Caveat to the reader: Your Best Birth is written by and for women who want to reclaim a more natural form of childbirth where medical intervention is...moreCaveat to the reader: Your Best Birth is written by and for women who want to reclaim a more natural form of childbirth where medical intervention is relegated to emergency situations rather than instituted as commonplace pratice. It is not for women without a granola streak or who don't possess a single hippieish tendancy.
If your preference is for modern, standard pratice, medically managed chilbirth, you will not like this book. If you feel it is foolish to question the wisdom of labor inductions, enforced time limits on how long a woman can labor before being required to have a c-section, the routine use of labor augmenting drugs such as Pitocin, and the increasing frequency of cesarean sections, then this book will likely annoy you. And in fact, you will probably be offended by its suggestion that laboring and delivering flat on your back while hooked to monitors and numbed by an epidural can be harmful to your body and your baby.
If you don't hunger for a revolution in American maternity care and childbirth, put this book down and walk away. Reading it would be a waste of your time. What this book advocates is a less medically invasion form a childbirth similar to the European model, and it is arguable that its point of view is as biased as the one presented by the medical-industrial complex and endorsed by the American Medical Association. It's the other side to Big Medicine's one-sided story, illustrated by the personal experience of over a dozen mothers as well as doctors, nurses, and midwives.
Your Best Birth is heavy on the personal narrative although it contains relevant facts and statistics. It has a very conversational tone and is reader friendly rather than scholarly. The information in each of the chapters is illustrated by anecdotes from mothers, midwives, doctors, researchers, and medical professionals and include celebrity birth stories. Some of the authoritative sources interviewed in this book are Dr. Jacques Mortiz, OB-GYN, Dr. Marsden Wagner, former director of the maternal and child health division at the World Health Organization, and America's most famous midwife Ina May Gaskin.
Each chapter contains sidebars of additional information and personal stories. I thought the ones in chapters covering labor induction and cesarean sections were the most helpful. They detail good and bad reasons for inductions and c-sections. They also list questions to ask before being induced, c-section myths and risks, and legitimate as well as questionable reasons for having a c-section.
Chapter 2 describes the differences between hospital, birth center, and home birth venues and includes handy lists of questions to ask on a hospital tour, when selecting a birth center, and/or when considering a home birth. There are also lists of questions to ask when selecting an OB-GYN or midwife and when hiring a doula.
The appendix provides a toolkit for crafting a birth plan, and there are resources for further reading and an index. (less)
Written by Ina May Gaskin, the most famous and most respected midwife in the United States, who is responsible for reclaiming the almost extinct pract...moreWritten by Ina May Gaskin, the most famous and most respected midwife in the United States, who is responsible for reclaiming the almost extinct practice of midwifery during the mid-20th Century, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth advocates a non-medical, woman-centered approach to birth and emphasizes the mind/body, physical/mental/spiritual connection. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a good read for any woman interested in natural childbirth.
Ina May's views are at odds with the Industrial-Medical Complex currently dominating health care in the USA, which lobbies for what she terms "the techno-medical model" of maternity care. She defines the techno-medical model as the mindset that ". . . some medical intervention is considered necessary for every birth, and birth is safe only in retrospect. According to this model, once labor starts, birth must take place within twenty-four hours . . . women who give birth vaginally generally labor in bed hooked up to electronic fetal monitors, intravenous tubes, and pressure-reading devices. Eating and drinking in labor is not permitted. Labor pain within this model is seen as unacceptable, so analgesia and anesthesia are encouraged . . . Instead of being the central actor in the birth drama, the woman becomes a passive, almost inert object -- representing a barrier to the baby's eventual passage to the outside world" (185 -- 186).
The first 125 pages are devoted to birth stories. Most are told by mothers who gave birth at The Farm Midwifery Center at the author's hippie commune, but some take place at hospitals. The second half of the Ina May's Guide to Childbirth goes into Ina May Gaskin's philosophy of childbirth and prenatal care, the mind/body connection, the current models of maternity care in America, the history of how the practice of midwifery almost disappeared in the United States, the hidden dangers of medical pain relief and medical interventions, and the possibilities of VBAC as well as birth positions and labor practices.
During her discussion of cesarean section, Ina May brings up the trend begun in the 1990's of sewing up the uterine incision with a single layer of stitches rather than in two layers because it saves the surgeon five to ten minutes of his time. Because this type of wound repair increases the risks of uterine rupture, placenta accreta, placenta percreta, and placenta previa in future pregnancies, she recommends that women request double layer suturing if they're having a cesarean. Oddly enough, the type of suturing used to close cesarean sections either weren't mentioned at all or just mentioned in passing in the other childbirth books I'd read. (less)
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 Painfu...more 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 view pregnant and laboring women as a series of potential problems . . ..", 2) "Obstetricians work within the medical model, a model that says drugs and procedures are the answer to whatever goes wrong . . ..", and 3) "Obstetricians are also influenced by the broader culture in that it is believed that technology is superior to nature and machines are more reliable than people." Don't worry, Goer gets to the additional factors of money and fear of malpractice lawsuits later in the book.
