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Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank
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Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  586 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Making and having babies—what it takes to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and deliver—have mystified women and men throughout human history. The insatiably curious Randi Hutter Epstein journeys through history, fads, and fables, and to the fringe of science. Here is an entertaining must-read—an enlightening celebration of human life.
ebook, 336 pages
Published April 11th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 11th 2010)
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Eastofoz
Mar 07, 2010 Eastofoz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in the sometimes frightening history of pregnancy and childbirth
Shelves: non-fiction
It’s a wonder that women have survived pregnancy and childbirth since way back when and that there are those who have lived to tell the tale because once you’ve read this book you’ll be shaking in your boots if not crossing your legs forever at some of things done in the name of « helping » a woman have a baby.

The book is packed with lots of interesting information starting around medieval times when facts and figures actually started to be recorded about childbirth according to the author. It’
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Melody
I wanted something other than what I got here. I found the editing abysmal and the anecdotes distracting. There wasn't enough meat, either. For example, in the chapter about the doctor who experimented on slaves until he perfected the technique to repair fistulas, the technique itself is never explained. An oddly disjointed, surface-skimming account. Also, the author calls leeches "bugs", which lost multiple points with me.

There were interesting bits, and I did finish the book, but mostly I kep
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Jenn Kunz
I think if the subject wasn't something that interests me so much, I'd have rated it even lower. It jumped around chronologically and repeated itself frequently, even within the same chapter. Lots of little things that I don't blame the author for but would like to have a word with his editor about.
That said, it is a fascinating and sometimes humorous history of all the ways humans manage to screw up childbirth:)
Julia Michaels-koenig
I'm reluctantly, reluctantly giving this a whole two stars because I think Dr. Epstein meant well. But this book was one big object lesson in the dire need, even in the age of self-publishing and automatic spell-checking, for editors.
The need for a copy editor was the most pronounced problem; there were so many glaring syntax errors that could easily have been caught if a human being had gone over the text. But I think a content editor could have served this book even better - the style changes,
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Brenda
Very interesting history of childbirth; fascinating that for thousands of years, women controlled the process, primitive as it was. Men got involved in the 18th century and that's when childbirth became really scary. Forceps, broken pelvises, terrible drugs all in the name of medical science. Wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart.
Jodi Shelley
Amazingly non-boring non-fiction. It shows us how the way we give birth over the years has been just as much related to the cultural times we live in as any actual medical advances made. The ways women have given birth and the things we've asked for to help us along the way are at times amazing and shocking. The most interesting revelation is in the fact that feminist women have at the same time demanded pain-free birth as well as the freedom to birth without drugs. Speaking once again to the in ...more
Kim
I am perhaps hard on childbirth histories since I've read hundreds of academic books and articles about childbirth. Usually, though, I actually rather like the books that are written for a non-expert audience on the topic. Not so this one. While there is valuable information for those who know nothing about childbirth, perhaps particularly in the later chapters about there are also extremely historically problematic aspects, and a consistently obnoxious voice. For example, the first sentence: "E ...more
Kellie
An interesting book and a very quick read on a variety of historical pregnancy and birth topics. I had already heard about some of the topics discussed but it wasn't boring in the least. One of the more engaging aspects of the book was thinking about some of these topics in the context of women and minority rights and class. The use of painkillers and twilight sleep as a woman's right to have the childbirth she wants and have a say in her medical care. The idea that upper class women were too fr ...more
jess
I picked this up because I read a few times that it is comparable to Mary Roach's work, which I really like. And it's about childbirth through the ages, which is weird and interesting. The format is similar to Roach's books, and the style has a similar sense of humor (although not quite as hilarious as Roach). It's a good fit for those who like accessible, cheeky reviews of a wide range of scientific literature, both historic and modern.

I was concerned that a book about women's birth experiences
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Robyn
This book is super entertaining. (The author is a journalist so it's written for a popular audience.) And this book is crazy. I keep getting up to read parts of it to my husband. It's like, "I can't believe they used to do that!"

