News Flash - 19th December 2007

Leading obstretrician and childbirth activist go head to head

Peter Boylan and Beverley Beech will go head to head today in discussion of his recent book - The Irish Pregnancy Book - on News Talk

Boylan's book was reviewed by Beverley Beech, chairwoman of the British-based Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) in the last edition of the AIMS Journal Vol 19 No 3, (to read the full review please click here).

Below is the text a newspaper report in The Sunday Times (Ireland) on 25th November 2007 by Larissa Nolan. The title of the piece was "Natural birth advocate lays into Irish Pregnancy Book" and includes Peter Boylan's responses to the review:

IT IS considered to be the birth bible for Irish mothers-to-be and is written by one of the country's top obstetricians. But the Irish Pregnancy Book, written by Peter Boylan, former master of Holles Street Hospital has received a savage review in a leading professional journal.

Beverley Beech, chairwoman of the British-based Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS), has lambasted the book as "patronising" and "misinforming" and has accused Boylan of having "little understanding of normal birth".

Beech, an international campaigner for natural birth practices, reviewed the book in the AIMS journal. "Space prevents me from highlighting all the misinformation in the book" she writes. "By reading it, you will be misinformed and my advise is to save your money - there are better books on the market.

"It did not take long for my blood pressure to rise while reviewing this book, not only because of the amount of misinformation, but also the way it is delivered. Patronising is an understatement."

Boylan had replied that Beech does not know how the Irish health system works and claims that her review contains much misunderstanding, incorrect facts and inaccurate research.

"She clearly does not understand what goes on here, " he said. "This review is offensive to me both personally and professionally. It is incredibly hostile and malicious. I believe she does herself down."

Boylan also questioned Beech's credentials: "What sort of qualifications does she have to make such comments? She is not a doctor. This is not the kind of thing one professional would write about another."

Damning as it is, he does not believe that her review will affect his reputation: "I have 30 years' experience, I was master of the National maternity hospital in Holles Street from 1991 to 1997 and I have worked in London and the USA."

He conceded that childbirth is an emotive issue and that experts can be at odds about what constitutes best practice: "She describes episiotomies [incisions to allow birth clearance] as 'genital mutilation' which is very revealing. I think anyone who reads this will know what kind of person they are dealing with."

Beech - who is against routine intervention during labour and birth lying down - - has criticised Boylan for the procedures he advises to predict labour progression; for his view that ultrasounds do not cause harm to unborn babies: and his belief that women should be discouraged from eating during the birthing process.

"His failure to understand normal birth colours the whole book and the advice given," she claims, mocking him for telling women that they can choose who they want to have with them through labour, even a "relay" of people if they wish.

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