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Gentle Birth Choices: A Guide to Making Informed Decisions about Birthing Centers, Birth Attendants, Water Birth, Home Birth, and Hospital Birth Paperback – June 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Nurse, midwife, and founder of the Global Maternal/Child Health Association (GMCHA), Harper offers her addition to the growing number of alternative childbirth books (e.g., Catherine M. Pool & Elizabeth A. Parr, Choosing a Nurse-Midwife, LJ 5/1/94). Considering GMCHA's focus on water birth, it is not surprising that the major strength of Gentle Birth Choices is its thorough coverage of this birthing technique as an option. Unlike many other alternative birth guides, Harper's book is well documented, citing many well-recognized medical journals. A special plus is one of the appendixes, "Procedures and Protocols for Hydrotherapy for Labor and Birth," and the book also contains a large section of resources. Much of the information not specific to water birth can be found in other works. A nice addition to larger women's health collections but otherwise optional.
KellyJo Houtz Griffin, Harrison Memorial Hosp., Bremerton, Wash.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Believe it or not, birth resulting from a normal pregnancy needn't take place in a hospital. Harper explains why birthing centers and home births, along with other "gentle birth choices," are beneficial to both mother and baby. With a foreword by Robbie Davis Floyd, who wrote Birth as an American Rite of Passage (1992), Gentle Birth Choices also features a history of how childbirth came to be so technological and blasts myths such as why fetal monitors save babies (they don't, very often). Harper also discusses giving birth in water and explores the connection of mind and body during labor and birth. She stresses the importance of midwives for a more natural and satisfying experience. Well illustrated with photos by acclaimed birth photographer Suzanne Arms and containing a first-rate resource section, Gentle Birth Choices provides an excellent alternative to mainstream birth books. Jo Peer-Haas

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892814802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892814800
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Harper, a former obstetric and neonatal nurse, is a midwife, doula, childbirth educator and social reform advocate. She is an internationally recognized expert on waterbirth and childbirth practices and she teaches and consults within hospitals, universities and community groups worldwide. She was recognized in 2002 by Lamaze International for her contributions to promoting normal birth on an international level. She is the author of Gentle Birth Choices - new revised edition released in September 2005. She has produced two remarkable videos, Gentle Birth Choices and Birth Into Being: The Russian Waterbirth Experience. Her next book The Complete Guide to Waterbirth will be ready for publication in 2011, followed immediately by "Embracing the Miracle: How Pregnancy, Birth and the First Hour Influence Human Potential." Barbara has dedicated her life to helping heal the way we welcome babies into the world and to help parents and providers understand the benefits of the use of warm water immersion during labor. Barbara considers her greatest achievement, though, the birth and rearing of her three children (all in successful careers). Her two youngest sons were born at home in water. She lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where she is active in her community as a volunteer, a midwifery and doula mentor and teacher.
Her primary website is (with and in development)
Her Gentle Birth Guardian five day intensive for maternity care workers (midwives, doctors, doulas, nurses - anyone who works with women in birth) has been taught successfully to rave reviews in Canada, Taiwan, Mexico and now in the US. It is highly acclaimed and fills up quickly.
For more information about any topic you can email Ms. Harper at:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Ruby on January 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Reading negative comments of writer who had positive hosp. birth experience in Austin, TX, i wish to point out that Texas has one of the most active midwifery associations in our country - they have been instrumental in advancing natural birth practices in Texas. You were fortunate to have the options you shared - they are still not the norm for hospital births in much of our country. I live in Virginia Beach, VA, am a nurse, mom and grandmom. Hosp. births here still leave a lot to be desired. Episotomies are standard, induction and c-section rate are very high. When I went to nursing school in the 1980's, I was not taught anything about natural childbirth, I was taught that women needed interventions and taught about the interventions. It wasn't until I became natural childbirth educator that I found out how our bodies really work during birthing and how to work with the body's natural birth capabilities. Many women live in localities where they need to be aware that they have other options than what is traditionally offered in their communities- they may have to fight for their right to have the birth of their choice. This book does an excellent job at empowering women to look for healthy birth choices- I look forward to the day when your experience of forward thinking and practices in a hospital setting is the norm, rather than the exception.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Harper has good points and empowers women to make wise choices and take responsiblity for their own labor, deliver, births. Unlike the reader who found it to be information not pertinent to today (I wish I had her hospital & doctor in my town), my birth experience with my first (& so far only child) was very much taken out of my control. My child was never in danger, I was never in danger. And despite my "birth plan" and my constantly telling my doctor that I was okay with however long my labor took as long as baby & me were fine,she intervened and eventually I ended up with a c-section. Hospital protocol dictated that I be put in hospital gown, hooked up to iv and fetal monitor despite the fact that it slowed my labor and made the pains more intense. A nurse came in every hour and offered me some sort of pain releif despite the fact that I had expressed that I didn't want it. She'd tell me I didn't have to be martyr. That was agrivating. As a result, I've been looking for hope to avoid this the next time around. Had I read this book before I believe I would NOT have the physical or emotional scars of the cesearean. I know some women are okay with their c-sections and I probably would be too if I knew that my life or my baby's life had been saved. But neither of us were ever in jeporady.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have always been really scared of the birthing process. After reading this book, I felt much more empowered and confident about the whole process. Now I am really looking forward to it and feel like I understand so much more about how our bodies naturally can help us through birthing. This book sparked my interest and now I have learned a lot more about natural, drug-free birthing options. I am excited instead of scared. As with anything, we still need to make our own personal decisions about how we want to do things, but I really feel like reading this book opened me up to many options that I wasn't aware of or hadn't considered. It amazes me how many people go through being pregnant and birthing with a very limited view of how it "should be done". When I was reading the book, there were so many times where I thought, "yeah, that makes a lot of sense", even though I had never thought about it myself.
I highly recommend this book!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kristina Fraction on October 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was pretty sure I wanted a midwife when I bought this book. I was hoping for an instruction guide to birthing gently, more naturally, with a CNM rather than an OB.
What this book actually is, is a guide to deciding what kind of birth to have. It's a bit preachy, too, not unusually so, but not exactly openminded, either. So if you are wondering if there is a better way, but don't know anything about midwifery or homebirth, you might learn something. If you have, say, researched it on the Internet, you might already know what this book has to say.
I would recommend one of Ina May Gaskin's great books before this one.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gentle Birth Choices is an excellent book for all expectant parents, regardless of their birthing intentions (i.e. birth center, home birth, hospital birth, natural birth or water birth). Moreover, childbirth educators of any affiliation will benefit from the information covered in the text and on video.
Gentle Birth Choices is riveting, yet powerful. Barbara Harper guides the reader through a history of birth and birthing procedures, dispels the myths perpetuated by the medical establishment and presents alternatives to hospital birth. However, for those who are unable to birth outside of a hospital, Ms. Harper provides guidance so that the reader may obtain the best, "gentle" birth possible. The book benefits expectant parents in that it presents them with options, some of which they may have not previously considered. Moreover, childbirth educators will not only find the book informative for teaching purposes, but also useful for influencing the medical establishment in a tactful manner.
Like the book, the video is an asset for both expectant parents and educators. Whether you have never seen a birth before or have witnessed thousands, the births contained in the video tape are absolutely beautiful and refreshing, relaxing yet empowering. After watching the video you will want to share it with everyone you know!
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend both book and video! In fact, I've already gone one further -- I purchased it for my cousin who is expecting in April.
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