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Ina May's Guide to Childbirth Paperback – March 4, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 1,444 customer reviews

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  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Founding member and former president of the Midwives Alliance of North America and author of Spiritual Midwivery, Gaskin offers encouragement and practical advice in her upbeat and informative book on natural childbirth. 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. Gaskin, who learned the rudiments of her gentle birthing technique from the Mayans in Guatemala, has helped bring attention to the method's remarkably low rate of morbidity and medical intervention. Couples considering natural childbirth will get inspirational coaxing from more than a dozen first-person narratives shared by the author's clients. Gaskin decries what she sees as Western medicine's focus on pain during birth, arguing that natural birthing can not only be euphoric and blissful but also orgasmic (a survey of 150 natural birthing women "found thirty-two who reported experiencing at least one orgasmic birth"). The second half of Gaskin's book deals with the practical side of natural birthing, including how to avoid standard medical interventions such as epidurals, episiotomies and even prenatal amniocentesis that may be unnecessary, even dangerous, to mother or child. While this may not be the definitive guide to natural childbirth, it is a comfortable and supportive read for women who want to trust their bodies to do what comes naturally.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Using history as her guide, nationally recognized midwife Gaskin explores what she hopes will be a renaissance in natural childbirth, something that she's been advocating since the mid-1970s. By focusing on how women of ancient civilizations and other modern peoples give birth, Gaskin puts our own hypersensitivities in perspective, uncovering a beautiful, sometimes orgasmic experience rather than a dreadful, painful one. Sure, pain is part of childbirth, but preparing for the pain in a realistic rather than sentimental way--whether giving birth at home or in a hospital--can be the key to a woman's ability to deal with it naturally. Within the pages of personal anecdotes, some touching, some startling, from Gaskin's patients and colleagues, every woman is sure to find something to relate to, whether or not she chooses to have a medicine-free labor. The helpful back matter features a glossary, a detailed resource list including advocacy groups and Web sites, and a bibliography that includes periodicals, rounding out an extremely comprehensive and up-to-date guide on the topic. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: Baby - 12 years
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (March 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381153
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,444 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 31, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the very few stipulations my wife made after we learned we were going to have a child is that I read this book by the doyenne of natural childbirth in the U.S. While the tone of the book is much too touchy-feely/hippyish for me, I have to admit that it is well worth reading regardless of whether you're planning a natural childbirth or a fully tech'ed out hospital one. That said, it would be very easy to read it as gospel and get swept up in its giddy repudiation of modern medicine, so one should approach it with, if not a skeptical eye, at least with one's critical faculties fully engaged. There is also the potential that readers who are fully committed to a hospital birth may come away from this book feeling scolded, or as if their decision is somehow "wrong".

The author is a superstar in the field of natural childbirth, largely as a result of her 35+ years work at "The Farm", a kind of birthing commune in Tennessee. The first half of the book is a compilation of natural childbirth stories written by mothers who've either done it at The Farm, or somehow in conjunction with the author. While these are certainly useful as illustrative examples of how it all goes down, they tend to get rather repetitive and could certainly stand to be scaled back a bit. And for those who know little about the birthing process, some of the terminology can be unclear. Finally, for those who might want to read this book on the subway (like me), be forewarned that there are some pretty graphic photos of childbirthing in this section.

The second half of the book walks the reader through the entire process, mostly with the aim of explaining why modern medical childbirthing procedures are not based on the mother's health and needs, but are designed for convenience of the medical establishment.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm 17 weeks pregnant, and while I'm overjoyed to be pregnant...I've always been afraid of the pain I'll experience during childbirth. Reading Ina May's book, and the birth stories of the women in it, has changed all of that. I feel that I can handle labor now...and am even toying with the idea of not using drugs. (Prior to this, I used to say that I'd like an epidural plus any other drug they'd give me.) Even if I end up using some pain meds, I know I'll be entering the labor process without the level of fear I had before. That is priceless. This is a must-read for any pregnant woman and her husband...whether or not she wants to have a medicated or non-medicated birth. Bravo Ina May! Just wish I lived closer to TN so that I could use her services.
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I have read this book all the way through and am planning on attempting a natural birth in an NYC hospital in a very short time now. The OB has mentioned epidurals more than once as he believes that it is one of the great breakthroughs of modern medicine and for some situations it may be very beneficial. However, the hospital I will be going to will also allow a lot of leeway to have a less hospital driven birth. I will be working with a doula to make sure that my preferences are acknowledged and accommodated when possible (and a lot of them can be).

That said, there were many things about this book that greatly annoyed me. The most prominent being the intimation that all modern medicine used in childbirth has horrible side effects. While I do get the impression that many of these drugs and procedures are overused I believe they were developed originally to help not control childbirth. Perhaps they have been abused over the past few decades and don't get the credit they deserve.

Things I liked about the book:
- The chapter 3 on pleasure/pain. The perception of pain influences how we deal with the sensations.
- The chapter 4 on Sphincter Law.
- The practical information in Chapters 6,7,8,and 9 dealing with labor and birth.

Things I didn't like about the book:
- The quantity and quality of birth stories. There are to many and they are a little too granola for me and I'm pretty granola. Plus, they alienate husbands who aren't going to be as much a part of labor process.
- The intimation that modern childbirth medicine is somehow bad. That sentiment is prevalent throughout the book and was a little offensive. It's not that the author didn't admit that it was had it's place but it was admitted only very reluctantly.
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Format: Paperback
This book helped me change my life.

After the necessary c-section birth of my son 5 years ago (I had pre-eclampsia), our new insurance company labled me as "high risk" and refused me maternity coverage. Since my husband and I wanted more children, I started considering a home birth with a midwife as a viable alternative. Needless to say my first birth experience put me emotionally on guard about my body's capability.

As I was researching the safety of VABCs (vaginal birth after cesarean) and home-births, I came across Gaskin's 1970s book, Spiritual Midwifery. Its language was amusingly "hippy-ish," but the inclusion of positive birth stories was refreshing and inspiring. After reading most of it, I went in search of similar, more updated books.

I found Ina May's Guide to Childbirth at a mainstream bookstore (being suprised at the lack of variety of birth experience offered on the shelf - is she the only person writing about homebirth nowadays?) Buying and reading this book new was one of the best emotional investments I have ever made in my life.

The experience and knowledge I gained reading this book is similar to many of the sentiments expressed in these other reviews. It really gave me courage to welcome and joyfully (if a little nervously) anticipate the birth of my daughter in March of 2005.

As for my labor, I would not call the sensations of the contractions "pain," I would call them "very heavy pressure." I credit this perspective to this book. Ina May (and her clients) helped me put contractions, transition, etc., into perspective. For example: Yes, I felt contractions every two minutes lasting about two minutes.
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