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Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,388 ratings  ·  125 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 ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 272 pages
Published March 16th 1992 by Harvard Common Press (first published January 1st 1983)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  1,388 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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Nov 26, 2015 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 ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, clear, empowering, and motivational. Even though the book was published in 1983, Janet Balaskas draws clearly from movement history and tradition around childbirth to write a book that seems, even now in 2019, ahead of the curve in natural childbirth trends. Glad I found it at a book sale and glad to have read it with about a month left in this pregnancy.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: breeding, chicklits
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 ...more
Dec 15, 2009 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 ...more
Mar 16, 2012 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, ...more
May 05, 2009 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 ...more
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
I have read quite a few pregnancy books, since I like to read and I am a planner! Active Birth was written in the 1990's so it hasn't been updated in quite a while but still provided a good deal of useful information. I personally tend to lean towards a more natural and "crunchy" approach to most things, including pregnancy and childbirth. Active Birth is, as the title states, focused on a natural and non-medicated birth. The thing I found the most useful about this book was the inclusion of all ...more
Sep 14, 2008 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.
Jul 02, 2015 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 Elidrissy
Oct 19, 2015 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
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I prefer this as a labor approach compared to hypnobirthing and some others because of its emphasis on being active - not just “trying to relax.” This certainly comes down to personality and preference - some may prefer to try to Zen out, but if you want to feel more in control (as much as possible with something as unpredictable as birth), I recommend this book. It offers exercises you can do to prep your body (which are mostly basic yoga moves), and advocates staying upright and in active ...more
Charity Dušíková
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was recommended to me by a friend as the “best book [she] read concerning natural birth.” It has a lot of great recommendations for poses for preparing the body for birth and also poses to assume during birth and after birth. Of coure, as any birth book goes, it also discusses how a natural birth proceeds. I would definitely recommend it.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women
2.5 stars. I mostly skimmed this... a good book for initial research, but at this stage in my self-education, I found most of the information to be familiar concepts I have already learned in order places, and possibly more in-depth. I found the most value in the section with illustrations and photos of laboring and birthing positions.
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A little dated (it was written in the early 90s after all) and most of the topics were covered in other books I read. But I appreciate the sentiment of active, upright birth and will definitely rely on some of these techniques for my own labor!
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another great book recommended by our birthing class instructor. I’ll definitely be using the yoga poses in the few weeks left until our due date, the poses for active labor, and the post partum exercises.
The photos may be outdated but the book is still excellent!
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
11/52 of the 2018 challenge!
Nerida Hart
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Good book for anyone interested in childbirth, even if your plan isn’t to go completely natural. Get ready to laugh at the 70s pics. In all seriousness, great book on the full process of childbirth.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best, most practical birthing book I read.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I skipped over the chapters on exercise and massage but found the rest of the book very helpful.
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Could be summed up with one word: squat.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a great first book to read about labor and delivery. It builds the case for trying to birth naturally in upright positions and provides a lot of helpful tips and techniques that can be done throughout pregnancy to prepare. The overall message is very positive - that laboring women are in control of their birth experience. We’ll see how it really goes in practice!
Jul 01, 2013 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 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
Apr 21, 2010 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
Dec 06, 2007 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 ...more
Oct 05, 2008 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 ...more
Jan 11, 2011 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
Mar 12, 2011 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,
Noa Raanan
Feb 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Interesting but very depressing. Women has the right to choose how they want to give birth, even if it's the "bad" way with god-forbid-epidural.
Emily Marks
Jul 13, 2011 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 ...more
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