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Customer Review

on April 29, 2011
This book is very interesting reading, even if you're not expecting a baby. Gaskin gives a little of her own history as a midwife and goes into some detail about the history of midwifery, especially in the United States. As an RN, mother, and childbirth educator, I thought I knew more about midwifery and obstetrics than I did. Gaskin's book gave me a whole new perspective. Mainly, physicians/obstetricians are trained as surgeons to deal with birth problems. Most of them never have a chance during training to observe a natural, un-medicated childbirth, so they go out into practice expecting the worst, that most deliveries will require medical intervention. Common sense would tell us this couldn't be the case or the human race would have died out long before the development of modern science, but I and many of my peers have bought into the belief that hospital births are the "safest." Gaskin makes a good case that for healthy mothers and babies this may not be true. Although her opinion is admittedly biased, she presents plenty of facts and published evidence to support her position and is pretty convincing.
Another reason this book would be of interest to a general adult audience is that Gaskin examines the politics of childbirth. Even though I grew up during the women's movement of the 70s, I was not aware of how negatively pregnancy and birth were viewed by many of the movement's early leaders nor how this negativity may have influenced a generation of young women. As a business person in the 80s and 90s, I did watch childbirth become an important loss-leader and/or profit center for many hospitals and saw the rise and fall of all the birth centers in my community, as well as the opening and closing of the nurse midwife program at the state university. I understood the profit/loss and cost containment principles at work, but not the larger societal impacts these changes would cause. Gaskin makes a strong case for continued consumer support for midwives and birth centers, for the good of women and society, for better health and stronger communities. Perhaps healthcare reform will provide some momentum for this trend.
The women's stories included in the book are inspirational. I only wish there were more, or an entire volume of just the birth stories. The personal accounts of joyful, painless or almost painless births were truly eye opening and made the strongest case for natural childbirth. So many women I teach are really terrified of giving birth, even or especially those with prior experience; I wish they all would read some of Gaskin's mothers' stories to learn how empowering and wonderful childbirth can be. I wish I had read them before having children. In fact, Gaskin makes the whole childbirth experience sound so wonderful, it almost makes me want to run out and have a few more babies.
I would highly recommend this book as good reading for anyone, an inspiration for anyone who's pregnant, and a requirement for anyone working in obstetrics, labor and delivery. It only presents one point of view, so it's not the only reading I would recommend, but it should be on every reading list.
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