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Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,434 ratings  ·  185 reviews
These days, many mothers-to-be find themselves torn between the desire for a natural childbirth with minimal medical intervention and the peace of mind offered by instant access to life-saving technology that only a hospital can provide. In Natural Hospital Birth, doula Cynthia Gabriel asserts that there is no good reason that women in North America should not be able to ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by Harvard Common Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic resource for women wanting a natural experience, but also the peace of mind of birthing in a hospital with all the technology available in the small chance that anything would go wrong. It is empowering, accessible and smart. Gabriel's passion for birth is evident and she knows her stuff - it is a great resource for first time birthing mothers because she references so many of the natural birth schools of thought. It is also one of the first birthing books I've read that ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the most valuable book I've read on labor and delivery yet. Although the target audience is for those seeking to have an unmedicated birth at a hospital, I think *all* expecting parents should read it, regardless of whether they are pursuing that route, home birth, or birth with medical intervention at the hospital. This book goes into explicit detail about the different phases of labor and delivery, pain management methods (natural and medical), techniques on how to effectively ...more
Sharon Dodge
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book almost against my will; the first chapter or so wasn't to my taste at all, full of visualizations and general gooeyness that left me cold. But then it surprised me; a book that actually addressed different cultural experiences surrounding birth, and discussed useful tips on how to handle a staff that is bent on making a decision for you - particularly for folks who, by virtue of rural location, might only have one doctor or staff available to them who might still believe in ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, pregnancy
The idea that a natural birth is possible in a hospital setting is exciting, but what this book demonstrates despite its optimistic title is that it is nearly impossible. Rather than a "natural" childbirth, this book shows you how to demand, bargain, fight, and plead every step of the way for the least invasive and medically managed childbirth possible under 21st century hospital policies. Unless you are giving birth in a hospital rated Baby-Friendly by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, ...more
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
I think this is a great book for any mama who is looking for a natural birth, but would like to do so in a hospital. The book walks through a lot of information from the stages of labor to postpartum. I found the chapter on the stages of labor to be very interesting as well as all of graphic throughout the book. The author also talks about a variety of birthing position and natural ways of dealing with the pain of labor. Most of the information I have read or heard before, but it was still a ...more
I absolutely loved this book. As a first time mommy, I felt completely unprepared to have my baby. I am terrified of hospitals, and my biggest fear was being stuck in a hospital bed and not being able to move, just waiting for my child to be born. After my anxious, jittery self read this book cover to cover three times, I felt more than prepared to have my baby girl. There is great information in here for women who want the most natural birth possible but also want the safety of a hospital ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The more I think about this book (now 10 months out of delivering my daughter), the more I appreciate this book. It's a really practical, non-judgmental/non-fanatical guide to having a natural birth while in a hospital. I think it's geared more for people who are using a more traditional practice of obgyns, so since I used a midwife group I didn't find I needed to "fight" for many of the things she talks about. But, I found all the suggestions for things to do at home while in early labor and ...more
Kami Chaudhery
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My doula recommended this book to me and I am so grateful that she did. I relied on it heavily in preparing for my VBAC - and believe the book contributed to my success. It contains a lengthy discussion of things you can do to improve your hospital birth experience, including very practical and effective methods for dealing with hospital staff. I suggest it to all my pregnant friends, even if they want an epidural, as it’s so informative.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the publisher ---
Many mothers-to-be find themselves torn between choosing a natural childbirth with minimal medical intervention, and the peace of mind offered by instant access to life-saving technology that only a hospital can provide.
Cynthia Gabriel, a doula who has attended hundreds of births and who advises hospitals on how to facilitate low-intervention childbirths, knows that new
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. I liked that the author gave examples of dialogue to use with hospital staff. Some of them support natural birth, but this is uncommon. Cynthia Gabriel prepares you to build the confidence to proceed with your desire for a natural birth, without getting confrontational with the healthcare professionals.

