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Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

4.42  ·  Rating Details ·  11,959 Ratings  ·  1,632 Reviews
What you need to know to have the best birth experience for you.

Drawing upon her thirty-plus years of experience, Ina May Gaskin, the nation’s leading midwife, shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience. Based on the female-centered Midwifery Model o
Paperback, Updated Edition, 348 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jan 04, 2015 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kristen by: one of my patients
this is a really good book that a patient recommended to me when I told her I was REALLY WORRIED about actually giving birth. I was so scared/freaked-out about the whole labor and delivery thing. she said she felt the same way and had read this book & it made her realize that childbirth is what our bodies are MEANT to do & it made her feel so much better. she also warned me "a lot of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt" and some of it was a little out there (like the orgasmic deliv ...more
Sep 27, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: pregnant ladies
Shelves: chicklits, breeding
This is an essential read if you're pregnant and filled not just with fetus but with a fundamental doubt, as I was, that you're physically or mentally capable of pushing it out at the end. If you're skeptical that you're going to be able to move a small person from one of your internal organs to the world via your vaginal opening, Ina May will clear all that up for you. The birth stories in this book, and Gaskin's explanations of the process, gave me a total confidence in my ability to do this c ...more
Jan 15, 2009 Rachel rated it it was amazing
I just had my monthly midwife appointment and she lent me this awesome book. It's got everything, including a section on orgasmic birth. I find it refreshing to read something so real that attempts to turn our stereotypical hospital birth routine upside-down.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a compilation of birth stories from lots and lots of women; many will make you cry with joy. The second part reflects how Ina May's Farm community achieves such low caesarean & interv
Aug 08, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
My daughter's birth was amazing. Labor was not painful-- it was too big for that. More like getting hit by a tsunami, over and over. The whole intense experience was deeply invigorating and actually GAVE me the energy I needed to cope with the first couple of difficult weeks with a new baby.

When I've confessed to other moms that birth was SPECTACULAR, they're incredulous. How can something so painful, so medical, so dangerous be anything somebody could enjoy, especially without any drugs?

Ina Ma
Mar 11, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Don't be scared away by the hippy-dippiness of this book. I'm glad I wasn't. I read this book with a caveat: read the second section first, then the first section. It made so much sense, I'm not sure why the book wasn't organized that way in the first place.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is skewed toward natural childbirth and can get a little culty, especially all the stories about The Farm, but I found the information in the second part of the book really helpful even when planning for a hospit
Aug 27, 2008 Danielle rated it liked it
So, as far as useful information goes, this book pretty much said the same thing as The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, except without the same amount of research backing it up. Still helpful, but not especially new. Plus, she used the terms "Much more likely" or "much less likely" a lot, instead of giving the actual statistics as Goer's book did.
Another downside of this book was that it was a little too "Rah, rah, rah, women's bodies can do anything!!" for my taste. I guess that's no
Mar 09, 2016 Susanne rated it it was amazing

5 Shining Inspirational Stars
“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ, they would brag about it. So should we.”
I recommend this book to all expectant mothers-to-be. And to everyone else as well. We need to change the view that childbirth is something dangerous and unnatural, and that the only way for women to survive it is to be heavily medicated and close to an emergency room.

This book is the only book you need to read on childbirth. It is filled with positive
Jul 14, 2007 Sharon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who wants a new way of looking at pregnancy and childbirth
Shelves: parenting, childbirth
This book made me think about pregnancy and childbirth in a whole new way. The author is a midwife and one of the founders of The Farm commune. She talks about creating a culture where women aren't afraid to give birth, and consequently don't experience labor as a painful, negative experience. The book has interviews with over a hundred women who tell their birth stories, many of which are exhilarating.

That said, it's important to take the book with a large grain of salt, especially for those g
Heidi Hart
Apr 23, 2014 Heidi Hart rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Motherhood is Not a Competition: Why Pressure Moms to Strive for the "Perfect" Natural Childbirth (and make them feel guilty if that isn't in the cards)? Now that my youngest (and probably last, alas) son is a year old, I feel like I have enough distance to be able to write this review. My wife and I have two boys: she carried and birthed the oldest; I carried and birthed the youngest. My wife went first for several reasons, not least of which was that I had have a real and irrational fear of ch ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Reina rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The first half of this book I felt was filler and outdated, the content could have been halved. It consisted of birth stories and after reading a few they all sounded the same. I ended up skimming the rest. These stories are all from the 1970s so I felt like I was reading a history book since I am so far removed from that age group.

