse vaccine reactions in babies and children made me sob.

You think it’s sad to see a healthy, bright dog become something else entirely? Imagine it happening to a child.

Infants as young as a day or two old start receiving vaccines. The list of recommended vaccines and the schedule for additional or booster vaccines would make your head spin.

Dr. Ron Schultz gets a lot of press in the veterinary community for his views on veterinary vaccines — and how, in many cases, vaccine boosters can be done less often (if ever). I had the chance to chat with him again recently. I told him that people have said to me that my experience (while rare) is the “price we pay” for low incidence of dangerous diseases in America, and he replied:

“Unfortunately, that same attitude prevails, actually more, in human vaccines than it does in veterinary vaccines. I mean, we have become so cavalier about vaccination of humans. Human infants get so many vaccines now I cannot believe it. We’ve gone from 8 core vaccines to 30+ vaccines. Someone told me even higher than that.”

And, he is right, according to The Business of Baby, “By the time he is one, a baby in America — if his parents choose to follow CDC guidelines — will have received 21 injections against 10 diseases. By the time he is 18 months old, he will have received as many as 26 injections against 14 diseases. The CDC now recommends that children receive no fewer than 50 injections against 16 illnesses by the time they are 18 years old …”

Thanks to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (founded by the U.S. government in 1986), human vaccine makers are not held financially liable for adverse events.

Most of these same companies also make pet vaccines, but there is no such compensation program for dogs and cats who suffer adverse vaccine reactions. (You can read about the adverse vaccine reaction financial settlement offer we received — and refused.)

Protecting Individuals in a Population Medicine Environment

Remember that in many cases, vaccines are about population medicine — the good of the herd, so to speak. That does NOT mean non-stop vaccination is good or right or appropriate for any individual baby or pet.

Or the population for that matter. There may be a link between the chicken pox vaccine for kids and the rise of shingles (which has another vaccine) in adults.

vintage get well card childhood illness 1960s

Tom received this card in the 1960s from his grandparents (before there was a vaccine for chicken pox). A little wheel inside allowed the card-sender to choose chicken pox, measles, mumps, or whooping cough as appropriate.

Just as there is a groundswell of pet owners who take a stronger hand and leadership role in healthcare decisions for their dogs and cats, there is a growing movement among parents and parents-to-be to accept or decline certain elements of what’s become routine care for themselves and their babies.

Some parents get “fired” by their doctors for doing so. I’ve not heard of that happening (much) in veterinary medicine. Have you?

A recent survey revealed that 60% of veterinarians continue to vaccinate pets annually. Don’t miss Dr. Nancy Kay’s minor rant on the issue of overvaccination. Her advice? “Stand your ground.”

I beg you … if you plan to have children or you love someone who does, please read this book. By all means make your own decisions, in conference with your healthcare team, but at least KNOW how things are rigged against you by tradition, corporate interests, and well-meaning “experts.”

 

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One vignette from the book that amused me comes when Margulis is invited to attend a vaccine company seminar by the seminar presenter. When asked, she identifies herself only as Dr. Margulis, and she is allowed to stay. (She holds a PhD, so she does have a doctorate and can call herself Dr. Margulis.)

Of note, the speaker hasn’t been invited to present at a company seminar since allowing Margulis to attend his session.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Business of Baby

  1. May 3, 2013 at 6:57 am

    This sounds like an excellent book for expectant parents. I like how you connected it to us dog parents, too. 🙂

  2. April 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve ordered my copy and it’s in the mail. Can’t wait to read this, even though I’m well beyond my baby years. I suspect that the issues Margulis takes on are just the so-called tip of the iceberg. We have corporate fingers in our food system (Monsanto and GMOs), too, and I think many people don’t realize it.
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