Customer Reviews: The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth (Sears Parenting Library)
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on July 26, 1998
This book is for all the women out there who have ever felt some mild anxiety all the way to a wrenching fear about the childbirth process. Dr. Sears and his wife Martha Sears, RN give readers a brief history of childbirth practices, they discuss the myths and fears surrounding birth, and then come full circle to help women understand that childbirth is a natural process. The Sears' articulate that many of today's complications of childbirth are related to the overuse of medical interventions and not enough education about the birth process itself. Although the Sears' advocate for drug free childbirth and as few interventions as medically needed, The Birth Book provides readers with the information that a woman (and her partner) need to make their own wise and individual informed decisions about medical treatments during childbirth. I found the book very empowering. I choose to have my baby at a hospital with my family practicioner and because of the information I gl! eaned from The Birth Book I was able to feel good about the many decisions I had to make surrounding my baby's birth. Many hospitals and doctors have a set of "standard procedures" for birth but I found my doctor and the hospital both were willing to work with my preferences because I was informed about the decisions I was making. Some of the decisions in my baby's birth included not to induce my labor (I went 11 days overdue), to decline the use of pitocin to "speed" my labor when it did come, to ask for pain relief when I needed it, to request not to have an episiotomy and to labor and deliver in the position of my choice. As a result, I had a wonderful (and yes, intense) first birth. Although I fully realize every woman and every labor is different, I believe that my birth experience was definately influenced positively by being educated about technologies, making informed decisions, and trusting my own body. This book helped me to do all those thi! ngs.
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on December 27, 2001
I'm a mother of two, a critical RN and certainly not a Luddite. If I had to choose one book to have prior to the birth of my first child, this one would be it. (I'm here to buy one for a family member as a gift, I already own this book!)
I could write my own book with my thoughts and feelings about childbirth, childbirth prepartion, and postpartum recovery. I'll just say this,however...
Childbirth hurts. Take all of the classes, read the books, get drugs, it still hurts. Go to a hospital and expect them to hold your hand during labour and you'll be disappointed, they're too busy to do that. Have someone there with you to support you through the whole thing. Preferably at least one person that has done this before. Could be a doula, could be your best friend or mother... Interventions DO lead to more interventions. Less is better for the birth, the mother,the baby and your recovery (I've done both types). If you can swing less, do that.
Reading books like these, taking classes to practice positioning techniques and exercising your body actually does HELP. Having some ideas on things to try when the going gets rough HELPS. Not everything will work for everyone,but many things will work or at least help you cope. Everyone should be prepared for natural childbirth, regardless of whether or not they are planning to have drugs, even major ones. You can't get an epidural until you are at least four cm or it can stop your labour. I wasn't four cm with my first child until I was 24 hours into labour. And both times I tried an epidural, and it didn't take the first time at all, only took partially the second time. The only type of medication that will give you total relief from childbirth discomfort is general anesthesia. Having a list of things that I could do to cope made all of the difference in the world to me. The first birth I was much more passive. The second birth I was much more proactive and had a much better time of it. My recovery was night and day too.
I respect Sears and his wife as both parents and healthcare professionals. Their series of books are not perfect, but I would say, after reading reams of drivel or hyperbole on the subject at hand, they actually do the overall best job for a basic book. Most folks read one, max two books pre-birth, so if you have to choose only one, this would be it. And their book "The Baby Book" is also the best one out there regarding babies.
Btw, regarding the comment about the AFP test. It is famous for false positives, which can cause unneeded stress to parents. I don't have an opinion about having the test, either way beyond that. As to Down's Syndrome, some parents want to know in order to terminate the pregnancy. Looks like termination is not on their list of things to consider, so why should they have the test? (I had an amnio, much more accurate.) The way the review was written, it sounded like they had done something irresponsible. Some parents want to know, others don't. Knowing or not knowing neither causes Down's Syndrome (a chromosomal abnormality apparent at conception), nor will change the outcome of the pregnancy.
I wouldn't just read this book. I'm the type of person that reads everything that I can get my hands on, both on a professional level and from the mainstream press. But this is certainly a book for my short list. Read it.
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on August 4, 2003
I have to STRONGLY disagree with other reviews that this book guilts you into a natural childbirth. The book is filled with examples of women who chose epidurals and other intervention and had satisfying births.