There were a lot of tips and advice, not only for the mother-to-be, but for her partner as well. It included everything from helping to relieve pain, to how to be an
Kris Dersch
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this cover to cover when pregnant with my first child in 2014 and just picked up the new edition at the library to review for my second birth coming up this summer. A helpful resource. Doesn't drown itself in negativity and controversy like many on this topic can with some super helpful easy tips. I had a pretty traumatic birth last time at 33 weeks and was surprised by how helpful I found the information in this book even in that situation. Whether you have a doula, have a preemie, have ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, very helpful book. Instead of denying that childbirth is painful, the author acknowledges it and suggests detailed ways of managing it. She describes on how to work with your hospital team instead of fighting them, and is thorough on the positives and negatives of each intervention and how to respond when brought up. Very positive throughout.
I would have preferred no commentary on hospital vaccines after the birth.
Nothing against the book, more against my overpreparing, but it was repeating stuff I'd read in other books at this point. If you are looking for one book to read that's not too woo and not too "there's nothing you can do birth plans are for suckers," this might be it.
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In my search for information on natural birth, I had a lot of books recommended to me. Unfortunately, most of them really just felt useless and full of anti-obstetrician fear mongering. I started getting frustrated with the attitude in these books that women who wanted to give birth naturally needed to do it at home or with a mid-wife. I don't have a non-hospital birthing center nearby, I have no interest in traveling to some hippi commune somewhere hours away to give birth, and I'm really not ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I got so much from this book. It's not a big book; it's pretty quick to get through, which is a great bonus.

Some background: I would, indeed, like to give birth without drugs or other medical interventions. I'm pregnant with my first. I had actually pictured myself giving birth at home, but my husband was uncomfortable with that idea, and understandably so. We are in uncharted water here. I've been told that I shouldn't get attached to a birth plan or even the idea of a drug-free birth because
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My first birth ended in a c-section, which was quite traumatic for me and left me in pain for many months. When I found out a few months ago that I am pregnant with twins, I figured I would have to throw my plans for a normal delivery out the window. Reading this book gave me back the confidence I needed to find a care provider who would support an attempt at a natural, VBAC twin delivery. I appreciate the special attention the book gives to birthing multiples and dealing with a VBAC. I used ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-family
I should start with a note that I am not opposed to using interventions such as pitocin or epidurals. I read this book while expecting my fifth child and had the previous four with epidurals. 3 of the 4 worked out great, the last did not so I started doing research on pain coping techniques should the same ever happen again.

This book is written toward first time mothers who want a completely natural birth but are delivering in the hospital for whatever reason. I like the open mindedness of this
Antara Basu-Zych
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
what a great resource! I'll have to report back based on how the tips worked in practice in a few months, but I definitely saw great, helpful discussion about situations that happened in my first birth. I can see that if I had read this book back then, and put some of the advice to work, I might have felt more satisfied and in control of the experience. This time I expect I am better prepared. I liked that there was a good balance of stories and real-life experiences with scientific research and ...more
Krystal Williams
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
How do you achieve a birth free of medical interventions in a place where medical interventions are routine? Author Cynthia Gabriel is a doula and medical anthropologist who gives a comprehensive overview of what to expect if you plan to give birth naturally in a hospital.

Gabriel gives advice on how to communicate with your caregiver and the hospital staff to enlist their support and cooperation with your birth experience. She also outlines how to write out a birth plan, including two real-life
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is written both for the American and Canadian audience, though it feels a bit more American. It is up-to-date (2011) and has so many helpful tips for those looking to avoid unnecessary medical interventions. It also does a great job explaining when an intervention is truly unnecessary and when it would be life-saving. I like that the author's background is so varied: she's got a doctorate in medical anthropology and she's a doula, for example. Her advice feels well-rounded and ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Even though I don't think I'll be giving birth in a hospital, I still found this book extremely informative. It's more frank and realistic than some of the other natural birth books I've read. It has in-depth explanations of every stage of labor, a myriad of coping mechanisms for each one, and many different birthing stories that illustrate the personal approaches different women have taken to help them through difficult decisions/situations. The writer seems very knowledgeable.

