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The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  2,448 ratings  ·  325 reviews
As an intelligent woman, you are probably used to learning as much as you can before making major decisions. But when it comes to one of the most important decisions of your life--how you will give birth—it is hard to gather accurate, unbiased information. Surprisingly, much of the research does not support common medical opinion and practice.

Birth activist Henci Goer give
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Perigee Books (first published 1999)
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Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May GaskinSpiritual Midwifery by Ina May GaskinBirthing from Within by Pam EnglandThe Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci GoerBaby Catcher by Peggy Vincent
Birth Books of Importance
4th out of 80 books — 83 voters
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May GaskinThe Baby Book by William SearsThe Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci GoerWhat to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi MurkoffTaking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
Books for Expectant Parents
3rd out of 188 books — 126 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This book was so helpful! While Goer clearly states her bias for "natural" childbirth in the introduction (in a very nice, straightforward way), as someone who hasn't ruled out an epidural, I didn't find this book in the least bit alarmist or slanted. In fact, if I was convinced by the end of the book that the fewer medical interventions the better, it was only because of Goer's meticulous research, which appears both in a bulleted summary at the end of each chapter and in a long annotated bibli ...more
History: I had a birth where with some minor interventions. Preparing for my second birth, I'm striving to be intervention-free (again), so I'm reading in order to remind myself, rather than taking a birthing class again.

This book isn't for 'thinking' women. It tells you exactly what you should think, and if you don't believe hospitals/doctors are Teh Evil, then you are clearly wrong. I was looking for something more balanced, that takes into account the fact that hospitals/doctors can have a pl
Jan 16, 2009 Crystal rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who will have a baby
The reason this book only gets 3 stars is not because I didn't think it was helpful, but because the subtitle states that it is an "unbiased" view. However, the author is completely biased, and I got the feeling that she believes if you deliver in the hospital you have a high chance of your baby dying, or at least of having a c-section. However, 3 per 10,000 versus 4 per 10,000 is not really a "higher" risk in my opinion. She had lots of research, and I actually agree with most of her arguments ...more
The main point the author seems to make is that women who don't know their options end up not having any. The author admits to being biased in her interpretation of research, as she is an advocate of natural birth. However, many in the mainstream United States' medical community tend to also be biased (albeit in the opposite direction) when they inform of the risks/benefits of various birthing options. So become an educated parent, not relying on any one source's statements--this book is just a ...more
I read the retarded What to Expect. . . book when I found out I was "expecting" my daughter. It glazed over some pretty pesky, fairly common things to expect while you're expecting. And Murkoff (et al) wasted way too much text on parenthetical cuteness and punning to leave room for instilling confidence on one's body.

The Thinking Woman's Guide cannot be accused of those things. It tells you that a lot of scary shit can go down while you're trying to have a baby, and that there are plenty of way
Jenna Jenks
Nov 23, 2007 Jenna Jenks rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any woman who is currently pregnant or who has questions about her birth experience.
The Thinking Woman's Guide is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to prepare oneself for the choices involved in childbirth. Many women may not realize the draw backs to common birth practices, but this book goes through both pros and cons as well as how to make sure that if you do choose certain interventions that they are done in a way that encourages the fewest possible negatives. An important read for anyone who wants a say in their birth experience or anyone who questions what happened.
Mar 30, 2013 Andrea rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NO PREGNANT WOMAN EVER!!!
HORRIBLE! Please stay away from this book by all means, as it grossly exaggerates the risks of routine medical interventions during hospital birth while it downplays the dangers of real emergencies like hemorrhaging and shoulder dystocia in a home birth setting: "[...]things that go wrong in labor tend to go wrong slowly[...]" and "(The most common) unpredictable emergencies can be resolved or stabilized for hospital transport by a skilled pair of hands and readily portable medication and equipm ...more
A thorough if biased book that describes how obstetricians are prone to treat pregnancy and labor as an illness rather than a natural process through medical techniques such as artificial induction, episiotomies, and cesarean births. The fundamental premise is that doctors often over-diagnose or overtreat women (primarily to cover their own liability) without much evidence to show this treatment has a positive effect, and Goer backs up her point of view with multiple references and summaries of ...more
Okay, I read this book after reading Pushed. I am pregnant for the second time and am trying to educate myself on childbirth options. This book was informative and thorough, with plenty of sources cited to back up the author's opinions. I did gain some valuable insight into how many unnecessary interventions are entrenched in our current hospital labor and delivery wards, and how difficult it can be to avoid such interventions. It's even encouraged me to decline when offered a routine induction, ...more
This book was meticulously well-researched. Despite being ten years old, it is incredibly relevant and important for anyone thinking about having a baby to read. There are more supporting articles and back-up data in here than any other birth-themed book I've come across, allowing one to really delve into specific subjects if they wish. I especially appreciate the alternative means the author establishes are available before jumping to a traditional intervention. The path to having a baby is not ...more
This book is incredibly informative and helpful. The author is openly biased towards natural child birth, but she supports her case with unbiased and meticulous research (which she documents and references thoroughly).

