Cone of silence comes down over voodoo antenatal classes

Hospital bosses were warned about a childbirth educator’s controversial and dangerous teachings 10 years ago, but it appears nothing was done.

Antenatal teacher Adith Stoneman is being investigated after it was revealed she was teaching “old wives tales” to expectant mums, including advising women to use castor oil for induction, at publicly-funded classes at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland.

It has now emerged other parents were alarmed by her non-scientific approach, which has strengthened calls for greater regulation of the childbirth education industry.

Auckland mother Jenni Hunter said she complained to Waitemata DHB in 2006 after Stoneman told her class that immunisations were linked to autism and Vitamin K caused cancer in children.

“I would assume for many of the women this was their only source of information and she was pedalling old wives tales and things that were out-dated and incorrect.”

Scientific evidence shows vitamin K and immunisations are a safe way to prevent life-threatening diseases in babies and children.

Women were also made to feel like they had potentially harmed their baby if they required medical intervention during childbirth, she said.

Hunter said: “I felt like she was going to say at anytime ‘if you have any form of intervention you have failed as a woman and a mother’.

“If someone listened to her uncritically and had a caesarean, you would be left feeling overwhelmed, shamed and disappointed.”

Hunter met with three hospital staff at the time of her complaint and shared notes taken during the lessons, but said she never heard back.

The Waitemata DHB confirmed Hunter’s complaint was taken very seriously, however, there are no records of what the outcome was.

Hunter has joined calls for an overhaul of the way childbirth lessons are run.

“I want to know that all antenatal classes are checked so they provide balanced, evidence-based, practical information.”

Last week, a maternity health campaigner called for a national evidence-based curriculum, auditing of childbirth lessons and a single advice source for expectant parents.

Health minister Jonathan Coleman has refused repeated requests for comment.

There are no requirements for an antenatal teachers to have a childbirth education qualification. Individual district health boards were ultimately responsible for complaints about antenatal classes.

Auckland mother Shabnam Dastgheib said she dropped out of Stoneman’s class after one lesson because it was opinion rather than evidence based.

Six other parents also reported on social media they had serious concerns about Stoneman’s teachings, at least one of which dropped out of her class.

However, two parents said Stoneman’s classes helped prepare them for labour and parenthood.

Waitemata DHB could not comment on whether Stoneman was undergoing disciplinary action or still teaching childbirth classes.

When it comes to the childbirth “industry”, there is a unspoken reality that women know better and are beyond criticism.  And this creates the culture of fear that allows incompetent operators to continue  much longer than they should.  As in this instance, the person that raises genuine and repeated concerns is allowed to continue for years.

Parents have shared their own bizarre lessons from childbirth classes across the country on social media.

* “We should only have our baby in an environment we felt comfortable having sex in.”

* “We were told medical intervention pretty much meant that you had done something wrong.”

* “A c-section was the worst that could happen to our baby.”

* “Pain relief blocked the ‘love hormone’ from mother to child. Lucky I disregarded that when I went into hospital as I ended up having an emergency c-section.”

* “Talking about [caesareans] would be bringing on the negative side of birth.”

* “Rather than doing an internal exam of a woman’s cervix, a midwife should tell how far along she is by the look on her face.”

* “[Give] your baby untested remedies … ‘the [baby’s] body would take what it needs and excrete the rest’.”

* “You fail as a mother if you can’t breastfeed … [and] that natural birth is the only way.”

* “Don’t get induced, don’t have an epidural, don’t have a c-section … unfortunately [I] had to have all the above and felt like I had failed.”

This is nothing more than birth voodoo classes.

Time to get some standards imposed.


– Sunday Star Times

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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