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Birth Matters: How What We Don't Know About Nature, Bodies, and Surgery Can Hurt Us

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  1,365 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
Renowned for her practice's exemplary results and low intervention rates, Ina May Gaskin has gained international notoriety for promoting natural birth. She is a much-beloved leader of a movement that seeks to stop the hyper-medicalization of birth—which has lead to nearly a third of hospital births in America to be cesarean sections—and renew confidence in a woman's natur ...more
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Published January 4th 2011 by Seven Stories Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Nicole Handy
Aug 11, 2011 Nicole Handy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is Ina May Gaskin's "Manifesta." I picked it up after hearing her on the Diane Rehm Show. Although it is very pro-midwife/anti-hospital, it is more about how we need to reform the maternity system in our country. She delves into how we should be compensating OBs and how we need to overhaul how Maternal Deaths are recorded so we can get an accurate idea of why we have such a poor record of mother/baby deaths compared to other industrialized countries. She does a nice job of showing the ...more
Of course she makes perfect sense. Ina May is the Mother Teresa of the birth world. Why doesn't everyone else "get it". Women, we need to take back our birth !!
All people should be exposed to the concept that Birth Matters, women matter, and unhealthy maternity care practices lead to more maternal death. Ina May Gaskin does a wonderful job presenting these topics in her latest book. It is simply wrong that the US has such high cesarean rates. Frankly, the US is a dangerous place to have a baby. Ina May does a beautiful job of explaining the problem and giving practical solutions. Change is possible but it takes effort. I highly recommend this book. It ...more
Apr 07, 2014 Logan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe Gaskin has written other books that address home birth specifically, this book seemed to be more of a last hurrah toward addressing home birth, women's rights, second-wave feminism, and problems in the way the US treats birth choice.

There was an ample amount of feminism (as even the title suggests) but it was refreshing to see someone who advocated women being women and not treating childbirth as a form of slavery. I appreciated her stance that it is a natural process and find it very
Apr 17, 2012 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting, health
Ina May is passionate about birth. She also probably knows more about *normal* birth than any living soul. I've just realized though, that she's leaning towards a place of "legislate this, legislate that." It's completely understandable: not only are birth practices these days NOT evidence-based, but they're dangerous, and she's spent her entire life trying to support and educate women AND doctors about the wonder and power and safety of normal birth (and the dangers of typical hospital birth), ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Shana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(I originally wrote this review for Elevate Difference)

When I saw Birth Matters by famed midwife Ina May Gaskin, I jumped at the opportunity to read and review it. Gaskin has contributed to the field of midwifery and childbirth education in vast and meaningful ways. She serves as an icon for many, and I, for one, was eager to learn what she had to say in this new book.

Having already read extensively on the subject of pregnancy, labor, and birth, I found that Gaskin’s book did not reveal anything
Lisa Savage
Sep 13, 2014 Lisa Savage rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily the most influential non-fiction book I have read in the last few years. A topic of great interest to me as considered by the leading childbirth revolutionary and educator of our time, Ina May Gaskin of The Farm in Tennessee. Her understanding of the topic is both deep and broad, and her analysis of what's wrong with medicalized childbirth in the USA could be a template for the collapse of rational health care in our time. But her field has further and more significant implications in ter ...more
Apr 04, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A woman who gives birth in the USA today is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was. With one in three babies born via cesarean, the US ranks behind thirty-three other nations in neonatal mortality rates, and forty other nations in maternal mortality rates." ~Ina May Gaskin

A fantastic book that talks about the most important issues in women's health, childbirth, obstetrics and how we can make positive changes for the future.
Elise Reding
Jun 30, 2016 Elise Reding rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an empowering and informative book to read during pregnancy!
Ina May Gaskin has a point: why is childbirth so medicalized and why does it seem like the hospitals are just treating to turn a profit? On the other hand, if you think The Farm has only motives of good intentions and altrusim, I encourage you to at least go read the wikipedia page about it.

