Friday, April 6, 2007

Is anything safe??

*Note: this is a very long post. If you don't have a great deal of time, my "point in a nutshell" is at the very bottom.*

As I've been wandering through the blogosphere, spending time on other mom's blogs and reading articles on different parenting sites, I have come across a great deal of information on the safety of vaccinations. Adventures in Babywearing has a post right now telling a story about her son's reaction to a vaccine. Comments on that post reveal her reader's similar experiences, or acquaintances with similar situations. I've heard tell of research linking vaccines to autism and many other diseases.

It's frightening. I've chosen to vaccinate my son, although I have not taken the time to do the research. I was vaccinated and I'm fine. However, it seems that they are giving many more vaccines now than they gave when I was a baby.

In recent years, the health of Americans (and I'm sure others as well,) has gotten worse and worse. There are so many different "causes" for all these things that it's hard to believe what causes what.

The use of disposable diapers has been "linked" to many problems, including infertility in males.

The use of disinfectant cleaning products has been "linked" to the increase of allergies and asthma.

Eating non-organic food has been "linked" to all sorts of developmental delays.

(By the way, this is totally off-topic, but I despise the term "organic" the way it is used. "Organic" means a living organism. The dictionary definition of "organic" has nothing to do with something being chemical-free or non-genetically altered. Some other word needs to be chosen! I have no problem with "free-range chickens" but to call them "organic chickens" is just dumb. Sorry if I've offended anyone.)

It seems one can find research to support any hypothesis. Another problem with research is that if it is not done properly and scientifically (and OBJECTIVELY,) then the research is not valid. Unfortunately, much of the "research" that is put out there is often opinion and conjecture. At least much of what we find on the internet is. To really find the research, you need to get into the medical and scientific journals. Find out how the research was conducted. Were all variables accounted for? Was there a control? Closely examine the results.

For an assignment in a psychology class I had in college, our assignment was to find a media report about something in the environment causing a developmental problem. (I found an article claiming that female athletes on a low-calorie diet were more likely to develop knee problems. The topic of vaccinations causing problems would have been an excellent choice as well.) Not only did we have to read the media article, but we had to find the actual research which was used in writing the article. So I did. I found the research report in the Sports Medical Journal (I can't remember the exact title) which the media article was reporting on. When I read the actual report, I realized that the media report had it all wrong. Whoever wrote the article that got out to the general public did not closely examine the way the research was conducted and did not closely examine the results. The research report gave a completely different cause for why the female athletes on a low-calorie diet were subject to knee problems. (It wasn't the diet, although that was a minor factor, it was more due to the biology of the foot.)

I say this to encourage all of you not to trust what the media says about research that has been done. Get your hands on the research itself! While research reports in medical/health/science journals can be really dull reads, they put out the facts.

I applaud moms for doing research to make decisions for their child's well-being. I just want to caution you that the media reports about the research might not be accurate. Make sure you have a reputable source. Double-check the facts. If we believed all of the "reports" we read in newspapers, magazines, and online, we would move out of our houses, build a cabin up on a mountaintop away from civilization, grow our own food, get rid of electricity and cell phones, and ride horses to get around.

Not that I have anything against horses. It's just that for every risk we subject ourselves to because of things in our environment, we have many benefits as well.

200 years ago when people didn't have electricity and rode horses to get around, there was probably much less autism, cancer, allergies, asthma, and Alzheimer's disease. However, they also died of smallpox and tuberculosis. Children were quarantined for measles. Thanks to vaccinations, we don't have these deadly diseases anymore.

Before epidurals and c-sections, mothers and infants commonly died in childbirth.

Please, I don't mean to sound judgmental or critical. I just want you not only to be informed about the choices you make, but to be well informed. Every mother has to make these decisions for herself. I have friends on both extremes of the vaccination/diaper/sleeping/organic food debates. I myself am kind of on the fence. While some of the things I do are what is "recommended," many other things that I do would be frowned upon by current medical and societal thinking. (Such as, I put my baby to sleep on his tummy instead of his back.)

Wow, this has gotten long. Sorry!

Here's my point in a nutshell:

Don't believe everything you read. If you read something, read some more. Get to the bottom line, to the facts. THEN make your choice.


Susan said...

I APPLAUD you for this post. I am all about responsible parenting, but we take things at face value without really digging sometimes. It's kind of like using "wikipedia" for information...that is a site that is added to by regular people may or may not be true. I am also amazed at the research that is often funded by the company or group that wants to PROVE their product or method is correct. When the funding source wants it to be skewed a certain can be. Statisticians call it "Lying with Statistics."

GREAT post. I am finally adding you to my blogroll. I don't know why I overlooked it earlier this month.

:-) Susan

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I totally agree, too, that I don't want anyone "piggybacking" on my own research and information... I want them to do their own! Read and learn the facts from both sides of everything!! AND I hope that parents don't only use baby & parenting magazines and the internet as the only research they do... the library is helpful, medical books and articles, etc!!


Damselfly said...

You put a lot of thought into this post (as you do in everything)! JP and I (mostly I) researched the vaccine thing before going through with most of the vaccines for Flybaby at his two-month appointment. But still, I was really torn. I was actually crying in the doctor's office during the visit. Was I ruining my child for life by allowing him to get the shots? Or was I saving him from terrible diseases like polio (which my aunt had and was in an iron lung for a year of her life)? And you're right, it's so hard to know what's what because we are bombarded with facts these days -- information overload. We have information galore, but not necessarily knowledge or wisdom to go along with it. Bottom line is, although Fly has gotten shots, I may still decide in the future to further delay some of them. It's really hard to know what to do sometimes.

Awesome Mom said...

Amen to that!!! We vaccinated too because I was more worried about the real threat to Evan's health than some tenuous connection to Autisim. Of course I would have felt awful if either of the boys had developed Autisim. The problem with the whole mercury in vaccine theory is that it has not been in vaccines for years now and the prevalence is still increasing.

Also I am not very convinced that we have worse health than we did before, I think things are just reported more in the media making us think things are worse. How many of us are worried that our kids will get kidnapped yet the actual incidence of kidnapping has decreased so in theory we should be less worried not more.

Mamacita Tina said...

Great post! You are absolutely right, the media puts stories out there that gets attention, this does not mean they are true for every person. Yes, everyone should try to do their own research, or at the very least ask their doctor about side effects and dangers.

nutmeg said...

Thanks for this post. I vaccinate and I agree with you. My Doctor gave me great advice - he said go with the statistics. The chance of becoming very ill from the disease is far greater than the statistical chance of being hurt by the vaccine. It's nice to read the other side of the coin!