I believe every woman who is pregnant or might someday become pregnant should read this book. Too often in our culture we accept the current obstetrical practices without informing ourselves of the benefits AND the risks, as documented by evidence-based research. This book can hel
Mar 31, 2010 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any expecting parents
Recommended to Mary by: my sister
I loved this book! For me, it was not so much a life-changing eye-opener as I assume it could be for people never exposed to homebirth and so on, but more an affirmation of many of the ideas that I have felt intuitively in my pregnancy. It was nice to have some scientific back-up though since I often feel like a counter-culture hippy with what I guess were extreme views since they didn't seem shared by many people I know. I will say I did learn a lot though. For example, I knew I didn't want an ...more
Ah, the politics of childbirth. There is a lot of good information here, and I largely agree with the author, but found her aggressive polemics to be a turn-off at times. If you are looking for an indictment of the "obstetrical mindframe," this is your book. This book does a more-than-adequate job of telling you what you don't want when it comes to childbirth. But if you are looking for helpful hints on how to manage labor naturally (that is, what you do want), look elsewhere (specifically, you ...more
Julie S.
This was supposed to be a "thinking woman's" guide, so I expected all the information to be presented in a clear way and not be slanted. Instead, this book was so anti anything hospital and all interventions that it was annoying to read. It didn't list facts like I expected, but just kept repeating in each chapter how bad the thing they were talking about was. I wanted pros and cons, situations to expect if that particular medical intervention was required, etc. I didn't want to be preached at b ...more
Grace Salzer
Simple to read book regarding the facts of modern day childbirth. It's not directed by the author's opinion, rather, it's based on extensive research into the processes, reasonings and outcomes of each type of birth (homebirth, midwife assisted, hospital).

It really is so ridiculous that with all the statistics and actual cases of obstetric failure, we are still lead to believe it is best to give birth in a hospital.
Lots of very valuable information and well laid out to assist in decision making. Tons of citations in the back of the book, if you want to read more background and see sources. I found this book really helpful in going over the various choices one might need to make or negotiate during the birth process. What I don't love about it is the author's attitude of complete distaste for obstetrics. I am completely with her that there is a lot wrong with the intervention-oriented obstetric model and I ...more
Even though the author states her bias up front, you leave the book thinking "I don't really have a better idea about anything at all." I'm into the whole home birth idea and birthing centers, and I agree with the book's message from a high perspective (unless you have real need, try to stay at home or go to a birthing center because being admitted to hospitals trigger an "intervention cascade" that substantially increases your risk of c-section in the US), but I don't feel like Goer gave hospit ...more
Loved this book! Totally convinced me to forgo a medicalized birth and do it as natural as possible!
Two parts informative. One part scary!
Christy Ford
I think I would have had a more favorable impression of this book if it weren't for expectations set by the title.

'Thinking' implies facts. Lots of facts. It does not imply opinions.