I was unsure if it would be a good idea to read this while pregnant, but so far, I think it is. It's not scary; if anything, it makes me glad I'm giving birth in 2011. There's some parts that are a bit horrifying, like the way things used to be done, but I think it's oka
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Shana
Pregnancy and childbirth are topics that are bound to bring out some strong opinions and preferences. The ways in which the conversations and debates play out are largely reflections of our sociocultural expectations and hopes, and these in turn are affected by our particular place in history. Epstein takes a journey back in time to explore many trends, advancements, and controversies surrounding pregnancy and childbirth that have helped bring us to where we find ourselves today. Each chapter is ...more
Amanda
This is one of those science/history-lite books that are a breeze to read and that offer TONS to talk about with strangers at dinner parties. Chad called me a masochist for reading it after giving birth, but it kind of made me feel better about my experience compared to the short history of Western birth that Epstein provides. The writing was a little clunky at times and the facts were at times repetitive (perhaps many of the chapters began as individual essays?), but it was interesting. I wish ...more
Oriyah Nitkin
This book is important in that it provides a context for how we as a culture have come to view childbirth in the various ways that we do - our concepts of this important stage of a woman's life is framed by the society in which we live, as well as the societies that have come before.

Many people are happy to take their views at face value and proceed without questioning, but with something that has as far-reaching an impact as childbirth does, I don't believe women can afford to take this sort o
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Kaedberg
I was slightly disappointed in this book. The title is very misleading. It should be more like "A brief look at a small handful of trends that happened sometime between Eden and the Sperm Bank." It covered very little about childbirth history. Although what it did cover was interesting and written with a sense of humor. It covered a lot of American trends and what I would like to read more about are the practices and history of childbirth in a wider cultural sense.
Elizabeth
Studying up for Saturday's baby shower.

So far, all I can think is how much I wish Mary Roach had written this book.
Megan
Epstein presents what is essentially a review of general pregnancy history as it relates to the medical field. She packs a lot into 250 pages, covering information from medieval times all the way to the current era. Reading about what options were and were not available to women throughout history was interesting, and caused me to reflect on my own choices. Epstein cites a lot of other books that seem to focus on history of only one aspect of childbirth, such as midwifery or IVF, whereas this bo ...more
Mieke Mcbride
Really interesting book. I recommend if:

1. You're having a baby-- so fascinating to read the history of childbirth, especially recent medicalization trends. If you're squeamish, maybe skip the section on difficult births pre-forceps, because that was pretty nightmarish. But interesting to hear how one family kept forceps a secret for decades.

2. You love Mary Roach (but wish her books weren't as funny). This is why this book is 4 stars, not 5. I just wish Mary Roach had written it. Roach has sp
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Ciara
if you like mary roach's books, you should like this. especially in light of the fact that it's actually better than several of mary roach's most recent books. the author examines the history of childbirth & it's no surprise why this is a topic that interested me (hint: i'm pregnant). starting with the biblical tales of eve being punished with pain during delivery because of eating the apple, through the history of puerperal fever & what an embarrassingly long time it took doctors to cat ...more
Graeme Roberts
Randi Hutter Epstein teaches us a great deal about childbirth and how it has been viewed through history. I found her account of the various movements, like Lamaze, twilight sleep, natural childbirth, Grantley Dick-Read, and others to be particularly interesting. Men and women should read it, at least to understand that the way children are born is heavily influenced by culture and opinion.

The book seemed to lack a guiding thread or structure, some central thesis, and I am not sure how sperm ban
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Kristen
I read this book because the Fresh Air interview made it sound so great. And I was disappointed. I have read a lot of books on pregnancy and childbirth (Pushed, Born in the USA, Witches Midwives and Nurses, Woman, For Her Own Good, etc.) and was interested in reading this one for the new information I thought I'd get about the early days (the Garden of Eden) and the recent days (the Sperm Bank). I did find the last chapters very interesting with their descriptions of sperm banks and recent repro ...more
Barbw
Dr. Epstein, an obstetrician/gynecologist, has written a well-researched book on the history of childbirth in America. She documents many milestones in OB/GYN across at least three centuries. A few parts of this book were extremely difficult to read. Dr. Epstein describes a 19th century male physician who bought or borrowed female slaves and used them as experimental surgery subjects. Some of these women endured up to 30 surgeries all without anesthesia. He supposedly believed that black women ...more
Emily
Jun 18, 2010 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, and women who aren't planning a pregnancy anytime in the next decade.
Shelves: 2010
I learned that childbirth is scary. But it used to be scarier.

