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Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,032 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Janet Balaskas led a movement of women who refused to give birth lying down.She has been teaching women about "active birth" ever since. In this updated and Americanized guide, Balaskas explains how to prepare for and experience a truly natural birth. She leads the pregnant woman through yoga-based stretching exercises and massage practice, and describes the stages of labo ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 272 pages
Published March 16th 1992 by Harvard Common Press (first published January 1st 1983)
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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 MurkoffSpiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
Books for Expectant Parents
14th out of 190 books — 131 voters
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
9th out of 81 books — 94 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nov 27, 2015 Audrephilia rated it it was amazing
I would have to say I learned the most from Ina May Gaskin's book and this one. They're both written based on the type of birth I want, with great detail for things that I'm actually interested in. Like, this one covered how to delay the premature pushing urge. I may not have that this time but I had it last time and was given no tips for how to delay it. An obstetrician went in and pushed down the anterior lip of the cervix and I kept pushing. It was excruciating! How helpful it would've been t ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: chicklits, breeding
I recommend this book to pregnant people, even if, like me, you hate yoga. While a lot of it is about yoga, there's none of that annoying crap that makes yoga so awful (e.g., being made to chant, "My baby is happy, healthy, and holy" while rubbing your stomach, as happened in a prenatal yoga class I insanely took despite knowing how much I hate all that stuff). Active Birth has really good practical explanations of what's happening physically during birth, stuff like how the baby moves out and t ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it
I am so glad I read this book. I already knew that lying on your back to give birth can close the birth canal by a third, but I learned several other reasons why it is actually one of the least practical ways to give birth and can even be harmful. In the semireclining position, you can be hooked up to the technological monitoring equipment, but lying in that position may cause the very fetal distress that would necessitate a monitor to measure. While this commonly used position may be very conve ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Mercury1122 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Before giving my review, it seems relevant to mention that I'm not a particularly "granola" type of person. I prefer hotels to camping, lipstick to chapstick, and even after reading the book, I still feel more secure delivering in a hospital than attempting a home birth or using a midwife. I mention this because "the-one-with-nature" type of person is clearly the author's intended audience. That being said, I am very glad to have read this book. Based on the information provided, photographs, di ...more
May 05, 2009 Regina rated it it was amazing
My favorite of the 20 or so childbirth books I've read. It makes a great case for laboring in the upright position and teaches you how to do it. It gives you a whole manual on exercises to do during pregnancy. It walks you through how labor begins, how it progresses, good positions for each stage of labor, tips on birthing at home, and in the hospital. Lots of statistics on how her methods have been used successfully. I am a believer, I always shock the nurses during my births by showing them th ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Lorie rated it it was amazing
Good supplement for people birthing using the Bradley Method. Strong where I feel Bradley is weak. Very helpful with maovement and breathing practices. Makes you very aware of how much control laboring women really do have over their birth experiences and how much a woman can truly participate in her own birth.
Mar 14, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it
A lot of yoga stuff towards the beginning that I kinda skimmed. The actual chapters on childbirth I did find useful. The book is slightly dated by her obsession with bean bag chairs and recommending bringing change to the hospital for the pay phone!
Amina Al motery
Feb 11, 2016 Amina Al motery rated it liked it
a good addition to pregnant women interested In natural childbirth, has good tips and information.however it is simplified and it doesn't, cover all the topics related to childbirth
Jul 13, 2013 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
This has been my favorite book on pregnancy/labor/delivery I've read so far. I devoured this 240 page book in a single day. I completely agree with its philosophy of movement, activity, and following your natural instincts during labor. Very educational, very encouraging, very practical.

I found the book to have a very unbiased, yet honest attitude about birth medication. Most books I've read have been very one-sided, implying you're "bad mother" if you receive pain medication or interventions in
Sep 28, 2016 Kj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
Dated pictures but good material. And actually the pictures and diagrams were very useful to share with non-reading husband!
Kate Lansky
Sep 08, 2012 Kate Lansky rated it really liked it
Shelves: pregnancy
Having read quite a few pregnancy books so far this year, I've started to find myself skimming through sections. The same topics seem to get covered over and over.

