Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recommended reading for pregnancy

Pregnancy is a great time to learn about all things relating to childbearing, birth, breastfeeding, and the like. Especially first time moms should be able to eek out some spare time to read and educate themselves. Sadly, most women trust that they will get all the right and needed advice from their health care provider (as they should), but such is rarely the case. "Informed choice" is really no choice at all if no alternatives are given.

For any mother-to-be, pregnancy is a very emotionally-laden and vulnerable time. We all want what is best and safest for our children, and there is a certain fear of the unknown involved, even for mothers of many children. Death and life are forever entwined in the process of childbearing - we practically have to brush up against death in order to bring forth new life. It is therefor no small wonder that mothers will do whatever they are told is best and safest for their baby.

Unfortunately, the information they are given is more often dictated by current medical fashion, rather than fact. Our grandmothers gave birth under "twilight sleep", strapped down to their hospital beds because the drugs would make them thrash uncontrollably. Our mothers were shaved, given enemas, routinely administered IVs, denied food and water, had baby monitored with internal fetal monitors (that screw into the baby's scalp; these are still in use today when the external ones don't work), and were not allowed the support of a husband or friend by their side.

Today, hospitals offer "birthing suites" that are intended to curtail the fact that births take place in the hospital, a place intended for the severely ill, as if pregnancy is inherently a pathological condition. C-section rates are higher than ever before. This is one of my pet peeves. These days, with one in three babies born by way of major surgery, you are a candidate for sectioning if you are too old, too young, to short, to fat, too petite, your feet are too small, your baby is too big, you have had a Cesarean before, baby is presenting breech, the weekend is approaching, or your last name starts with any of the letters from A to Z.

I am not trying to say that all pregnancies are low-risk, and that no babies should be born at the hospital or via Cesarean section. But for the vast majority of women who are having babies naturally (as in, not having high order multiples or getting pregnant for the first time in their 40s thanks to reproductive medicine), pregnancy and birth are straight-forward and safe. Which makes them not very lucrative for doctors. It also doesn't provide them with something to "fix". Some doctors are motivated by greed, some may be ignorant, never having witnessed a natural birth, or been taught how to deliver a baby that is presenting bottom first. Some may be sick and twisted and enjoy torturing people, such as abortion doctors who also work in labor & delivery.

Ultimately, however, it is our responsibility as parents to educate ourselves and to take charge of the care we seek out and receive during pregnancy. None of us would buy a new house or a new car without putting some serious thought and research into it. Nobody would want to invest $1 million not knowing exactly how to best do it. Each of our children is infinitely worth more than any of these earthly possessions, and naturally, I want what is best for them. Having a good birth is more than just having a living baby and a living mother, no matter what condition they are in or how much they suffered during the process. By God's grace, birth can be a time of great rejoicing, with only minimal physical discomfort.

The following are some books that I think are great reading for achieving just that. I highly recommend them to any expecting couple.

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

From Publishers Weekly
According to writer and editor Block (Our Bodies, Ourselves), "the United States has the most intense and widespread medical management of birth" in the world, and yet "ranks near the bottom among industrialized countries in maternal and infant mortality." Block shows how, in transforming childbirth into a business, hospitals have turned "procedures and devices developed for the treatment of abnormality" into routine practice, performed for no reason than "speeding up and ordering an unpredictable...process"; for instance, the U.S. cesarean section rate tripled in the 1970s, and has doubled since then. Block looks into a growing contingent of parents-to-be exploring alternatives to the hospital-and the attendant likelihood of medical intervention-by seeking out birthing centers and options for home-birth. Unfortunately, obstacles to these alternatives remain considerable-laws across the U.S. criminalizing or severely restricting the practice of midwifery have led the trained care providers to practice underground in many states-while tort reform has done next to nothing to lower malpractice insurance rates or improve hospital birthing policies. This provocative, highly readable expose raises questions of great consequence for anyone planning to have a baby in U.S., as well as those interested or involved in women's health care.

The author, Jennifer Block, also has a blog with lots of great information. Given the nature of the subject at hand - natural birth - I recommend this link for ladies only.

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

This book gives a historical tour of birth practices throughout time, how our Western approach to pregnancy care came to be what it is, and who let men into the birthing room. Very well researched with lots of fascinating info. I do of course disagree with the premise that our troubles during childbirth have to do with our evolutionary-imperfect pelvis that was made for a monkey walking on fours, not a human walking on two legs. Instead, I believe that this is the result of the curse pronounced upon mankind after the fall. I skipped the first chapter of the book, and found the rest to be extremely informative.

Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The outspoken former director of Women's and Children's Health at the World Health Organization believes maternity and perinatal care in the U.S. are seriously flawed. To make the point, he cites recent Centers for Disease Control findings that 28 countries have lower maternity-mortality rates; 41, lower infant-mortality rates. This despite the fact that the U.S. spends twice as much or more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. Wagner places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of obstetricians and the lobbying power of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Interested in one thing above all else--maintaining control of a lucrative market--that group, he avers, foists unnecessary, expensive, and invasive medical interventions upon women when none are needed. Obstetricians are only necessary, he says, in a minority of cases in which serious medical problems threaten the life of mother or child. For the most part, childbirth isn't a medical condition, and infant and maternal mortality rates are lowest in countries in which midwives attend to it. Speaking from his experience as a clinical perinatologist and a perinatal epidemiologist and supplemented by the hoard of credible sources cited in the copious endnotes, Wagner pulls no punches in advocating a woman's right to control the entire reproductive process, from conception through birth. Donna Chavez

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

"In Henci Goer, thinking women have a champion, and maternity caregivers have a challenger. Henci has applied her impressive intellect, wisdom, writing skills, common sense, and wit to produce *The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth*. She analyzes and makes sense of a prodigious amount of recent obstetric research, boils it down, and summarizes its findings. And, on the basis of these findings, she makes practical recommendations for better births. Not one to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, Henci lets the reader in on her whole thinking process, providing scientific references, summaries of the articles, and logical recommendations--all in a highly readable, user-friendly format." -- Penny Simkin, P.T. internationally known speaker, birth educator, doula, doula-trainer co-author of *Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn* and author of *The Birth Partner*

Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience

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.

1Timothy 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.


  1. I highly recommend anyone who is pregnant to look into hypnobirthing. It's also called calm birthing. I hypnobirthed with both my children and people are constantly amazed that I actually enjoyed my birth experience as saw it as a very positive experience. And, thinking back, I honestly believe that if I had not hypnobirthed I would have ended up with a c-section. My labour started on Monday night and I didn't deliver until Wednesday night. Because I totally trusted my body, was able to deal with the 'pain' and was really, really relaxed I didn't actually get to hospital until I was 8cm dilated. I believe that if I had not been in this trusting state that I would have gone to the hospital earlier. They would have monitored me, I would have been talked into drugs to 'move things along' and then the pain would have been too much handle and I would have had an epidural and then possibly a c-section
    Anyway, the point of that long ramble is that I totally agree with you LOL. Educate yourself. Ask questions in pregnancy because being 8cm dilated is not the time to be asking questions about pain relief

  2. and while I am on my bandwagon LOL I really think that more women need to educate themselves about breastfeeding while they are pregnant. I think that women focus a lot on the labour and while that is important it really is only a couple of days out of your life. Breastfeeding is something that you should ideally be doing for up to a year and is not always that easy to master. The number of women I know who have given up for simple things that could have been solved in they had been a bit more educated astounds me.
    Could you please write a few blog posts on breastfeeding? I know you have done a few on using breastfeeding as a way of spacing out your babies but I'm not sure if you've done anything on some of the tricky problems eg breast refusal, low supply, over supply. Gosh, writing all this makes me want to start writing a blog LOL

  3. Great post! Thanks for including book recommendations. I've heard of some of those but haven't read any of them. I need to get copies.

    I had a homebirth in July and it was the most amazing experience of my life. I'm already looking forward to the next one! It astounds me that women in this country have let themselves be talked out of their ability to labor and birth and place all their trust in MALE doctors, who DEFINITELY don't know how to labor and birth! GET OUT OF THE HOSPITAL!

  4. I would also recommend reading any books by Ina May Gaskin.

  5. loved this article! Thanks for writing that all in one place. The history of Obstetrics is very disturbing to me, and I don't see how it cannot disturb others!

    Even births that have mild 'complications' which really arn't complications at all, rather variations of what woman might experience during a pregnancy can have a safe homebirth.

    I look forward to my 2nd homebirth in Feb 2010!

    I have also read a lot of books on birth, but not one that you have mentioned. I think I'll check to see if the library carries any of those. Thanks for the reccomendations!


  6. Good post. I had my third home birth (in three years) a month ago. My baby was 10 lbs and it ended up being unassisted. This was the birth where I had been sent to a hospital by my midwife and a c-section had been scheduled due to breech baby. My midwife can deliver breech, but the birth before this was posterior and did a bit of damage to my body so she didn't know if she was comfortable doing it.

    I was within fifteen minutes of my c-section when the OBGYN did a last minute ultrasound and baby had turned. Right when the guy had shown up to take me down the hall to put a needle in my back.

    Ten days later, my son was born at home. It was wonderful. People asked me later if I was scared (ultrasound had already determined he was big, although it had said about 8 lbs 9 oz, not 10 lbs like he was). I said no, I wasn't scared but that was because I had educated myself long before I had any babies and knew that my body was capable of doing this. I had a nurse tell me my pelvis was too small, and one nurse did not believe my birth story after it was all said and done because she said it was "impossible" to birth a 10 lb baby unassisted.

    My actual labour, after a month of intense pain and emotional stress, was just under four hours. Midwife arrived fifteen minutes after he was born.

  7. I would recommend starting reading before preganncy if possible. I was ill throughout the whole of my pregnancy which meant that I didn't do as much reading as would have been ideal. It's also important to make sure one's husband is as well informed as possible (so they can stand up for you to hospital staff if need be) which is something I didn't do.

  8. "Birthing From Within" is another example resource. I had my baby in a birthing center with a nurse mid-wife. Excellent experience. I'm not brave enought to try a home birth. No offense.


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