Ms. Goer, however, has chosen to do our thinking for us. This book clearly has an agenda, and an opinion. The book strongly advocates for low-intervention birth in place of the highly medicalized lawsuit-shy assembly line which has become the norm in the modern US. Honestly, I largely agree with her that this philoso
Aug 31, 2011 Meredith rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women seeking natural childbirth
Recommended to Meredith by: my CPM

Written by a doula and certified Lamaze instructor, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer is the forerunner to Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block although its tone is less scholarly. The author sums up the major problems with modern U.S. maternity care in three statements on page 3. 1) "Obstetrician-gynecologists are surgical specialists in the pathology of women's reproductive organs. The typical obstetrician is trained to
I enjoyed getting a review of a lot of information I had previously read or learned. However, I am already very converted to her way of thinking and just needed some refresher information to back up my position. I think if I were strongly in favor of the modern obstetrical model of birth, I would be insulted by the assumption that "thinking women" all choose the more natural, midwifery model. If I were sitting on the fence, though, I think this book would give me a lot of reason to go the nonint ...more
Tom Panning
I only made it through the introduction and a sampling of two other chapters to see if the tone of the book changed; I just didn't want to wade through that much negativity. In this book, Henci Goer is on the attack. The text on the back cover points out how hard it is to find unbiased in formation on childbirth, and if you're looking in this book, that's certainly true. To be fair, Henci Goer points out in the introduction that she is biased, and I don't hold that against her. But the contents ...more
First, this book is exceptionally researched, and in the back of the book (taking up over one hundred pages!), you can find literature summaries, a bibliography, charts, and an index. It was very impressive. I enjoyed that while she admitted a few times in the book that she obviously has her own opinion, the vast majority of the book is merely a retelling of the intensive research she has conducted.

And while some books will only list pros to medical interventions at childbirth and others will li
Nov 02, 2008 Kristi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All women
I enjoyed this book and thought it was very interesting. It touched on some really important topics for me...labor induction, epidurals, episiotomy, eating during labor, continuous monitoring, scheduled c-sections, etc. The points it brought up were very thought provoking and helpful to me as I plan my next birth.

All women should read this book so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their babies. I would caution though to make sure you read while "thinking" as the title suggests
Lisa Wuertz
Apr 16, 2008 Lisa Wuertz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pregnant women
Recommended to Lisa by: Ruth
Shelves: borrowed
A lot of it covers things that I was kind of leaning towards anyway, but this just gives me more research and preparation to argue those viewpoints if I have to. It kind of freaks me out though that all this stuff could happen to you and you not know what to do about it or know to have an opinion.

I read some of the other reviews of this book and I don't think the title is condescending at all. I think a lot of women just go along with whatever their doctors say and don't think about it. They do
When I first picked up this book as required pre-reading for my studies into becoming a Doula, I thought it would be great. As an educated woman, "The Thinking Woman's Guide" particularly appealed to me.

But this book is last in a series of other readings I've recently done into childbirth (including authors such as Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Klaus & Kennell, Penny Simkin, Janet Balaskas) and the title when finally picking up the book didn't seem to fit. For a "better birth", a mother nee
Overall this book was informative and worth reading, and while I agree with the overall conclusion, I'm disappointed with the method. The author's premise of presenting the facts so that a thinking (wo)man could evaluate their options was not achieved. There was a clear bias toward natural birth that was evident in the tone, the obscure presentation of data, and the contradictory logic.

The tone of the book was very negative on hospital births, with repetitive statements about the dangers of givi
I loved this book - an absolute must read before delivery. So much of our obstetrical care is based on what's best for insurance companies and doctors vs. mom and baby, and this book made me feel much more informed about the process of birth in a hospital and how to navigate that process in way that maximizes our chances of having a healthy natural birthing experience. Goer doesn't advocate for natural childbirth and midwifery in a "hippy dippy" way - instead, she provides the medical studies an ...more
Ms. Falkner
I loved this book - an absolute must read before delivery. So much of our obstetrical care is based on what's best for insurance companies and doctors vs. mom and baby, and this book made me feel much more informed about the process of birth in a hospital and how to navigate that process in way that maximizes our chances of having a healthy natural birthing experience. Goer doesn't advocate for natural childbirth and midwifery in a "hippy dippy" way - instead, she provides the medical studies an ...more
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