The second half of the book was really helpful with information on what to expect during childbirth, what your options are, and techniques to help you during childbi
Nov 15, 2012 Carissa rated it liked it
I have so many conflicting thoughts about this book. This is the fourth book that I've read about childbirth. On the one hand, I have found it to be the most helpful in preparing me for childbirth. On the other hand, there is an obvious bias. While I agreed with much of what the author wrote, there were several parts that really bugged me.

The book starts off with a bunch of birth stories. I was excited to read about birth in a positive light. However, there were several factors that made the sto
Sep 09, 2016 Heather rated it liked it
I felt about this book the same way I do about that $&?!@%# Moosewood Cookbook -- I really ought to love this. (And if one more person tells me how great the Moosewood Cookbook is, I will heave a bag of whole grain flour at her.) I come back to the issue of goodness of fit -- just like one looks for an OB who's a good fit, one looks for a birthing book that's a good fit. Despite what I expected, this isn't really me. I read this over a couple of days. The first day I spent crying because I d ...more
Mar 11, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone hoping for a natural childbirth
Recommended to Wendy by: Prenatal yoga instructor
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I had heard of Ina May before and knew that she was a famous midwife and this book was also recommended to me by my fabulous prenatal yoga instructor. Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the book, I knew that there would be some ideas that probably wouldn't mesh well with what I wanted or had planned for childbirth. I was right, but I can't tell you how immensely grateful I am that I read this book anyways.

A preface about me: When I becam
Jul 03, 2008 Justin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: expecting or potential parents
A lot of information on the professional merits of midwifery, so I admit skipping some chapters for the time being to learn content more directly related my partner's pregnancy. I will continue to read the birth stories, though I only needed a dozen of them or so before I wanted to hear what she actually had to say (this may partially be because I am a male reader who's brain learns slightly differrent that the target audience). I will read them all before my first child arrives. I believe this ...more
Re-read December 2014:

Now that I'm pregnant, I went back and re-read this (probably not for the first time). I still find it remarkable and engaging. I will be having my baby in a hospital setting, so it was helpful to be reminded of things to ask my doctor and the hospital staff about prior to going into labor.


This is a remarkable little book. It really gave me a lot to think about and research in terms of what I previously considered as normal for childbirth in the US. I experienced an i
Aug 08, 2009 Kristen rated it it was amazing
When I was only 7 weeks pregnant with my first child I knew if I wanted to have a natural childbirth I would need to learn as much as I could about the process so I could build my confidence and also become an advocate for myself and my baby. This is the first book I picked up, and the main message I took from it was how to trust- trust in the abilities of your body and trust that a midwife can care for a pregnant woman in a very special and unique way. This book gave me the confidence to really ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok
I am currently pregnant with #3. My first I had to have by c-section due to placenta previa. I wanted a natural birth with the second, and I had a successful VBAC with my doctor's encouragement, but needed pitocin because my water broke and 24 hours later I was still not in labor. The unnatural contractions caused me to give up after 12 hours on pitocin and get the epidural. I borrowed this book from the library in hopes of getting some good tips and support. Instead I got over the top birth sto ...more
Jesse James
Sep 17, 2016 Jesse James rated it it was amazing
A must-read if you are pregnant or ever planning to be, especially in the United States. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, and refreshingly "graphic." A fair warning though: you may get angry at the ignorance that seems to pervade the drug-obsessed, machine-dependent, medical model of birth, and you may become frightened at the prospect of giving birth in a hospital. This is not her intention, however, and reading this book cover to cover will give you the insight and understanding y ...more
Kathy Kenney
May 06, 2012 Kathy Kenney rated it it was amazing
If only one birthing book were to be read in pregnancy, this should be it. I highly recommend.
Jan 14, 2014 Ashley rated it it was ok
Disclaimer, I did not read this book in its entirety.

As with any book I began at the beginning. After half a dozen birth stories I found myself stressed, slightly horrified and definitely not (as the author says she intends) empowered. So I skipped to the middle of the book, part two, the practical information.

