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Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience Paperback – April 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Former talk show host Lake, producer of the documentary The Business of Being Born, joins with Epstein, the film's director, to further probe the subject of birth in America. Asserting that the high tech, low touch trend in medicalized births has usurped parents' sense of power and choice, the authors present a detailed examination of the birthing experience, beginning with their own personal accounts. Employing the premise that although one can't predict what will happen during birth, one can prepare, they present options that women should consider, including home birth and the use of a midwife or doula. Lake and Epstein point out that while 99% percent of births in the U.S. take place in hospitals and one-third are cesareans, the vast majority of births are not high risk and may not require medical intervention. But the fear of pain combined with unnecessary hospital protocols cause many couples to narrow or relinquish their options. The authors discuss the pros and cons of such interventions as episiotomies, epidurals and electronic monitors, and encourage women to carefully question their practitioners and hospital personnel. Above all, the authors advocate a safe and empowered birth, whether one chooses a hospital, home or birth center. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"The beginning of the love affair with your child starts here. This book makes planning your birth fun and easy. A must read for every expectant parent."
-- Louann Brizendine, M.D. Author, THE FEMALE BRAIN
Top Customer Reviews
I must say at a first skim through the preface and various chapters of this book, I immediately got turned off. At first blush, the book seemingly has a heavy focus on Natural Vaginal Births and that is a very sour subject for me, a woman who delivered each of her THREE children via C-SECTIONS. For a long time, I used to feel inadequate about not having given birth the "natural" way as God intended, if you will. I even used to get a rush of jealousy when I would hear of a friend who had a birth without medical surgical intervention. I belabor the point, but I did not think I'd come away from the book feeling good at all.
Well, I decided to give the book a chance anyway and, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually liked it and would recommend it!
Ricki and Abby use a very conversational, down to earth tone and language to provide a matter of fact, real perspective of their personal experiences and the experiences of other women. They explain, without too much medical terminology and jargon, what a mother-to-be can expect during the birthing process. In any event, Your Best Birth is all about knowing your options and decoding the language of the hospital. The authors take the time to interpret some of the reasons hospitals give mothers for making their decisions. It is a useful resource even for that discussion alone, because it is a very stressful time during labor and who has time to psychoanalyze what's being said at that very moment? Getting educated on some of these issues in advance is crucial.
Demystifying the "Hollywood" portrayal of Birth
The book opens with summaries of Ricki and Abby's birthing experiences with their children. The remainder of the book attempts to address the stigma associated with "home births" by providing matter of fact and straight forward explanation of what they are like and what women considering these options can expect.
Mothers-to-be Giving in...
I do wish I had that type of book 7 years ago when I was about to deliver my first child, because I would have been more empowered and would not have succumb to pressure from my doctor to deliver via C section. One thing they point out in the book is that women are very eager to please and a too quick to not want to offend. We, as women, are often guilty of wanting to accommodate a doctor who has had a long night with you and may be eager to go home, or a nurse who insists you should get the epidural even though you feel you may be able to bear with the pain a little longer. For my first child, he simply was progressing slow and the doctor said she felt the labor was going to be too long for his poor little heart. I could have asked for medical or natural options to progress my labor and kept at it, but I gave in to the surgery because she said I could have my baby by noon that day! After 24+ hours of inactive and active labor, who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to know the exact time you'd be getting your baby?
Another plus about the book, one I felt there should have been more of, was the "red flag" side bars. For example, one side bar talked about signs about a midwife's practice you should consider as a clear sign to not hire her. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the authors address sexual abuse victims and how the birthing process could affect them and cause to resurface old feelings about their abusive past. Like Ricki, is like as much as 40% of women in America who were victims of abuse and I, for one, could appreciate finally a pregnancy book that took a thoughtful approach to addressing a sad reality that so many women have faced and gone through. It is indeed refreshing and I appreciated the effort.
One negative aspect:
At times, their answers weren't all the time helpful for me because they didn't seem backed by enough statistics or researched facts. At one point, they argued that deceleration of the baby's heart is not necessarily a clear sign of distress, and that a cord wrapped around a baby's neck is not clear evidence that a baby would be born still. While I do understand that often times the fear of litigation and that the baby and maternal heart rate charts do end up in courts during malpractice law suits, it seemed a little reckless to me to suggest that the risks may be worth it. I wouldn't want to be the mother who read this book and ignores medical advice that the baby may be in fetal distress and end up delivering a baby that later suffers from cerebral palsy. The authors didn't back up some of their assertions with researched facts to make me comfortable on some discussions.
Indeed, this book is a good read because it empowers women with options. A more natural birthing experience either at home, at a midwife birthing center or with the assistance of a Doula trained to keep you calm and mediate your wishes with the hospital staff is and can always be possible and a very real alternative.
Aaaah! the beauty of hospital birthing! Thank Goodness for this very empowering book! It is indeed a worthwhile and quick read and helpful resource and I highly recommend it!
If you would like to take this further, I would also recommend the following: DVDs: Pregnant in America, Orgasmic Birth and The Business of Being Born - all 3 dvds are available on Netflix. Ina May Gaskin's The Guide to Childbirth still remains the most powerful and amazing book re. preparation for labor. The first half is taken up with positive birthing stories - it helps you to start to move away from the ER scenes of 'scary' labor that we are all brain washed with and move towards a more gentle, magical way of viewing giving birth. It really is true that if you put in the preparation (physical and mental) you can have an amazing experience - it doesn't need to be something to fear and dread.
I'll bet that she will soon be adding Your Best Birth, by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, to that list.
Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's film The Business of Being Born has been called the "Inconvenient Truth" of birth. Their new book, Your Best Birth, continues in that spirit - enlightening, advocating, and trying to "take back" birth for mothers and families.
Your Best Birth is devoted to helping mothers "explore the full spectrum of choices you have in giving birth." The authors define a "best birth" as "one where you feel empowered because you know all your options and are confident in the decisions you have made about your birth." They state, "we believe that you can place the health and well-being of your newborn as your highest priority and still have an optimal, empowering experience that is right for you both - whether that is in your bed, in your bathtub, in a hospital room, or on an operating table."
Ricki and Abby talk frankly about the current record high c-section and induction rates, the disappearing VBAC, and describe what a typical hospital birth looks like now. They share their own birth stories and the stories of a number of celebrities along the way, as well as profiles of some well known birthing pioneers. I'm very pleased that they include a chapter on sexual abuse survivors and birth, and Ricki even shares her own story of abuse and its connection to her experience of motherhood. I found many of the birth stories very moving.
They offer practical advice on assembling your 'dream team,' including doulas and other support people, and walk you through questions to ask of providers and how to create a birth plan. They debunk some of the myths about midwives, and explain what different interventions mean and how they affect your experience. I was pleased to see that they address how birth affects breastfeeding.
To be clear, this is not a general pregnancy/birth guide book. It doesn't walk you through the stages of labor, or show pictures of labor positions, for example. For basic birth information you'd still want to take a childbirth class or at least read a more general book. And I think it's fair to say that this is a book that would be most useful for women who are trying to have a vaginal birth with few interventions, as well as those who are open to exploring their options.
Most importantly, this book addresses the current state of birth in the U.S., which has changed dramatically in the last ten years. If you're reading a book that was written longer ago than that, chances are it's describing a world that no longer exists.
Ricki Lake says that she has been so inspired by learning about birth that she once considered becoming a midwife. Whether that's in her future or not, I'm grateful that she used her talents and time to bring her film and this book into the world.
(originally published on the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog)