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Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  392 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
I delivered twenty babies in the summer of 1977. I was hardly more than a baby myself, just turned twenty-four and starting my third year of medical school.”—from Birth Day

So began Mark Sloan’s three-decades-long exploration of the wonders and oddities of human childbirth. Pediatrician, husband, and father, the author has attended nearly three thousand births since that l
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published 2009)
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Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating. Before James was born I must have read almost fifty books on pregnancy, babies, and the like. I found them informative and some, alarming. Not one of them touched on the interesting topics of the changes that a fetus undergoes to become a baby, the why's of how the mother and baby change, the ways that pregnancy can affect an involved father, and the history behind the practices of childbirth methods and philosophies of today. This book did. It was an absorbing rea ...more
Jun 29, 2015 added it
This book was very informative and well-balanced regarding the different types of maternity and labor care for women. A lot of fun facts about fetuses and such. Someone MUST write a historical novel about the first doctor to perform c-sections! (I'd do it, but I don't like research.)
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mommyhood
Erin, this is my go-to book recommendation for expectant moms although it's not written for the parent-to-be. In fact, this was even more fascinating AFTER giving birth than it was before. I think I read it early in my first pregnancy, so some of it went over my head. It answered some of my questions in a not-too-sciencey way (What happens to the umbilical cord once it goes into the baby?) and I loved the "how cool is that" tone about birth! Also, it's funny. I didn't read too many birth or pare ...more
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baby-pregnancy
I really enjoyed this book - written by a pediatrician. He really takes you on a tour of what childbirth was like throughout the ages and how we got where we are today (good and bad). And I especially like that he has his opinions, but is also very diplomatic about how he presents his facts. For example, he's not anti-cesearean, but you can tell that he doesn't agree that many people choose it because they don't want the pain of labor. He'd prefer to see more pain relief choices in the US (as th ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the history of child birth
First 2 confessions - 1) I partially got this book from the library because it amused me that it was written by a Mark Sloan, and 2) I skipped the last chapter because it wasn't related to pregnancy or labour.

I enjoyed reading this. It had a lot of good historical information presented with a mix of personal experiences of the author. It was interesting learning about how things have changed from ancient times, especially within the last couple hundred years. I appreciated the fairly unbiased p
May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Birth Day is an amazing book. One of the best I've read on childbirth. It's a book I'd recommend to every mother-to-be, father-to-be and parent. Dr. Mark Sloan writes from his own experiences as a pediatrician, interspersing stories of his patients with medical information, quirky medical history and advice to new parents. If you're wondering what a fetus sees and hears inside the womb, Dr. Sloan will tell you. If you'd like to know what the shocking transition from womb to world might be like f ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting book with lots of fascinating information. I gave it 3 stars because, though I enjoyed it, it wasn't the kind of book that I couldn't put down. I would definitely recommend this to anyone. Whether you are expecting or done having babies, it gives a fascinating look at the evolution of having babies covering such topics as c-sections, painless births, doulas, circumcision, the senses of a fetus and how this knowledge all came to be and more.
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great exploration of labor, birth, and the newborn baby. A pretty objective discussion that includes some controversial topics like unmedicated birth versus having an epidural and whether to circumcize baby boys or not. Lots of cool tidbits of information on unique subjects like what goes on inside the newborn baby's body on the other side of the belly button once the umbilical cord is cut.
Jun 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was a nicely written tour of birth. It includes everything from evolution of the primate pelvis, the author's experience as an obstetric intern, a historical tour of medical interventions and anaesthesia, and the author's take on the modern hospital birth scenario including doulas (pro), epidurals (mixed), and postnatal testing. None of it is overbearing, and it's well written.
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is the only pregnancy-related book I've found worth reading so far. Some cool evolutionary discussion and lots of interesting facts about what goes on with the baby in the womb.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book. Some kindle quotes:

One in every thirty or so babies fractures a collarbone (or two) during birth. - location 382

In some monkey species, the newborn actually assists at its own birth. Once its arms are free of the birth canal, the half-born baby uses its hands to push the rest of its body out of its mother—a feat that would earn a human baby a year’s worth of tabloid front pages. - location 397

two hundred years ago, in my ancestral Irish village, I’d have been faced with disaster: Eli
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was cool!

Did you know?

• The first well-documented, successful Cesarean was performed in 1826 in South Africa by Dr. James Barry—who managed a 40-year medical career before anyone discovered “he” was actually a woman.
• For pain management during labor, Pliny the Elder prescribed drinks containing ground snails, earthworms, and goose poop. Other ancient labor pain remedies included belly salves made from viper fat, eel gall, powdered donkey hoof, and snake tongues.
• Queen Victoria was e
Megan Palasik
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, babies
This book was great! I've been wanting to read it for a while and am glad I finally finished it. I gave it 4/5 stars because it took me quite a while to finish it, not because it was long, but because the information and writing got a little dry for me in the middle of the book. I actually put it down for a week, tried again, put it down a little while longer, then picked it back up to finish it. The last few chapters were very interesting for me because they had to do with the actual baby just ...more
Elizabeth McDonald
A must-read for expectant parents of a scientific bent - but equally interesting to nerds without imminent children. After all, all of us were born ourselves at some point in time, so it's a relevant topic! Sloan explains the biology of the process of giving birth, along with walking the reader through the ways in which humans have treated the process differently as modern medicine passed through different trends. He explores pain management during childbirth, cesarean sections, and the infant's ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am reading this book for the second time. I read it for the first time back when I went through a huge natural childbirth reading spree before having my second child. I wanted tons of info and tons of positive stories and this was one of the books I ran across and read. I returned it to the library after I was done and regretted not writing down the title or author because it was truly an amazing book. The section on the first five minutes after birth and the changes that a baby goes through f ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Earlier this week, I finished reading Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and Wonder of Childbirth, by Mark Sloan, MD (I kid you not, Grey’s Anatomy fans!). The introduction and first chapter or so didn’t sit well with me, partly because Sloan (being a male), would make comparisons between a garage and a woman’s vagina. The descriptions of a woman’s reproductive system left a lot to be desired, to say the least. But as the book continued, it got better and better. Compar ...more
Rebecca Reid
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Awwwww … newborn babies! I am a bit excited by the image of an innocent, soft, wrinkly newborn baby these days, for obvious reasons. Less than eight more weeks until a newborn daughter joins my family!