The overwhelming theme in this book is that it is the expectant parents' responsibility to educate themselves about their choices in childbirth, discuss their wishes with their caregiver, and write a birth plan to help convey these wishes to hospital staff (if they chose hospital birth). The Sears believe that if the parents are the ones making the informed decisions, rather than having decisions made for them, they will have a joyful, beautiful start to their family.

The Sears clearly lay out the benefits of natural childbirth, and do discuss in detail the risks of the various tests and interventions, as well as when they are justified. My favorite part is in the back, where mothers and fathers have submitted their birth stories. It is wonderful to read first-hand accounts of the emotions and sensations of birth. As I said, all kinds of births are included: planned C-sections, home births, epidurals, birth centers, high risk, etc. What is emphasized is that when the parents are informed and able to make their own choices, they are at peace with the outcome. It is when the parents feel that their wishes were not respected or that risks and options were not explained to them that they feel angry and bitter at their caregivers.

This is a great read for parents who know they want natural childbirth and for parents who want to consider it. You will never regret knowing your options. The birth and the child are your responsibility. It can be a time of joy and empowerment or a time of fear and helplessness. Having those choices, wouldn't you choose the former?
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on May 7, 2004
If you are pregnant for the first time and don't know much about childbirth, READ THIS BOOK ... and don't be afraid to make changes to your birth plan (birth plan?!?) if some aspect of your care doesn't sit well with you. Do whatever you can to have a wonderful birth experience - it will live in your emotions and memory forever and may even affect how you bond with your child.
I was six months pregnant with our first child when I did the craziest thing ever. I changed my caregivers and I changed my hospital. Here's how it went: During my pregnancy, our kitchen was being remodeled. Attempting to escape the paint and glue fumes, I spent long days at our local library, reading books about pregnancy and childbirth. I stumbled upon "The Birth Book" and of course, in my swollen condition, I devoured it.
It opened my eyes to how insane birth really is in this country - how over-medicalized it is. It really put the fear of God into me, so to speak, with regard to "routine" procedures such as episiotomy, forceps/vacuum use, epidurals, C-sections, etc. I was set on a path for the typical "hospital-epidural-medical" birth, without much thought that it could be any other (better, more satifying) way, until I read this astounding book.
Thanks to this book, I scrupulously questioned my OB and ultimately switched from my OB to a Certified Nurse Midwife, I switched to a hospital with a very low C-section rate and a very pro-natural birth attitude and appropriate facilities, I hired a doula, and my husband & I took a Bradley class and cancelled our Lamaze class. BECAUSE OF THIS BOOK, I had a glorious, natural (drug- and intervention-free), waterbirth in the "Alternative Birthing Center" of a hospital. (Read our birth story in the upcoming book, Beautiful Births, due out in 2005! =)
Of course, my husband initially thought I was stark raving mad for wanting to make so many drastic changes so far into my pregnancy, but after reading this eye-opening book, it seemed even MORE stark raving mad not to! Even if you have no intention of making any changes (some women like having fetal monitors and epidurals, and that is their prerogative!), read it. Whether you desire to birth naturally or more "medically," or if you're not sure, it is very empowering to be well informed about everything that happens within the birthing community.
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on September 27, 1999
This book treats mothers as intelligent, capable people worthy of making informed birth decisions with their doctors or midwives. Such a refreshing change from the condescending "don't question your doctor" tone of many books! It is very thorough detailing what happens during the birth process; and also explains common interventions, when they are needed and when they are not. I liked that the information was based on scientific evidence (not just doctors' traditions.) It emphasizes natural pain relief methods, but still covers medicated pain relief in a non-judgmental way. Their family's anectdotes made the book into thoroughly enjoyable reading.
Following the advice of this book for my 2nd pregnancy (wish i had had it for my first!) I had an intervention-free hospital birth. I could hardly believe how much better I felt and how much more quickly i recovered than in the more common "high-intervention" method I experienced the first time (what so many books champion.) If it hadn't been for this book, I would never have known what was possible!