This is the "thinking woman's guide" as it presents the risks and benefits of the most common and routine medical interventions performed during childbirth in the United States, so that women will be aware of them and can consider whether these interventions are really necessary, whether to refuse them, how to minimize the risks if they want them, and how to reclaim a more natural form of childbirth if they do not wish for a birth treated as medical event.
Of course, there is the same caveat to the reader applies to this book as it does to other granola childbirth books, if you plan on doing whatever your doctor says, want an epidural, and feel it is wrong to question the wisdom of medical professionals, then you will not like this book. Don't bother reading it; it will probably just upset you.
Discussed in The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth are chapter 1) the epidemic rate of cesarean sections, chapter 2) alternatives for delivering breech babies, chapter 3) reasons against labor inductions, chapter 4) why forbidding food and water to laboring women is unnecessary, chapter 5) how continuous electronic fetal monitoring can actually be harmful in many circumstances, chapter 6) the pros and cons of artificially rupturing a woman's membranes, chapter 7) augmenting and managing a "slow" labor, chapter 8) medications for pain relief, chapter 9) routine episiotomies, chapter 10) VBAC and repeat elective cesareans, chapter 11) doulas and other labor support, chapter 12) comparison of obstetricians, midwives, and general practioners, and 13) locations for labor and delivery.
At the end of each chapter, the author presents "gleaning from the medical literature" in which she presents key findings from medical studies. The entire second half of the book is comprised of elaborations on these statements made in each chapter with citations for the medical articles from which the author gathered her information. (less)
This book is one of the few entirely devoted to the subject of childbirth in water. While it is a useful guide with plenty of background information,...moreThis book is one of the few entirely devoted to the subject of childbirth in water. While it is a useful guide with plenty of background information, Water Birth unfortunately hasn't been updated since its original 1994 edition, and as a result the information it contains is somewhat dated. Because water births are no longer considered so experimental, many of the concerns raised by the author -- such as whether or not a women should be allowed to labor in water once her membranes have broken due to the risk of infection -- have been answered over the last quarter of a century. The standard practices described might have also changed or evolved, so check with your doctor, midwife, or doula.
American attitudes towards water births have also changed since the early 90's, and many U.S. hospitals now have birthing tubs in their labor and delivery suites and offer the option of water births for low risk mothers. Also, a variety of birthing tubs including inflatable ones can be purchased or rented via the internet, so interested parties planning a home birth needn't follow the provided instructions on how to build and maintain a birthing tub.
Despite its minor flaws, Water Birth does have the advantage of having been written by a practicing Californian midwife who helped pioneer the contemporary interest in water births. The author provides a wealth of personal experience and first-hand accounts. She also scrupulously cites her sources when discussing the history of the modern practice of water births and the benefits of laboring and/or delivering in water.
Birth Your Way is a valuable resource for anyone considering giving birth outside of a hospital. It provides good information while dispelling home bi...moreBirth Your Way is a valuable resource for anyone considering giving birth outside of a hospital. It provides good information while dispelling home birth myths, which allow the reader to decide whether or not home birth is for her.
Chapter 2 "What's Wrong with Hospitals?" details all the reason why giving birth in a hospital can be bad/dangerous, which are all the reason for choosing a home birth or birth in a birth center.
Chapter 3 describes the risks associated with home birth. It also discusses and debunks the myths.
Chapter 4 explains how to arrange an out of hospital birth either at home or at a birth center. It includes Q & A's.
Chapter 5 is about midwives, their role at births, and their skills and training.
Chapter 6 describes preparations emphasizing prenatal care, diet, and exercise.
Chapter 7 discusses the role of the birth partner. For more a more detailed birth partner guide, read The Birth Partner.
Chapter 8 talks about various support systems for the mother and her family.
Chapter 9 details complications and emergencies and describes how they will be handled either at home or with a hospital transfer.
Chapter 10 is about the Babymoon period following the birth and also includes information about breastfeeding.
The single most crucial piece of information that this books provides is that Pitocin can actually cause shoulder dystocia because it can cause the baby to descend too quicky, forcing the baby into a bad position and/or again tissues that have not had time to fully dialte, thin, and expand. This is something valuable for women planning hospital births to be aware of. The majority of women of my acquaintance who have had babies within the past decade were induced because their doctors played "the big baby card" and had them terrified that their baby would be too big to deliver and would have shoulder dystocia or other complications if they attempted a delivery nearer to their assigned due date. None of them were told that being induced could actually cause a complication that they were seeking to avoid. Of course, one of the reasons to seek an out of hospital birth is the lack of informed consent and the fact that once the mother signs the blanket waiver upon admission, the medical staff are not required to divugle any risks that would cause her to be resistant to the form of treatment they deem "best."(less)
Listen to Me Good is a recorded oral history interspersed with and framed by historical background. True to its subtitle, it is the life story of Marg...moreListen to Me Good is a recorded oral history interspersed with and framed by historical background. True to its subtitle, it is the life story of Margaret Charles Smith, an Alabama “granny” midwife, rather than a documentary of lay midwifery practices in the rural Deep South in the early to late 1900’s. It is divided into six chapters: Chapter 1 “Growing Up” about Mrs. Smith’s childhood, Chapter 2 “Pregnant” about Mrs. Smith’s early adulthood, Chapter 3 “Official Midwife” about how Mrs. Smith became a midwife, Chapter 4 “Birth Practices” about some of Mrs. Smith’s midwifery practices, Chapter 5 “Civil Rights” about how the Civil Rights movement affect Alabama, and Chapter 6 “Last Days” about how state legislation and doctors ended the practice of midwifery in Alabama. An epilogue follows, and a bibliography and index wrap up the book.
