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Book Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

PhotobucketIna May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin has two parts. The first half is a collection of positive birth stories from women who conquered childbirth without the use of pharmaceutical aids like an epidural. The second half is called “The Essentials of Birth” and basically goes over the capabilities and power the body contains and can use during childbirth.

This is a great book for those contemplating a drug-free childbirth. The birth stories alone are inspiring and even empowering. The accompanying pictures are a little, well, unconventional (ie, revealing) and there’s certainly a surprise at some turns of the page! But hey, you’ve got to get past that soon enough anyway right? Plus it’s always good to be prepared!

There are some great tips embedded within the birth stories – stuff to help deal with “the rushes,” which is what the group of midwives call contractions, such as walking, leaning on a helper, squatting, etc. The stories don’t really focus on the pain of childbirth. Rather, the focus is overcoming the pain and finding the strength within oneself to not only survive but enjoy the birth experience. After reading these stories I know that it is certainly possible for this to be a positive, even enlightening, experience!

The second half of the book explains some of the pointers from the birth stories in more detail. At times it seems like the chapters are geared toward students of midwifery, and I’m sure they use this book too (a Doula friend of mine who is studying midwifery saw that I was reading it and commented that it’s a really great book, so I know the students are reading it!). However, most of the time when Ina May is addressing the reader she is obviously envisioning a pregnant woman as her target.

This book very much has a home birth or birth center slant. Ina May is the principal midwife in a community known as “The Farm” located in rural Tennessee. People live on The Farm in what I can imagine is a sort of sustainable community (grow their own organic food, help each other out, that sort of thing) and people also come to The Farm specifically to give birth with the awesome staff of very knowledgeable midwives. The statistics they’ve accumulated are impressive, such as a very low two percent c-section rate (the national average is about 30%). Home birth is very much the preferred environment to Ina May, so be prepared for that if your plan does not (or cannot due to insurance reasons) include home birth.

The varieties of drugs for reducing pain and inducing labor are also discussed. This is the one area of the book that I felt was a bit frightening (none of the birth stories were as scary as the drugs!). I understand that these drugs do have side effects and really aren’t idea for the mother or baby, but if I do have to have them for some reason I think all the knowledge I now have about them (between this book and Hey!LINK) could cause some anxiety.

The rest of the information more than makes up for the scary drug parts, though. Positions for productive labor and pushing are taught. The uselessness of episiotmies is reviewed. Even the orgasmic powers of birth are disclosed! All of this is motivating enough to want to give natural childbirth a try!

I checked this book out from my local library but I will probably either check it out again or see if I can get a cheap used copy somewhere. Mr. Handsome just started reading it when I had to take it back (it was on hold by others so I couldn’t renew – sad face) and all the information would be very useful for him too so I’ll definitely get it again somehow. I have a feeling that I’ll forget all this great info in the heat of the moment so I’ll need him to be armed with it too!

Overall, this is an excellent book and a must-read for those contemplating or dead-set on a drug-free and positive birth experience.

Next review: Choosing Waterbirth by Lakshmi Bertram

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