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Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  20,224 ratings  ·  2,319 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 2003)
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Feb 07, 2008 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 delivery expe ...more
Sep 26, 2014 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
Mar 11, 2013 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
Jan 15, 2009 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 & interventi
Aug 08, 2009 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
Jul 16, 2008 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
Heidi Hart
Apr 22, 2014 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
Invaluable education and resource for the childbirthing experience. A must read.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
If you really, really, really want a natural childbirth in a birthing center or at home this is a good book for you. Personally, I will be giving birth in a hospital. This book uses scare tactics to decrease medical intervention. While I agree that it is best to have an uncomplicated, natural vaginal birth, it doesn't always happen that way. Going into it with that specific plan is great, but I think women need to realize it doesn't always work out this way. I plan to go without pain meds for as ...more
Nov 15, 2012 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
Jan 24, 2016 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 positi
Dec 21, 2013 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 didn' ...more
Jan 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Everyone who steered me to this book did so because of the "empowering birth stories." This is all well and good, I guess, if you are planning an all-natural home birth, but far from true for hospital births. The science cited here, along with hospital procedures generally, is pretty outdated, which works nicely for the book's preferred method of persuasion: scare tactics. There's very much an overarching mixed message of "we totally don't judge women who choose hospital birth, but oh golly, tho ...more
I only read the middle section of this book, not the birth stories. I appreciated the positive attitude toward the body and the amazing things it can do if you just let it. However, I think it's a bit out of date, especially in terms of what the hospital will and won't allow (but we'll see).

One tip: the author claims you'll get through your contractions better if you express words of love to your partner during them.

Update: I was right. This book is very anti-hospital, and even though it claims
Jan 13, 2014 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
Jan 07, 2013 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
May 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Let me start off by saying that I don't take medicine when I'm sick. I also have a healthy skepticism about the pharmaceutical industry. I believe that holistic health and modern medicine can complement each other and that both have their faults.

Many women feel so ashamed about things like miscarriages, epidurals, c-sections, breastfeeding difficulties, formula feeding, etc. that they lie about their experiences because mommy shaming makes them feel like they've failed somehow. This book is not
Jul 03, 2008 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
Aislinn Blankenship
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A necessary read for anyone wanting to take the natural and unmediated route to giving birth - or just anyone who is interested in giving birth and wants to know more about their options.
Mar 11, 2012 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
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
Mar 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library
Unfortunately the research cited in this book is now almost 20 years old. I wish a new version would have been written with more up to date research and science considered. I also didn't like how biased it was, I was hoping for an open view of childbirth and what I got was a really negative view of hospitals and doctors. At one point she even accused doctors of not being able to discern research! It was really disappointing. Hospitals and doctors have come a loooong way in being more patient cen ...more
Alexandra Hays
Jan 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Not a fan. Honestly I thought most of it was just fear inspiring for anyone not having a birth center or home birth. If you are having big your baby at a hospital, read something else. It was extremely skewed against hospitals and biased. It felt like reading an extended advertisement for her birth center. If you want something with facts and evidence, read Emily Osters book instead.

As for birth stories, listen to the podcast “the birth hour” because they birth stories are better AND you’ll lea
Crystal Nelson
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This book wasn't for me. It's strongly one sided and I didn't agree with all the statements made (ie i don't think hospitals & doctors are the root of all evil). I also feel that it's it's ignorant to promote your near "perfect stats" when you only accept perfect patients to start. Doctors don't have that luxury. Anyway, enough with my soap box! There are a lot of positive reviews so I can see that it fits a niche for some. Just please don't take it as gospel, do your own research and absorb all ...more
This is a tricky one to review objectively (and I will preface my review by stating I’m not the ideal target audience, as I’m fully for giving birth in a hospital). On one hand, it provides some applicable advice to help you feel confident in facing labor. On the other hand, it often does so in the most biased way possible, frequently dipping into questionable “science” and “facts” about how horrible hospitals and OBGYNs are, and overly promoting the benefits of home births overseen by doulas/mi ...more
Lydia Miller
Sep 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I’ve heard this book highly recommended so many times. As I approach my own due date I decided I should read it.

The second half of the book had many helpful insights that I greatly appreciate. My husband made the good point, however, that if maternal death rates are not being accurately reported and the maternal death rate has remained steady or has increased recently, that is probably accounted for by assuming that the death rates were also being inaccurately recorded in the past. We are just n
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was a lot less helpful for me than I anticipated. I hoped for more tips on how to move or be when delivering and less of birthing stories and scaring tactics about caesareans and medication. Would I recommend this book? No ... or maybe, but definitely not if your goal is to find tips about how to live through the birthing process by different positions and movements.
May 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Update: nah.

Original review:

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 be
Aug 08, 2009 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
Jan 29, 2013 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
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2015 Reading Chal...: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin 8 40 Jul 17, 2015 10:29AM  
inspiring! 3 29 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

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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.” 110 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.” 44 likes
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