That being said, I definitely have enjoyed this book. Yes, it's old - but the author doesn't spend a lot of time going over research and numbers, thus the need for an update isn't as strong as I've seen in other, more recently published books. The photos are a little dated, but both they and the sketches are helpful.

A lot of the pregna
Dec 30, 2007 Amie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: expectant parents, doulas, care providers
This is a really excellent resource for those planning a natural birth. The book provides a great set of yoga based pregnancy exercises to practice in preparation for laboring and birthing in upright positions. This is extremely helpful because so many women today hear that squatting is the most effective position for birth, but if you haven't practiced it a LOT and developed the strength for it, there's almost no way it will be comfortable to give birth that way. The other great thing about thi ...more
Jan 20, 2009 Nickie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pregnancy
*** I'm revising this after giving birth and am changing from 4-star to 5-star. In the early stages of labour, I booted this book across the room in a huff between contractions for making me think that I could do it on my own. However, I didn't realise how far gone I was at that point. The advice and positions limited the length of the labour, and the pain of the contractions. Could have done it without it, but wouldn't have been able to do it without a whole lot of drugs I think - which would h ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Meredith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, pregnancy
My favorite of all the natural childbirth books I've read. Written by a British childbirth advocate, Active Birth is both a history and a guide for women seeking natural childbirth. Natural childbirth being defined as childbirth with as few medical interventions as possible where the mother actively participates, moving around and changing positions during labor, and remains in an upright position to give birth.

Aside from some modified yoga exercises that prepare a woman's body for childbirth,
Jan 11, 2011 Betsy rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of my midwifery school's required reading and my doula certification course. I found it to be an excellent book! This book really highlights the benefits to moving around during labor and doing yoga-based exercises during pregnancy and afterwards. One chapter that I found to be extremely beneficial was the one about how to give basic massages which really demystified the art of massaging for me.

I highly recommend this book to those who want to learn more about being act
Jan 17, 2013 Carissa rated it really liked it
I found this to be the most helpful resource in preparing me for my goal of a natural childbirth. This book is full of suggestions on positions to labor in and informs the reader clearly and concisely what each stage of labor entails. I also found it to be the most positive toward hospital births of the books I've read thus far. Too many childbirth books preach at the reader but I found this one to be fair and straightforward. I appreciated all of the pictures included.

This book wasn't perfect a
Jun 12, 2014 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: yoga, prenatal
NOTE: I AM NOT PREGNANT. So don't get all excited for that. Instead, get excited about that fact that come June 2014, I'll be a certified prenatal yoga instructor. :)

I can definitely see myself recommending this to future prenatal clients interested in active, healthy births. What IS "Active Birth"? From what I gathered from the book, it's allowing the mother to choose her own position, or multiple positions during labor and delivery. It's the total opposite of being on your back, feet in stirru
Emily Marks
Jul 13, 2011 Emily Marks added it
Shelves: birthing
This was the first book I read in my birthing experience and it really empowered me and the knowledge gathered stayed with me throughout my pregnancy. Reading this book alleviated (most of) my fears ('fear is just excitement without breathing' - Franz Perls founder of Gestalt) because it explained the process but also made me aware of my choices e.g. what position I may like 'push in' etc. There are also helpful yoga type exercises to do during and after the pregnancy. Michel Odent is another fa ...more
Elizabeth Abney
Nov 24, 2008 Elizabeth Abney rated it really liked it
One of the most practical books I’ve come across about the actual birthing process. The author is, obviously, enthusiastic about active birth and upright birthing positions, but manages to convey the benefits of active birth without being preachy and even talks about how to combine active birth with modern obstetrical care, including epidurals. Yes, the pictures are a bit…outdated, but they are real pictures, which I find much more helpful than simply verbose descriptions of the positions. The y ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Esmeralda rated it it was amazing
The pregnancy information is limited to yoga exercises to prep for labor. The meaty content about labor stages and body movements itself is awesome. I am a fan of technical terms being used with diagrams. The various possible position of the fetus during labor are explained well. Balaskas writing has helped reinforce my vocabulary should the fetus be in any particular condition. This book stands out in that female position of labor in a home or a hospital setting are well drawn / pictured. It ma ...more
Dec 02, 2008 DaNette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book covering all the in's and out's, the pro's the con's of striving for an active birth. Meaning...a birth involving movement and relaxation to reduce pain instead of drugs. It goes over the side effects of the most commonly used drugs in child birth and talks about the risks with each one. I enjoyed the chapters on yoga based exercises and massage. It also includes chapters on post-partum exercise, breastfeeding, water birth, home vs hospital birthing, labor attendants, and br ...more
Sep 03, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it
This one has a lot of info about what exactly is happening to your body and baby, etc, during labor and delivery. Lots of info of positions for labor and delivery, how to breathe, etc. Info about what to expect to happen at home delivery or at hospital. There's some really outdated stuff like bean bags and pay phones, but just gave me a chuckle. She really stresses staying upright so gravity can aid in the process and the pelvis can open wider, etc., over and over throughout the book. I found th ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Myridian rated it it was ok
This book was basically a light and crunchy version of the Labor Progress Handbook. It included many of the same positions for childbirth and information about how to work with gravity. The book did add a program of exercise (yoga) for pregnancy to improve flexibility and tone for labor as well as suggestions for home birth.