The problem she identifies of not using evidence-based medicine is not just a problem for women and for the area of child birth; it is a problem in all aspects of medicine. I can't cite you a source for it, b
I picked this up because I just heard Ms Gaskin come to speak at the hospital where I work. Looking forward to reading more of her work!
Jul 28, 2015 Meg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess when the book has "Manifesta" in the title, the reader should recognize that it's not going to be aimed at presenting fresh and exciting material. I've read Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, and this came across as a policy-oriented update of that. I agree with the author's main points about the over-medicalization of birth and overuse of birth interventions in the U.S. today and a need for change. This just wasn't a very fun read, and the data presented came across as highly agenda-driven e ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Nathalie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
One day...I will visit the Farm!
Taylor McCuen
Jun 08, 2016 Taylor McCuen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mothers and mothers-to-be
Recommended to Taylor by: Anastasia
I would recommend that anyone read this book, but it is an absolute must-read for any woman who is a mother, wants to be a mother, or is pregnant and in the process of becoming a mother. I feel really fortunate that a family friend gave me this book when she learned I was pregnant, and I finished it in my ninth month, just when my pregnancy had reached full term and I was ready for my little bundle to arrive. When I started the book, I was planning on having a natural, intervention- and drug-fre ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Over the past decade, I have read just about every birth related book on the market. I was not excited to have to read another, especially since I just gave birthi for my third and final time and I have been pulling away from birth work for the past few years. So when reading my review keep in mind that I am particularly jaded at this point in my life!

So, I was not impressed with Ani De Franco's forward. I know she is supposed to be the hero of all freethinkers of my generation, but I never got
Jun 06, 2016 Jenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely my favorite book by Ina May. This book is just so well-done. Tons of research, solid arguments, and important calls to action without ever sounding condescending or patronizing. I especially loved the section on the history of midwifery and obstetrics.

Ina May is just a great ambassador for women. She exudes compassion and wisdom and is very unifying in her message. One of her main points is that no matter what type of birth you prefer (medicated or unmedicated, home or hospital), the
Molly Westerman
A very readable, engaging, and concise primer on why birth matters and what's going wrong with it in the contemporary US.

Gaskin speaks here to a broad audience--parents and people with no interest in having children, women and men, people with significantly different political perspectives and approaches to birth / parenting / reproductive rights. Birthing Matters articulates what so many of us in the birth advocacy world want people to hear: why our culture's views and treatment of pregnant/bir
Nov 07, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about human rights. Ina May's vision for the future of woman-centered maternity care includes revising medical education so that obstetricians understand the normal process of labor and birth and how to encourage it; establishing maternity care standards to address C-sections and other interventions performed without medical justification; creating birth centers with economic and legislative protection; and setting up a national system to count and r ...more
Mar 30, 2012 Editt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Birth Matters and its important to research and understand why when considering your birthing options. Yes, this book heavily promotes natural birth but most books on birth end up promoting one platform or the other. Skip the natural birth stories if you feel they are preachy but there is important information that I pulled out of this book. Ina May Gaskin main theme was that our maternity system needs to be changed to promote the health and well being of mother and child. Right now its focus is ...more
Feb 12, 2012 erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, birth
Having read Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and being fairly well-read and well-informed about the natural birth movement in the US, this book didn't have a lot new to offer -- in fact, a lot of the information at the beginning of this book seemed to be a direct retread of material in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. However, the tone is drastically different from both of the books mentioned above; the science remains, but the woo is largely gone. It's informative, easy to r ...more
Vanessa Pruitt
Oct 13, 2012 Vanessa Pruitt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was simply delighted when I received a request to review Ina May’s new book Birth Matters. As a fan of her work, I wondered if this book would just rehash information and ideas from her previous books. I hoped that we would finally get a better glimpse into her thoughts on the current state of birth in our culture and a better understanding of her teachings and findings. In the back of my mind, I feared that this would be just another book about natural childbirth.