This book would be anthropologically interesting to those wishing to learn more about the lives of the rural poor in Alabama, but midwives, midwifery students, medical historians, and any other reader seeking the childbirth knowledge lost when lay and direct entry midwives were eliminated will be disappointed as it gives no in-depth information about techniques, maneuvers, herbal remedies, and folkloric practices of lay midwifery. Mrs. Smith recounts her midwifery practices only in the general terms when she tells about her experiences as a practicing midwife. In fact, Mrs. Smith rarely goes into any great detail anywhere in her narrative, and her story leaves the reader hungry for more.
The topics on which Mrs. Smith touches in chapters 3, 4, and 6 are attending vaginal breech births although she never explains were she got the rule that the baby had to be delivered in 5 minutes after rumping, making a pad on which to deliver out of 20 sheets of newspaper if the mother didn't have a spare quilt, not doing routine episiotomies, placing open scissors under the bed after birth, burning or burying the placenta, and her favorite delivery position being the mother sitting upright on the edge of a chair after the baby begins crowing although unfortunately she never discusses the pros and cons of other delivery positions or describes the others that she favors.
Mrs. Smith beautifully does explain the desire and need for midwifery and homebirth when, explaining the hospital takeover of birth. "The way I look at it, you just as soon stay home and have your baby, if possible, if you are in good health and don't have problems . . . You can have your way more at home. You have your own freedom at home. You won't have to lay down until your time come. You can get up and do things. The baby won't have to be drugged before birth from giving you those shots to knock you out . . . But these mothers, they still rather be in the hospital where they can whoop and holler, thinking the doctor is going to give them something to ease them pains, but the doctors won't be there. The nurse be back there, and they come in there very occasional. You need somebody back there with you. Now a midwife, she's got to be right there, sitting right aside the bed or sitting over you, holding you, rocking you, rubbing you" (pages 147 -- 148). This echoes the sentiments expressed by comtemporary birth advocates seeking to ensure a homebirth option. (less)
This is a very good guide for midwifery students preparing to practice, but it is not so good for mothers-to-be in search of a guide to pregnancy. For...moreThis is a very good guide for midwifery students preparing to practice, but it is not so good for mothers-to-be in search of a guide to pregnancy. For example, fetal development is condensed down to a single page.(less)
This is one of the very very few books devoted entirely to breech birth. It is an excellent resource but only to a certain extent as it was published...moreThis is one of the very very few books devoted entirely to breech birth. It is an excellent resource but only to a certain extent as it was published in 2003 and does not contain any of the new research conducted in the early 2000's in Germany and Canada. (less)
Juliana van Olphen-Fehr begins her memoir in 1976 with the birth of her first child and ends it in 1989 with the birth of her third and final child al...moreJuliana van Olphen-Fehr begins her memoir in 1976 with the birth of her first child and ends it in 1989 with the birth of her third and final child although she does give an update in the preface in the late 1990's when she had left private practice and taken a position as the coordinator of a nurse-midwifery program. She chronicles her home birth practice and details her experience as a nursing student, nurse, and nurse-midwife. A similar story is A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong.
A couple of caveats. Caveat #1: Much of the author's experience takes place prior to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act going into effect. EMTALA requires all hospitals that accept federal funds to have a doctor deliver any woman's baby who walks into the hospital in active labor no matter what. It can be the doctor on duty in the emergency and not an ob-gyn, but the hospitals are not legally allowed to refuse care to a woman in active labor. So, the problem Van Ophlen-Fehr faces of having doctors refuse to come to the hospital and deliver her patients' babies if they are transfered to the hospital has been completely eliminated. Caveat #2: The author is a certified nurse-midwife (CNM), meaning she earned a bachelor of science in nursing and then a master of science in midwifery, as opposed to certified practical/professional midwife (CPM,) also known as a direct-entry midwife, who has a bachelor of science in midwifery or a lay midwife who has no formal medical training and learned through apprenticeship. This distinction is important because, as a general rule, the more medical a midwife's educational background, the quicker and more aggressive she will be to insist on the necessity of medical intervention. Nurse-midwives are often negatively nicknamed "med-wives" because their protocols can align very closely with those of hospital and obstetricians. For example, in the book van Olphen-Fehr will hospital transfer just to be on the side despite the fact that nearly every time she is horrified about how savagely her patients are then treated. She refuses to attend breech births outside a hospital, and in one instance she nearly refuses to attend a mother at home whose labor begin at 37 weeks because she was earlier than her due date. Caveat #3: How van Olphen-Fehr witnesses women treated in the hospital will make you very angry and perhaps literally sick.