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The American Way of Birth Hardcover – November 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition (stated) edition (November 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525935231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525935230
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mitford ( The American Way of Death ) interviewed obstetricians, midwives and antenatal and postnatal mothers for this journalistic probe of how Americans are born. In graceful prose she relates our appalling infant mortality rate to the obstacles poor women face in finding prenatal care and decent hospital treatment. After reviewing the potential hazards of obstetrical forceps, electronic fetal monitoring and diagnostic ultrasound, Mitford discusses the complications mothers often face after having a cesarean section and examines the financial and legal motives behind doctors' widespread performance of these largely unnecessary procedures. She takes readers on a grand tour of the midwifery scene, from a Bronx center for low-risk women to a Californian context in which the medical establishment harasses home-birth midwives with police break-ins. In an epilogue Mitford documents hospital routines and deceptive overbilling, criticizes the American Medical Association's powerful lobby, which squelches healthcare reform, and reviews efforts to pass a Canadian-style national health insurance bill that would eliminate the profiteering of U.S. hospitals and doctors. First serial to Good Housekeeping.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Mitford's probe into American obstetrics as well as the hospitals, clinics, and welfare agencies that supervise the prenatal care and births of American babies results in an indictment of the medical practices surrounding something that should not make us sick--giving birth. She also broaches the broader subject of the healthcare system or lack thereof, which governs much of American behavior surrounding the individual's own healthcare practices or failure to seek it out. Although her book is mostly anecdotal and meant to be read as if she were speaking to us directly, her attempt to be witty is annoying. Furthermore, much of the content lacks focus and will have difficulty holding the reader's attention from beginning to end. For a more engaging analysis of American birth practices, see Robbie E. Davis-Floyd's Birth as an American Rite of Passage ( LJ 8/92). For public libraries only. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.
- Patricia Sarles, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. M. Lisette Brenner on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This historical account of childbirth in America is absolutely absorbing in its detail and fascinating in its accurate account of how childbirth was actually stolen from midwives. In the first few chapters the author shows alarming behavior by medical doctors due to their conceited attitudes. Many women's lives have been lost because of such pompus attitudes. If every pregnant woman read this book I am sure that the midwifery rate for childbirth in this country would skyrocket. I have been convinced. Obstetricians are overused in this country and it is time to get back to the basics and remember that pregnancy is not a "disease" that needs to be cured, but a natural event that just needs to be "monitored" in the RARE case of a complication. This book has my highest recommendation.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I'd like to say that I can't imagine that the reader from England read the same book I did. There was absolutely nothing "rude and crude" or inflammatory in any way in the book, unless you consider the idea that a midwife could successfully deliver babies rude and crude!
This book made me think and it made me laugh. I particularly enjoyed Ms. Mitford's writing style, which was snappy and curmudgeonly all at the same time. I thought the historical info about the barber/surgeon guilds in England was probably the most boring part of the book. The info about the grannie midwives in the South in the early 1900s was the most interesting to me.
This isn't one of those books that you "have to read" if you're having a baby (which is good, since it's out of print). I'd recommend Sheila Kitzinger or Dr. William Sears for that. However, it *is* an interesting look at U.S. culture and trends which reflect/are reflected in images of women.
Maybe what the English reader objected to was Ms. Mitford's strong conviction that it's the woman who has the baby, not the doctor who "delvers" it? Who knows. If you're the kind of person who just likes to do what you're told, don't read this book, as it may upset you. If, however, you're interested in an exploration of birth in America and aren't afraid to hear that the doctor may not always know everything, look in Auctions or ZShops or your local library and read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M Hathaway on March 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a pregnant woman planning a home birth with a midwife and extensive research into modern obstetrics, I had the great fortune of purchasing this book at a second hand store on a fluke. As I began to read, I found I simply could not put the book down. Ms Mitford's eloquent and witty writing style (peppered with intelligent interjections a la francaise), made it easy to read the entire book in a few days. The research put forward was a real eye opener for me, even after researching American obstetrics and midwifery for the last 3 months. Ms. Mitford analyses the socio-political reasons for the fall of midwifery in America, as well as centuries of child-laboring medical tactics, which may as well be defined as torture. Ms. Mitford also has a lot to say about the sad state of health care in America and how to best ensure a bright future for the world, one must care about the health and treatment of expecting mothers and their children in utero. One of the even more compelling pieces of this book is that it was written 17 years ago, and is still spot on (minus a statistic here or there, which has amazingly gotten *worse* in the past few decades).

If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would. It is a real gem, and really easily balances taking a very human issue and also explaining the reason and history (and the money) behind the in-humane treatment of laboring mothers, which still continues into the 21st century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Yung on July 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a certified childbirth educator, I found this book to be absolutely eye opening! There is so much we American women don't know about the prenatal, birth, and postnatal practices in which we participate every day. The author's passion about the subject is obvious and well researched and documented. The most enlightening element to me is how different American women think about and handle pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum compared to other industrialized nations. If you find yourself feeling that pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum have become over managed or "medicalized", you will find this book encouraging and maybe challenged to modify your own care.
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