Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Favorite Birth Books

With all the little ones born recently, I thought it would be fitting to share some of my favorite books on childbirth! Most of these have been/are loaned out to various friends, because I believe that however and where ever you choose to give birth, the most important thing is that you are informed.

Make informed decisions about birth!

There are always surprises with childbirth, and things don't always go as you hoped or planned. But if you are knowledgeable and well-informed about all aspects of giving birth, you are much more likely to have a safe and satisfying birth (Not guaranteed, just more likely) and able to roll with the surprises that the birth experience can bring.

I believe that birth can be empowering, satisfying, and exhilerating, not just something you have to get through in order to get the baby! Although I think it's harder to experience that in the hospital, it's certainly not impossible. I saw this first hand with my friend Kellie's birth!

She knew she didn't want an I.V. or to be immobilized with constant electronic fetal monitoring, so she refused both of those and instead requested that the nurse do periodic fetal monitoring, which is proven to be just as effective in identifying problems in the baby and much better for the mom, allowing her freedom of movement*. She also labored in positions that felt the best to her. When the nurse told her to lay down, Kellie told her laying down was too painful and that she needed to stay at least in a semi-sitting position. She also asked that the baby's head be engaged before they break her water. Way to be informed and proactive!

If you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or know someone who is, I highly recommend these books:

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
by Henci Goer

If you read one book, make it this one! You can't help but be informed after reading this book. All the latest scientific studies and research on maternity care are carefully laid out and explained, giving women insight into the benefits and risks of common procedures. This book will give you the information and confidence needed to make informed choices in your maternity care and to have the best possible birth experience. I highly recommend it.

The Birth Book
by Dr. William and Martha Sears
This book is a very close second. Dr. Sears is a well-known pediatrician and his wife Martha is a labor coach and lactation consultant. Together they have eight children. In this comprehensive resource guide, the Searses explain the many options available to expecting couples along with pros and cons for each. You can head into childbirth relaxed, knowledgeable and confident after reading this book. The Birth Book is divided into three parts: "Preparing for Birth," "Easing Pain in Labor," and "Experiencing Birth." Everything is covered: vaginal births, cesareans, VBACs, water births, home births, birthing positions, drugs, managing pain, birth plans, and more. The book ends with a beautiful array of birth stories.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is the founding member and former president of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), a professional organization representing the profession of midwives. Since the mid-1970s, Gaskin and the midwives in her practice on a Summertown, Tenn., commune known as "The Farm," have attended over 2,200 natural births. This book is a compilation of her folk wisdom and insight into natural childbirth gained through years of experience and research. She writes in a very personal, yet knowledgeable manner, sharing ways that birth can be beautiful and not dreadful. I found this book to be very touching, informative, and helpful for both my homebirth and my hospital births. One word of warning, though; some may be turned off by the somewhat hippy-ish nature of Ina May's style. But if you can get past that, I think you'll find the book to be well worth the read. (Try skipping Part I of the book - which is all birth stories - and instead digging into Part II, The Essentials of Birth).

Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block

This book isn't a "how to" book on childbirth, but it is a fascinating, gripping read about the state of modern American maternity care.
"This provocative, highly readable expose raises questions of great consequence for anyone planning to have a baby in U.S., as well as those interested or involved in women's health care." ~Publisher's Weekly

"The book is loaded with interviews, statistics and...some quietly deft storytelling." -- Chicago Reader

Giving Birth: A Journey into the World of Mothers and MidwivesBy Catherine Taylor

Also not a "How To" book, but a very readable and enjoyable story.

"Examining midwife-attended childbirth in contemporary America, Taylor approaches the subject as both a creative journalistic investigator (her articles have appeared in Premiere, Rolling Stone, and Every Baby) and a consumer of the system she reports on (while writing the book, she became pregnant and gave birth). The result is a delightfully readable blend of scholarship, expos‚, and storytelling that is likely to become a classic." ~Library Journal

"One of the most important books on childbirth...A colorful, anecdotal, and research-supported journey from both the mothers' and midwives' perspectives...A classic." (Pam England, nurse-midwife and author of Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation)

I hope this is helpful. I own all these books (and more!) and am happy to loan them out. Several are also available at the library. They make great shower gifts, too. :)


*Researchers at the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said a review of the most significant controlled studies of the effectiveness and safety of electronic fetal monitoring indicated that routine use of the procedure had no measurable effect on death or illness of infants or mothers.
But they said electronic monitoring was associated with a higher rate of Caesarean deliveries, which increases surgical risks to mothers. ...
Electronic fetal monitoring has been controversial for years, with some women's health groups charging that it was accepted as standard practice before its effectiveness was proven and that it was an unnecessary interference in childbirth, particularly in low-risk pregnancies. Some doctors also say the devices result in unnecessary Caesarean sections because they can erroneously indicate that a fetus is in trouble.
The new study, published in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that electronic monitoring was not measurably better in spotting distress and indicating that intervention was necessary than the traditional practice of intermittent auscultation. With this method, a nurse or midwife closely monitors fetal heart rate with a stethoscope. If a problem is detected, the nurse can reposition the woman to relieve pressure that may be restricting the fetus's oxygen or give extra oxygen to the mother to increase levels in her blood stream.
Article from the New York Times


e&e said...

Thanks for the list and comments. I would add that I loved Ina May's stories. Yes, I agree that they were a bit "hippy-ish", but when I read her book years ago, it was the first time I had ever read stories about birth that were so positive. Usually, you get the horror stories, the Hollywood stories, or the "A Baby Story" stories that condense a life-changing, miraculous event into a 20 minute "highlights of routine" show that often ends in tension and a c-section. I think reading positive birth stories are a great way for a pregnant woman to get energized about the journey she is on.

And hey, she can start with yours! You should provide a link to Judah's birth story along with this post. That was a great one I've read more than once.

melissa said...

Elisa, I totally agree about the importance of reading positive birth stories! You're so right. Waaay too often we only hear the horror stories or Hollywood versions. I did enjoy reading the stories of normal, happy births in Ina May's book.

I was thinking about some people who might feel that home birth or even natural hospital birth is for crunchy granola types and not for them, and those stories might reinforce that idea.

But getting past the 70's terminology and taking those birth stories for what they are - examples of normal, healthy, enjoyable births - would benefit every reader!

Thanks for your insight.

sojourners said...

awesome insight! i absolutely loved sears' book. if it wasn't for you giving it to me to read, my labor and birth with phinehas would have been much different. instead it is a cherished memory!