Another thing I
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Good read for those considering having a baby without pain reducing drugs. The part that stands out most in my mind was when the author described the various stages of labor and the pain that one feels during those stages and how you might be feeling emotionally. Basically, you might think you're doing to die! It's good to be realistic about the pain. After all, there's no point in thinking, yeah, maybe I'll do this as long as it doesn't hurt too much because it is going to hurt- there is no ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! I wish I would have read this before having my first child. I am confident that I could have avoided a c-section if I had known some of this information beforehand. It's very applicable and even has phrases you can say to avoid certain interventions if you feel they are unnecessary. There's a section about how to tell if something really is a crisis so you can feel confident standing your ground without worrying that you're going to harm your baby. More than anything, it helped me ...more
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newly-read-2014
Even though I'm hoping to live in a place that has midwives and doulas that love home birth and to be a low risk in that sense as well, this book is fantastic. Much more than just dealing with getting your ideal birth in a hospital, this is the first book I've actually read that directly confronts "What does giving birth feel like?" This is a question that I feel haunts many women. Reading birth stories, even, don't give a good description of this, because the mother's recollections are colored, ...more
Isaac Baker
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is obviously written for women, but it's very relevant for birth partners and supporters as well. I really enjoyed Gabriel's approach, a mix of anthropological, sociological, anatomical and emotional perspectives. She knows her science and she clearly has a lot of experience in knowledge, but she's able to convey the information in a highly relatable way. She isn't preachy or dogmatic at all, rather she seems focused on providing as much information possible so women can make the best ...more
Jeanna Aarhus
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I live in Alabama where midwifery is illegal. Clearly the option of a home birth, as most of the natural childbirth books and blogs I've read recommend, is not available to me. This book provides a very passionate yet practical method of getting the birth you want in a hospital. Being a first time mother, I do not know what to except, but this book has provided me with tools and techniques to help me feel more prepared and less afraid of natural childbirth. I highly recommend this read for ...more
Katie Whitney
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book has the most extensive description of sensations a woman may experience during labor and childbirth of any of the pregnancy books I've ever read. At 5 months pregnant, I feel so much more prepared after having read this. The beginning is a bit self-helpy, but when she gets to the nitty gritty (say, of understanding the difference between early and active labor or of knowing when to go to the hospital), the book becomes an indispensable guide for any woman who wants to experience birth ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I initially wanted a home birth but it just wasn't an option where I live. Particularly helpful sections included how to differentiate between what the nurses/hospital "wants" you to do for their comfort and convenience and what is actually medically necessary. I feel like I am well informed for the things I will have to say "no" to and have appropriate phrases (like, "can we wait an hour before doing xyz?") to help achieve the type of birth I want. Highly readable with loads ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
As the title might clue one in, this is a great book for anyone that's planning to have a natural hospital birth. The book covered labor in good detail, and gave a lot of tips about how to make sure you have the birth you want and not the one the hospital is predisposed to give you.

I'm happy I have a doula, but without her, this book would have stood alone as a good resource for going the natural hospital route.
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First time moms question 1 8 Oct 23, 2011 08:42PM  

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I'm a mother of three, a doula, childbirth educator, and medical anthropologist. I teach about the experiences of pregnancy, labor, birth, and parenting across the world, especially in Russia, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. I think all new parents need our support to do this incredible work of raising our Future. You can find my thoughts here: and here ...more
“Your brain has only a tiny thread of a connection to the outside world. If the connection is full of fear, your pain will get out of control. If your connection to the real world is full of calm reassurance, you can go about your task of letting go.” 1 likes
“Women who are upset about their birth experiences but who did not write birth plans often say, "If only I had known" or "If only I had prepared." In contrast, mothers who prepare for a natural birth and write birth plans but end up with necessary interventions do not have to blame themselves for lack of preparation. They are free to mourn without self-recrimination.” 0 likes
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