This book may make the information more palatable for individuals who appreciate a more new-agey approach, but I lost patience with it.

All in all, I would recommend the Lab
May 30, 2014 Allison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non
The only pregnancy book I've read in the past nine months. My midwife loaned it to me, saying it was one of her favorites. I put it off for a long time because the cover alarmed me, but once I started reading, I felt so reassured. It has great tips on how to breathe and move during pregnancy and labor. There's so much to learn about how to stand and move during contractions and labor, instead of just laying in a bed like the hospital wants you to. I know giving birth is still going to be painful ...more
Nov 13, 2008 Rachael rated it liked it
I really like the yoga techniques in this book. I have found my posture to be better, and my back to feel much better. However, she says you have to set aside one and a half hours each day to do it! On what planet does anyone have that much time? So I'm doing them here and there, but not as strictly as her program demands. I also don't care for the tone of the book. It is kind of crass in my opinion; especially in comparison with Hypnobirthing. She uses the word "expel" to refer to birth, and I ...more
Lillibet Moore
Feb 22, 2008 Lillibet Moore rated it it was amazing
Active Birth helps explain the physical benefits of motion and upright positions in labor and birth, ranging from managing levels of pain, managing and creating more effective and efficient contractions, slowing down and speeding up your labor, and responding to different needs in labor by shifting positions.
It touches on effects and use of medications in birth as well as other alternatives, such as massage, water birth, and homoepathic remedies.
It also includes a long section on yoga for pregn
Jan 19, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
I think this approach to giving birth is great. I haven't given birth yet, but I plan on utilizing this method to help prepare for birth. There is some that may be a bit outdated. I think they are now telling all women after the first trimester to not lie flat on your back for any exercises, but perhaps some of those exercises could still be done if propped up at an angle with pillows. Also, I think the section on water birth may be a bit outdated, but her general stance that you should be open ...more
Aug 20, 2008 Sue rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: pregnant women
Shelves: babies-and-mamas
I used the exercises described in this book the whole time I was pregnant with both kids and found them to be immensely helpful. They prescribed a sensible routine of stretches and strengthening exercises that helped prepare for labor and birth. The section on labor positions were ones that I used during labor and they got those babies out well. Even the wacky outfits the models are wearing were highly entertaining!

p.s. I had been doing yoga regularly for about four years before becoming pregnan
Feb 10, 2013 Katelyn rated it it was amazing
So far one of my favorite birth books! It teaches you step-by-step, with pictures how to do various yoga positions and the benefits they bring to you before birth. It also is very detailed in the various birthing positions, breathing, advantages and disadvantages to each, all again with pictures and instructions. But, what I really appreciated is how much it isn't actively trying to convince you to birth a certain way (like some birthing books) but do what you find natural and comfortable at the ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Estrella rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I've read about childbirth that has made me feel confident and not afraid of the labor and delivery, and this will be my second child. Wish I had read it during my first pregnancy. I recommend this book to all pregnant women, whether it's your first child or third. A must read for all expectant mothers.

The author lays it out simply and directly, without judgment. She does a great job of encouraging doctors to learn about the benefits of active birth, without insulting or b
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