Customer Reviews: Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience
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on May 1, 2009
First Impressions:
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.

Second Chance:
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?

What's inside
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!
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on May 5, 2009
There are a lot of fabulous books out there to get pregnant women to start thinking about taking charge of their births (Ina May Gaskin, Dr Gowri Motha etc) but these titles are often only picked up by women 'in-the-know' who are used to looking for obscure titles and enjoy reading. This book covers all the basics incredibly well and is a fun, enlightening and enjoyable read. This book wasn't out when i had my daughter but i was already of this mindset and had a fantastic, empowering, natural and ENJOYABLE labor - this book totally mirrors the journey i went on to find the right care providers and the importance of doing so. Anyone giving birth in the USA should make it their priority to 1) learn how different the system is in the USA to other developed countries 2) Understand how this contributes to the USA having the second highest infant and mother mortality rate in the developed world and 3) arm themselves with all the knowledge in order to have a birth which not only places their child's wellbeing at the top of the list but ALSO takes the mother's needs and enjoyment of the birthing process into consideration.

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.
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on April 22, 2009
When I was pregnant my childbirth educator recommended her favorite books to the class: The Birth Partner, and Birthing from Within.

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)
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on August 1, 2009
I picked this up despite initially expecting it to be reckless hippy homebirth propaganda, because so many people who'd read it with the same preconception had said in their reviews that it turned out not to be; that it was serious, thoughtful. I agree with them, now that I've read it: it's true the authors have a clear bias in their preference for natural childbirth at home, but they back it up with evidence, not just emotion, and also provide arguments for the circumstances under which hospitals, C-sections, etc. are much more appropriate. Fair, I think.

My primary complaint is that there's no bibliography - I would've liked to look up the papers they get their statistics and their "this authoritative body recommends X" statements from, both to verify the overall veracity of their argument and to get more information on the subject.
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on August 2, 2009
According to the authors of Your Best Birth, the U.S. tends toward a model of childbirth that is far too focused on the medical, on bypassing the natural process of childbirth in favor of a managed, controlled and clinical production. Childbirth, in the U.S., is an emergency -- a crisis -- requiring constant monitoring and frequent intervention in the form of epidurals, episiotomies and c-sections. Indeed, the c-section rate in this country is much higher than it would be if the operation was performed for lifesaving reasons alone.

In Your Best Birth, we are taken through a "typical" hospital birth as well as several alternative birth experiences. The stories are a mixed bag: some warm memories of a supportive, natural and beautiful experience. And, some regretful looks back at a loss of control over the birth experience in the hospital. Also, a lot of stories that fall somewhere in between, which is probably where most of us end up.

The authors are careful not to vilify doctors, who have the skills to save lives when that becomes necessary. Still, they point out that a healthy fear of malpractice suits leads to a focus on "covering the bases," on opting for intervention when nature is likely to have done just fine.

There is a strong message in this book that a home birth, attended by a midwife who has arrangements with a local hospital -- just in case -- is far preferable to a hospital birth.

The truth is, some hospitals are more enlightened than others. Some are very progressive and have their own birthing centers, support alternative pain management, and avoid c-sections when they can. But many Americans are locked into a particular hospital due to their health insurance. And many Americans can't afford the luxury of hiring their own midwives and doulas. They go where they must go, and receive services from those who happen to be on duty. Even in that situation, though, Your Best Birth has valuable advice about creating a birth plan and deciding in advance just what to insist upon in the hospital. (When is an epidural okay, if ever? Is an IV drip okay, or only one that allows the laboring woman to remain mobile? Is it OK to take the baby away to be weighed and checked out right away? Specify!)

My wife and I thought this was a valuable read, and it helped to balance out the other childbirth books we're reading, in which many of these issues are cast in a much less worrying light. As a result of reading this book, we're checking out all our options: home birth, a doula, a midwife, etc., and we'll make an informed decision.

Only one thing really bugged me about Your Best Birth. I understand that women are the main audience for this book. But in the part of the book where the authors give readers suggestions on how to introduce a male partner to these issues, why oh why don't they recommend that the partner read the book? Instead, the authors throw in a weird comment about some men not liking to read. That wasn't cool. I'm a guy, I read the book, and now I feel prepared to support my wife in a much more informed, grounded way.

Every woman expecting a child here in the U.S. should read this book. The expecting woman's partner should read it, too, in combination with other books on childbirth and pregnancy. Whether you give birth in a hospital, at home, in a birthing center, or on an L.A. freeway at rush hour, you'll be glad to understand the decisions to be made and the choices you have, so they don't overwhelm you when you're already in labor!
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on June 22, 2009
I had my first child in a hospital. It was a good experience, but I felt like I was missing out on something more in my birth experience. The Business of Being Born and My Best Birth inspired me to have a home birth. It was THE most magical choice of my life! Thank you Abby and RIcki!!!!
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on August 23, 2011
How I wish I'd read this book BEFORE my first birth. I know that there are many great hospitals and OBs out there, respecting women's choices and respecting the process of childbirth. But, I want to share my story as supporting evidence for the "cascade of interventions" so common in our medical birth culture.