I applaud the title of this b
Oct 20, 2012 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ina May Gaskin is such a leader for women that are giving birth! This book is somewhat of a manifesto and details what she wants to see for the future of birthing in our country. Basically the United States performs C-Sections WAY too often and goes to medication (epidural, pitocin) as more a routine rather than just when truly necessary. We also have way too many physicians aiding birth when trained midwives would be much more effective and safer for women. In our country you would like to thin ...more
Aug 01, 2012 Katina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting, 2012
When I stumbled upon this while browsing at the library, I thought: "Hmmm... Ina May Gaskin is pretty rad... the intro is written by Ani DiFranco... What? What! I have to read this."

I'm glad I did.

Gaskin is a woman whose values I totally respect. I may look more kindly than she does on the medical establishment (after all, I had a joyful, almost completely unmedicated hospital birth that unfolded pretty much exactly the way I had hoped it would), but it is advocates like her who do a great job o
Lisa C
Dec 17, 2013 Lisa C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure if this one deserved four stars or five, since it's the first of its kind I've read. By kind, I mean a manifesta on the importance of birth and women's rights regarding how they birth. Okay, never mind, it's a five star just for that.

I went into reading this book with a very bad birthing experience behind me, and also pregnant with my second, wanting to have a home birth while my husband was pushing for a hospital birth--which blew my mind, considering the danger the hospital person
Literary Mama
As a technologically-advanced country, one might assume that US mortality rates - indicators of the quality of pre- and postnatal care - would rank among the world's best. In fact, we rank behind forty other nations in maternal mortality, and behind thirty others in neonatal. Gaskin's manifesto successfully educates the reader as to why this is so: lack of necessary experience for both doctors and nurses; hospital policies dictated by insurance policy rather than evidence-based practices; non-ex ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Inder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is exactly as the title would suggest: "A midwife's manifesta." While there are the usual wonderful birth stories interspersed in the text, this book is less aimed at empowering individual pregnant women as it is at improving the system of maternity care in the United States more generally. And as always, Ina May makes a great case. I'm completely convinced.

There is a lot of overlap and redundancy between this book and the second half of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth . Mind you, the overl
Omar Rashed
Dec 27, 2015 Omar Rashed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful read, history, and motivation to natural birth in one. My wife and I met Ina May Gaskin in person in New Jersey in 2011, shortly before our daughter came to the world. Hearing her speak and present after reading about midwifery made it all the clear and real. We've had two home births (water births) and one hospital birth for the last (High Risk) pregnancy. We're so pleased for each birth story, and the guidance that helped us even in the hospital birth.
Marisa Renteria
Feb 02, 2014 Marisa Renteria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I was asked which book is the most important for people to read when facing pregnancy, this is it! I wish we could burn all the copies of What to Expect When You Are Expecting, because reading Ina May is so empowering and eye opening. I had a wonderful pregnancy, and my labor and birth were gentle, completely natural and unmedicated, and my baby is alert, healthy and thriving. I know great part of this is because I trusted the knowledge of midwifery through this book, amazing book!
An interesting read, but one to approach with open mind and helpful serving of skepticism. I particularly enjoyed the historical aspects that were presented, and the approach to birth as a natural process. However, it is (predictably) very anti-medical establishment, hospitals, interventions, etc. and does not look at these issues from both sides. I can appreciate Gaskin as much as anyone but I have come to the conclusion that when it gets a little political, she can be slightly extremist and, i ...more
Mar 24, 2015 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an important book. I read this a few days after helping my daughter give birth to my grandson, completely natural and with the help of a midwife and doula. The experience was incredible and beautiful, and Ina May Gaskin has written a manifesto of women giving birth in a manner that is not only natural and safe, but also powerful and self-affirming.
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Ina May Gaskin, MA, CPM, is founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center, located near Summertown, Tennessee. Founded in 1971, by 1996, the Farm Midwifery Center had handled more than 2200 births, with remarkably good outcomes. Ms. Gaskin herself has attended more than 1200 births. She is author of Spiritual Midwifery, now in its fourth edition. For twenty-two years she published Birth Gazett ...more
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“Many of our problems in US maternity care stem from the fact that we leave no room for recognizing when nature is smarter than we are.” 22 likes
“The way a culture treats women in birth is a good indicator of how well women and their contributions to society are valued and honored.” 16 likes
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