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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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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.
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
Top customer reviews
Barbara Harper, RN is the founder of Global Maternal/Child Health Association, which is a non-profit organization committed to educating the public about natural birth - specifically water birth. I had never heard of her, or this organization, at the time that I first read the book, but I was considering a water birth then. I was already planning on giving birth at a free standing birth center, which did have Jacuzzi tubs in every room, so I was hopeful of using the water in some point in my labor, and possibly delivering there. But I wasn't really committed to it yet; it was just something that was in the realm of possibilities. After reading Gentle Birth Choices I couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't want a water birth!
So, tell us about the book?
Gentle Birth Choices is well organized into 8 chapters. It is a very easy read, but will take more than a few hours. I read it in a few days the first time, and recently re-read it in about the same time.
Chapter 1 is called "Gentle Beginnings" and consists of explanations of what a Gentle Birth is, and examines the necessary ingredients - things like low light, a reassuring environment, well prepared mom, early breastfeeding, etc. It also includes explanations of why these things are necessary and "better" for your baby.
The next Chapter is on the Medicalization of Childbirth. This chapter discusses the history of childbirth in the US, and the corresponding results in today's healthcare. This is actually a fascinating read!
Chapter 3 is on medical myths and the goal is to debunk some widely held beliefs about childbirth (such as the hospital is the safest place for childbirth, continuous fetal monitoring is necessary, that kind of thing)
Chapter 4 is called a "Gentle Revolution" it is about the natural childbirth movement and it's history.
Chapter 5 is on the use of Midwives and their status in this country. You need to bear in mind that this book is 10 years old, so some of the information on state laws is out of date.
Chapter 6 is on water birth; its history, its benefits, water birth around the world, as well as an FAQ of commonly asked questions about water birth. If you are considering a water birth, this chapter is a must read! It is also good to give to family/friends who think you have lost your mind :)
Chapter 7 is on the mind-body connection in childbirth.
And finally Chapter 8 is on making gentle birth choices - choosing where to give birth (hospital, birth center, or home), choosing a care provider. That kind of thing.
After that there are 7 appendices, which range from questions to ask a doctor/midwife, to writing a birth plan, to resources.
All in all it is a very complete book on planning a gentle birth and why you would want to.
So, what's wrong with the book?
Nothing is really wrong with it. It is a great read and is very interesting. But I think it has a target audience of people that are already committed to natural birth. I think Ms. Harper goes a little too far with the "touchy-feely stuff" at times, which is OK - childbirth is a very emotional thing. But she also goes too far with her commitment to natural childbirth.
Let me explain that. I am a VERY staunch supporter of natural childbirth. The over medicalization of childbirth is a huge part of the health care crisis in the US. However, I also know that there are times when the interventions are necessary. Are they needed as often as they are used? Not even close, but sometimes they ARE needed. And when they are needed, I thank G-d that they are available!
However, Ms. Harper does not seem to acknowledge this well. She says that "all women" can have a gentle birth and gives the impression that interventions are never needed. First of all, that is just false, and second of all, I think it sets women up for heartbreak. For example, what happens to the woman who does all this planning for her gentle birth and then something is wrong with the baby and she has a needed c-section? Is she then a failure? I don't think so, but I am not sure that Ms. Harper feels the same.
Despite my criticism, this really is an excellent book and I do highly recommend it! It is packed full of information to help you make decisions on planning the best birth possible. It might be a bit too out there for someone on the fence about natural childbirth, but if you are already committed to a natural birth, and just want a little pep talk to help convince you that you are doing the right thing - or just want to learn more about water birth - than this is the book for you.