Part two was better. There is a lot of good information; much of it insight into alternative, little heard of, more natural ways of approaching and coping with the experience of childbir
Oct 25, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in natural childbirth
Recommended to Jennifer by: my midwife
The midwife lent me a whole stack of books (and is always pushing me to take more), but so far the only one I've read cover-to-cover is this one. And I'm wishing I'd read this before I had Jefferson.

Roughly the first half of this book is birth stories. Almost all of them are midwife-assisted births at The Farm, a village/commune in Tennessee, mostly just in homes without a lot of special equipment. Very few of the births had to be transported to the hospital, though those are represented as well
May 28, 2013 Maralyn rated it really liked it
This has got to be one of the best educational books I've read--especially when you consider the mass misconception it overturns. I am coming from a medical background as a nurse working all over the hospital and I was amazed at everything I didn't know--at everything about childbirth that most obstetrical doctors don't even know and refuse to acknowledge. No matter what comes of my next pregnancy and delivery, this book has already changed my entire experience and beliefs.

Everyone who ever plan
Mar 11, 2016 Nori rated it it was amazing
I should have just skipped the entire first half (all the 1-page birth stories from women who gave birth in the author's natural-birth commune). Nice stories, but I did not need 200 pages of them.

Much, much more interesting -- and the reason my friend recommended this book to me, I'm assuming -- was the second half, which is about the author's experience as a midwife attending thousands of births, which she and her partners accomplished with an incredibly low rate of medical intervention. Her ba
Jun 02, 2011 Edan rated it it was amazing
This book was a bucket full of awesome. I mean, yes, Ina May is the head midwife on the cultishly-named birthing commune The Farm. And, yes, I believe she wears her hair parted in the middle (perhaps even in two braids!). But don't let that scare you off. I re-read the beginning part this week to get pumped for my upcoming labor; these are just first-person, candid accounts of women who have given birth on The Farm. Reading these beautiful, well-detailed and honest stories really got me feeling ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Danielle rated it really liked it
Reading in preparation for my second child. So I already know all the basics of birthing, really just wanted a refresher on what to expect during labor and help me manage pain better.

A bit outdated as far as hospital procedures go (or I live in a very progressive area), but it was more informative and balanced than other birthing books I've read. Talks about empowering your body, and generally believing you can give birth. This is the part where I feel like I learned a lot, and I think it'll hel
Dec 15, 2014 Jenny rated it really liked it
I was skeptical of this book during parts of the first half, which is entirely made up of birth stories attended by Ina May and her partners, told by women who described their births as "orgasmic", "as if angels were nearby" and "spiritual". A women's body is indeed an amazing thing, and giving birth is a miraculous phenomenon, but these stories had to be taken with a grain of salt for me. I did find many of them comforting, however, and encouraging.

The second half of this book was immediately
Jul 14, 2015 Kersey rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering having children. Ina May has a totally different opinion of the female body than most ob/gyns. The largest difference being that the body should be listened to and respected! A great many of the interventions of birth in our society are not necessary and, unfortunately, a great many of the Drs and RNs that attend those births have never seen it done any other way. A great read and very eye opening.
May 10, 2011 Genevieve rated it it was amazing
I appreciated the education I gained from reading this book. I was interested in the possibilities of natural childbirth and this really helped me get a feel for others' experiences as well as some expert advice from Ina May who has helped so many women bring babies into this world. I didn't feel like she was necessarily pushing an agenda, other than to make it clear to women that they have options and there are many good ones. :) Hoping for the best with this baby!
Jan 19, 2016 Brittany rated it it was amazing
The personal stories in this book are emotional and compelling. I love how Ina May lays out all options for childbirth, accompanied with interesting statistics. I would recommend this to any woman interested in learning more about what their body is naturally capable of. I'm not even pregnant and I feel like I could give birth right now, I feel so empowered!
Elise Reding
May 05, 2016 Elise Reding rated it really liked it
I loved reading this book and it has left me feeling very empowered for my upcoming delivery. I feel reassured that my body not only will be able to handle delivering my baby but was actually made for this purpose. I believe Ina May did a great job telling her story as a midwife and spreading her knowledge.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin 8 37 Jul 17, 2015 10:29AM  
inspiring! 3 25 Apr 26, 2015 02:24PM  
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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
More about Ina May Gaskin...

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“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” 106 likes
“It is important to keep in mind that our bodies must work pretty well, or their wouldn't be so many humans on the planet.” 37 likes
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