More accurately subtitled A History of Childbirth in the West (Mostly America), this book is no Bonk The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex or Virgin: The Untouched History. The early chapters are a barrage of facts from history with little elaboration, and I was particularly upset by the chapter describing Dr. J. Marion Sims's experiments on slave women, in which much time is devoted to discussing the many discomforts the women end
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Zoie
This is a fascinating book about childbirth throughout the ages. I have no idea why, but lately I have been fascinated by the concept of childbirth, germs, the spread of disease, and death. Weird, I know!

This book was a very easy read and I was able to accomplish it in a long weekend. There were times where I found it very hard to put down. The book is written in a very easy to understand language and lacks medical terminology; if there is any terminology it is defined in ways that are easy to
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Sarah Jamison
This book is such a pleasant, concise history of science I really question why it's filed and recommended alongside books about how to actually prepare to give birth and birth a baby. There are no tips or tricks, no birth stories, no timelines or guidelines for preparation. There are just many chapters on different trends in birthing, where they came from, and what they meant to society overall as determined by things like increase or decrease maternal mortality rates or postpartum wellbeing. Ep ...more
Melissa
This book was fascinating.

I recommend NOT reading this book before or during pregnancy but do read it after. Why? The history of obstetrics is pretty freakin' shitty and frightening. The current understanding of human reproduction is a good thing which allows for control that women could only have dreamed about...but the new knowledge is evolving the process into something else...the book is thorough and well researched and the author is a doctor. She didn't cover the pregnant man story...but I
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Christie
Dec 26, 2010 Christie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in medical stuff; people who are not squemish
This book was a VERY entertaining read. I imagine there are not many pregnancy and childbirth books that make people laugh out loud, but this one had me rolling on the floor several times. Of course there were still the moments where I scrunched my face up and curled in a fetal position in agony after reading about tearing and other not very fun things women went through back in the day, but for the most part it was quite fun to read.

This book was also very informative. I learned all sorts of t
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Katherine
Poorly edited, to the extent of having misused words and typos. But plenty of larger-scale problems too. As another reviewer noted, the chapter on an operation to repair fistulas didn't really explain what the operation does; a chapter on forceps likewise never explained how forceps work. (I mean, I guess I can kind of imagine. But still!) Touched on a number of potentially interesting topics but didn't stay with any of them for long enough. Attempts at humor mostly stiff and weird. The stronges ...more
Staceyg
Love, loved, loved this book. Loved the history of childbirth. If you loved this book too, check out the documentary "The Business of Being Born". Goes hand in hand with this book. Read this book while pregnant and felt deeply empowered after reading it. Seeing what those poor woman had to endure in the centuries past, I knew I could handle whatever kind of delivery I was about to endure.
Jennifer
If you are looking for a book that covers a little bit of history, some medical, some present day topics about pregnancy, labor, and conception, this book is for you. Epstein did a good job covering so many topics. That being said, if you are looking for in-depth coverage on one of the many topics she covers, her bibliography is wonderful. Each chapter (and even sub-chapters) could themselves fill a full length book. This book will keep your interest and hopefully get you to read more about the ...more
David
I waited to read this book for a long time, and did so only after becoming a father. I'm glad I did. There were plenty of things that would have freaked me out had I known them before the baby arrived. But in retrospect, the whole process of birth - and how thinking has changed about it - is fascinating. So influenced by society, science, personal opinion. Worth a read, and a quick one at that.
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Randi Hutter Epstein, MD is a medical writer and adjunct professor at The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. She is also the managing editor of the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. She earned a BS from The University of Pennsylvania, MS from the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University; and an MD from Yale University School of Medicine. Randi worked as a medical ...more
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“Whose interest does egg freezing serve? The woman's or that of an ambitious, still pretty unforgiving culture that doesn't really ever see childbearing for female employees as convenient?” 2 likes
“He wrote that if great sex were necessary to make babies, humans would be fossils by now.” 2 likes
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