With my first son, I obediently followed the instructions of my doctors without question, which led to a cascade of unnecessary interventions. At my 40 week appointment (which turned out to be several weeks off due to sonogram dating instead of the dates I knew to be true), I was hooked up to a monitor for 30 minutes and then told that the baby was not moving and I needed to see a specialist. (DS was always "sleeping" in the mornings and kicked all night. I was monitored at 9am.) I was sent to the hospital to see a sonogram specialist who informed me that my amniotic fluid was "within the normal range, but on the low side" and that there would be no one to "keep an eye on things over the holiday weekend" and that the baby was getting "very large already" so it would be a "good idea to induce today." I called my husband, heartbroken because I had waited so long for that first sign of labor, something I would never feel. At the hospital, I was given Cervadil (a cervical ripener) and began contracting within a few hours. I was then informed that I would not be allowed to eat or drink opaque fluids until I had delivered. (This turned out to be over 24 hours, and I am a hypoglycemic.) I was strapped to several monitors, given two IVs, put in a gown with two holes in the front for "convenient nursing," and laid on my back in a bed. The gown was absolutely mortifying for someone sharing a labor room, as perfect strangers were able to see any and everything any time I shifted. For the next 24 hours, every time I sat or stood, a new nurse came in to inform me that they lost the heartbeat on the monitor when I moved around and that I needed to lay back down. So, I labored on my back while becoming increasingly low on blood sugar until I was shaking. At this point, I was only 4 cm dilated. My OB had gone on vacation and due to the high number of women in labor I was turned over to an attending physician I'd never met, who told me that I was likely to need a C-section due to my level of exhaustion. The doctor ordered an epidural in prep for surgery. I have scoliosis, so the epidural took more than 4 contractions to administer and was by far the most painful part of my labor. Immediately after, my water broke, and I went from 4cm to 10cm in less than 20 minutes, and they were not able to get an open room for surgery in time. (Thank God!!) At this point, DS's heart rate was dropping during contractions and recovering immediately (quite normal, as it turns out), but I was led to believe that he was in serious distress. After only one push, the OB pulled out a pair of scissors and cut all the way through my muscle tissue, using forceps AND a vacuum extractor to remove DS on the second push. He was whisked away before I got to see him, and I spent another 45 minutes alone on my back (sent my husband to be with the baby) while I was stitched up. DS weighed in at 5 lbs 12 oz. Clearly, he was not yet ready, and neither was my body. (To this day I have no idea what the sonogram technician saw...) I left the hospital feeling like something sacred was stolen from me. And the recovery was miserable. I was not able to walk comfortably for over a month due to the depth of injury to my pelvic floor.

So, that's when I started reading. (This was the first book a friend recommended. I also read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and "Active Birth" by Janet Balaskas, among others.)

7 months later, we were surprised to find out we were expecting again. This time, I chose a fantastic team of midwives at a free-standing birth center. What a different story! I spontaneously went into labor on my due date, ate a hearty breakfast on the way to the center, arrived at the door 9 cm dilated, labored for an hour in a jacuzzi, and pushed in a semi-squat for 29 minutes in a queen-size bed in a dimly lit room, with my husband as a back-rest. (And I wore my own clothes.) DS #2 was 8 lbs at birth, I held him immediately, and we were home 8 hours later.

My husband describes the first birth as the scariest day of his life and the second as a deeply intimate moment of marriage. I know that not every story turns out like these, but I want to share my experience in an effort to prepare others. Be informed! Know your options. Trust your instincts. Read "Your Best Birth." :)
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VINE VOICEon July 2, 2009
I dont have children yet, but I am trying to get pregnant and had seen Rickiand Abbys movie "The Business of Being Born" and it just opened my eyes to so much. I used to say "I will never have a baby without an epidural" or "I would never have a natural childbirth" Ricki and Abby completely reprogrammed my mind from fear to elation at what my body is capable of.

This book is an awesome companion to "The Business of Being Born" it expands on the movie, and also has a ton of new information, personal stories, and inspiration for every woman considering getting pregnant, or already pregnant and maybe confused as to what is out there for them in the land of birthing!

It is about taking back your body, giving yourself a voice. Its about being able to speak up and demand a good experiance a healthy experience for both you and your baby.
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on July 15, 2009
One thing I really liked about this book was that the author's used a very down to earth tone and language that provided a very matter of fact, real look at their personal experiences and of other women. Without using a lot of medical terminology they really laid out what an expectant mother can expect of the birthing process. This book is all about knowing what your options are in regard to giving birth. The authors help to sort through the reasons hospitals give your for procedures while giving birth. Knowing these thing ahead of time will help the expectant mother to sort through explanations in that stressful tim

As the author's explain this book is to:

"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."

The author's 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."

This isn't your regular pregnancy book. This book does not walk you through the stages of labor, but instead explores your options and empowers you to make choices that you'll feel good about even after the birth of your child.

I wish that this book had been around 20 years ago when I had my kids, it might have saved me from two c-sections. I think for most of us being able to have some control in a stressful, sometimes frightening situation is a plus and anything that can help us in that respect is a valuable resource.

Cudo's to Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein for putting together this book for mothers out there who are wanting more out of their birth experience.
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on July 24, 2009
Having read tons of childbirth books, I feel that "Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care" probably does the absolute best job of explaining the sorry state of interventionist obstetrics and how/why things got to be that way. However, the Ricki Lake book & movie has more mainstream appeal to newly pregnant women who are not yet birth-fanatics like I am. I read "Your Best Birth" in 1 day, staying up very late on a worknight because I simply could not put it down, and it was an easy read to get through and will hopefully change some minds and get women to thinking again about why it's so important to have CHOICES about how our body gets treated.

Knowledge is Power, and too many women are too trusting of medical professionals and are content to show up at the hospital in ignorance, not knowing or trusting their own body to get the baby out safely. Hopefully this book will give women the courage to advocate for themselves, and I totally will pass this book around to every pregnant woman I know! Especially I liked the emphasis on Midwives and the defence of the Midwifery Model of Care.
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