I found Birth Day by Mark Sloan (published 2009) one day when I was browsing the shelves looking for something about pregnancy or babies, and it was just perfect! Dr. Sloan is a pediatrician, regularly on rotation at the hospital to care for the newborns who may need a little assistance getting sta
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am absolutely loving this book. Not even finished yet, but had to review already.

One of my best friend's mom sent it to me when she learned I was pregnant.It is written by the father of a former student of hers. It is an in depth look at delivery and babies. It tells the history of birthing, and goes through the science in a very understandable way.

If you aren't much into science and knowing the gory details (not that they are that gory) of natural and cesarean births this may not be the boo
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Like some of the other reviewers:
I picked this up at the library because the author is Mark Sloan (Grey's Anatomy for those who don't watch). And I'm only 60 pages in, but already have to share how much I'm enjoying this.

Just got to a bit about how "cesarean section" is actually redundant, and means "cutting cutting." I love that Sloan includes that fact, and I can't help but think that the repetition is appropriate. It's not just a surgical birth, it's a CUTTING CUTTING!

The pace slows down aft
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Maybe because I recently just had a baby, or maybe just because the history of our modern "birthing" intrigues me, but I found it very entertaining and educational.

Dr. Sloan covers the gamut from why humans give birth at a gestation period of 9 months to how come most newborns actually look pretty similar.

It was especially interesting to learn why for such a long time women were required to give birth while lying on their backs (thank the French monarchy) to how my grandmothe
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I greatly enjoyed reading this book after I'd worked my way through the slew of natural birth books out there and their counterparts shrieking about how natural childbirth is a death wish. He gives a very reasoned accounting of the overuse of epidureals and how women are not told about the many side effects associated with them, and was the first person I read to point out that nitrous oxide, a common and inexpensive labor assisting medication in much of Europe and Canada, is missing in US hospi ...more
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book on birth for the science nerd!!! I loved learning about how evolution has made labor so different compared to a female gorilla, the reason newborns have no neck and look almost identical (no more "he looks like Daddy" comments please), and the sensory world of the womb. He also goes into the history of pain relief, such as the awesome poison/morphine combo of the Twilight Sleep method, and the way ancient Greeks ruled out babies too weak to survive by dunking them in cold st ...more
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: birth
I learned a lot from this book. It's more of a collection of essays than a book that is supposed to be a comprehensive guide to birth. Which means that it goes more in-depth than most books about the topics covered, which include the baby's physical transition at birth, history of cesarean section, history and politics of pain-relieving drugs, dad's involvement, history of birth attendants (including doulas), physical characteristics of a fetus and newborn, and newborn resuscitation. Mark Sloan ...more
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great read for me right now as an expectant mother and pediatrician. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about Dr. Sloan's medical training with the caricature of the resident Mitch and later working with the future neurologist medical student. For the lay person, the medical history is rich, well told as a story, with quite a few surprises. The story behind the doctor who performed the first successful c-section was a personal favorite, as well as the chapter on alternatives to epidurals use ...more
Laura Lucy
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this book while pregnant, but it's certainly not a book just for preggos. Actually, I doubt most pregnant women would be that into it, but I found it fascinating. It explores the history of childbirth and how various methods of delivery, pain management, etc. have evolved. You'll learn about things like how women ended up laboring in bed on their backs, the surprising story behind the first known successful C-section and the differences between how labor pain is managed today in the U.S. ...more
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this book, it was informative while not pushing one method of birth or another. I really enjoyed learning about the history of the medical procedures surrounding birth (some of them are fascinating), and then learning more about how they're done today was helpful as I'm in my first pregnancy right now and I didn't know very much. He's also an enjoyable voice to read, friendly and funny, the kind of doctor you want around. So this was an enjoyable, informative, interesting read.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I haven't read a ton of pregnancy/birth books, but I enjoyed this one better than others. I do think overall he has pretty balanced things to say about both routine medical interventions in birth and some of the benefits of what the natural birth community says, and the history behind those things. Mostly though, he focuses on discussing the newborn baby. Since I'm more interested in the baby than the birth this book was a great read for me.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thought it was an interesting point of view about Childbirth. I enjoyed reading it and learning some of his insights, etc. I thought it kind of obnoxious and one-minded though that he focused so much on evolution and that's the reasoning behind so many things.... no, I do not agree that we came from apes. And, yes there is a reason that a human fetus is able to recognize faces, even before he has seen them. It's called, we lived in Heaven before we came to earth... Anyway, still a good book.
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction
I love books like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, with their straightforward, scientific view of something that often carries a deep emotional impact. Birth Day takes what Stiff does to death and does the same thing with birth. Medical but without an agenda, it covers everything from the five senses of the fetus to labor pain care through history to the Cesarian misnomer. Fascinating, fascinating.

Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
I literally passed out while reading this book. I was on the subway reading a graphic description of a caesarian procedure as would have happened in the 1800s... and fainted right there on my feet! I woke up to a circle of peering faces, asking "What happened?" Looking down I saw the book was still in my hand, finger as bookmark. Well written and clearly written, but take note, squeamish dads-to-be!
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