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on November 8, 1999
After reading The Birth Book, I knew I could have the natural, unmedicated birth that I wanted. Friends and family laughed at my ambitions, but I felt I had a thorough understanding of what my body would go through during the birth process. This book made me informed and confident in my decisions and abilities. I DID have the birth I wanted. Although it was long (35 hrs.), I managed without any medication (not even an IV.) My doctor was wonderful in following our birth plan, and we had the help of a doula. I wouldn't have known giving birth could be so wonderful and empowering without this book!
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VINE VOICEon March 1, 2003
This is a fantastic book for preparing for Labor and Delivery. It is very thorough and gives the birthing couple all the information they need to make informed choices about their birth. I would say this is one of the best books available for preparation for Labor and Delivery and understanding all the decisions and issues Birth entails.
I do have a few complaints about the book, however.
1. The book glosses over the pain most women experience during childbirth. For most women [not all, but most], labor and delivery IS very painful. A mother who is preparing for an unmedicated birth needs to be aware of this so that she can adequately prepare herself. The Searses make birth sound more like "pressure" and "discomfort". I just don't think this is true for the majority of women. For psychological preparation for the true *reality* of birth, I recommend _Birthing From Within_ by Pam England. She does a much more honest job in preparing women for what the birth might really be like. [She does not include much of the information the Seares have included here on the 'medical' side of birth & the issues involved however; combining these two books would give the reader a very complete education].
2. I must agree with previous reviewers that this book is somewhat biased against any medication during birth, as well as against hospital birth with an OBGYN in attendance. However, that doesn't make the information in the book any less useful - it is wonderful and very complete.
3. I also agree with other reviewers that the book is becoming a bit dated now. It is time for a revision that would include and reflect the progress that many hospitals have made in the last decade.
Those issues aside, I still think this is one of the best books available on birth. Its worth having for any pregnant woman.
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on February 5, 2000
I use this book as a "text" for my childbirth education series. It is far superior to the best-seller, "What to expect when you're expecting." The information is objective and promotes an empowered birthing woman and family. I only wish more women were aware of it's superiority as a resource. If you are pregant or looking for a baby shower gift, this is the book for you. I have been deeply involved with childbirth for over 20 years and heartily recommend this book.
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on July 5, 2000
This book is SO much more accessible than the Bradley book which we used for our childbirth class. I wish I had had it before having two babies! I really enjoy the personal stories that the Sears use in all their books to illustrate their points... at the beginning of this book they describe the births of all 8 of their children. I found the section on prenatal tests particularly illuminating. Most books talk about amnios and such, but few talk about the consequences of fetal monitoring or ultrasounds in much detail. After reading this book I feel much more equipped to attempt a second natural birth... I have even had thoughts about home birth, but fear we are too far from the hospital.
The Sears' make a strong point that fear and tension during labor greatly contributes to pain. They see pain as a natural barometer and suggest that severe pain indicates a change is needed. This change could be as simple as changing positions and moving about, or it might indicate that some intervention is needed. Although they strongly advocate natural birth, the Sears' view medication during birth as one tool (not without possible complications) to help achieve a satisfying birth experience. Much emphasis is put on upright laboring and birthing positions, to increase mobility and to utilize gravity. Having found it a great help myself, I enjoyed reading about using the tub during labor and wished they had spent more time talking about birthing in water. I am strongly considering this possibility in my next birth. The final section of the book contains references and suggestions for further reading on particular topics. Overall a very useful book which does a wonderful job of balancing their advocacy for natural unmedciated birth with respect for what medicine has to offer!
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on December 15, 2000
I agree with the other five star reviews, but want to add the thing that sets this book apart from others.
This book includes true birth stories and they are wonderful! I saved them for the last month and they were a great treat. It was helpful to read about various scenarios; everything from c-section deliveries, to totally natural labor/delivery, to combinations in between. Each story described how labor began, how it progressed, pitfalls, triumphs. Each story was totally different, and hearing that there were so many "right" ways to deliver helped me relax and be open to whatever was going to happen. Even Dr. Sears's daughter-in-law's story is in the book, and her delivery was no more "perfect" than anyone else's!
I've given this book to a friend who's a bit panicky about her delivery and she says it has helped! I KNOW it helped me because I advocated for what I wanted, got it, and had the most beautiful day of my life as a result!
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