Recommendations for books on labor/delivery/birth?
January 22, 2009 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for recommendations for books about labor/birthing.

First time mom, baby due in May. My husband and I are doing what we can to be prepared. I learn best through reading, though, and would like to find a book or two (or websites) about the actual process of labor, and ways to work through it. We'll be delivering in a hospital. I'm not opposed to "the drugs", but I don't have my heart set on them either -- I feel instinctively that being able to move around is important. I guess I'm just looking for books on the mechanics, and things that might help ease pain. (If you have any personal recommendations on what helped ease the pain, I'd be interested in that, too.) Thanks!
posted by dpx.mfx to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the following are mostly geared toward natural unmedicated birth:

the thinking woman's guide to a better birth
birthing from within
the birth partner
ina may gaskin's guide to childbirth

you are right that freedom of movement is key. rocking back and forth totally helped me. same with being in a hot shower or my bathtub (which has jacuzzi jets in it -- lovely!) as the sensation of the water on your skin is a good distraction. doing your kegels is important too, since you have to relax the pelvic floor to allow the baby to pass. my mom aptly described birthing as "pooping a watermelon" and there is a chapter in the ina may gaskin book about sphincters that really gave me great perspective on the relationship between relaxation and birth.

my labor pains felt like intense menstrual cramps. they were bearable. you just have to get through them one at a time.

read as many birth stories as you can. has a forum dedicated to birth and birth stories. check it out.
posted by fancyoats at 5:34 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you want Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth: "Childbirth With More Confidence, Less Pain, and Little or No Medical Intervention."

She is also the highly respected author of the incredibly well read Spiritual Midwifery, but it's focused on home birth. The Guide is geared more towards mainstream birth, even though it's more technical.

Honestly, I would read them both. More than anything, Spiritual Midwifery will give you a viewpoint planted in low pain and low intervention, which will give you a nice counter-balance to the more process and intervention oriented reading out there. They should both be available through your local library.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:35 PM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Congrats! I like the Dr. Sears books for all baby-related stuff. They are a bit crunchy tho. The Girlfriends Guides are very honest and I found them more useful than the medical books.
Also, your local hospital's birthing class will give you the scoop on birth generally and your hospital's policies.
The Live Journal community pregnant has a ton of 'birth stories' - if you want mine, I can me mail you.
posted by k8t at 5:36 PM on January 22, 2009

2nd The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Childbirth Without Fear is good. I thought 'Birthing From Within' was dreadful, very twee and patronizing -- but you can't go too far wrong by simply avoiding the 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' nonsense.

Google Scholar is your friend when you run into conflicting (or no) information.

Personal recommendation is (sadly) drugs. But the people around you are key, too.
posted by kmennie at 5:42 PM on January 22, 2009

I recommend the Ina May Gaskin books. I had a medicated birth with both my kids, the way we wanted it, but I loved all the information and examples I got from reading about The Farm and Ina May's midwifery practices. I am a nervous type naturally, and it was very calming and comforting to get the benefit of a very experienced midwife's words before labor and delivery.
posted by lucydriving at 7:07 PM on January 22, 2009

Best answer: The best overall book I read about birth was The Big Book of Birth. It is natural-birth friendly, but you will also learn about C-sections and pain medications with an aim to make you educated enough to choose for yourself which interventions you're comfortable with.
posted by xo at 8:26 PM on January 22, 2009

For a lot of people this is a controversial question. They feel there are significant issues with using drugs in birth, and it looks to me that the medical literature supports them.
If I had to give just one piece of advice, it is that hospital staff are conflicted, in that while they want to maximise healthy deliveries, they might not be as invested in your well-being beyond a measurably healthy baby and mother as you would hope.
What I mean by this is they have a desire to make sure births progress at a certain rate, and they have protocols to follow to make the process most efficient. And efficiency is probably an enemy of you feeling good about the experience.
Unfortunately (luckily?), each mother is individual, and some need some time or a less pressured atmosphere to have a good birth experience, even if the end result is a healthy baby and mother.
This means you might want to ask about the consequences of medical interventions. For example, when a midwife or OB does an internal exam they will record a measure of dilation. If they repeat this 2 hours later and there is little change, their protocol often then 'starts the clock' resulting if there is little or no progress after a couple more hours they will intervene with hormones or other medical strategies that all of a sudden turn what might have been a perfectly natural, if slow, birth into a medicalised 'pseudo-emergency'.
This was something I hadn't considered at all when we had our first child, and I admit I didn't read any of the books referenced up thread.
When I understood the impact this approach had on my wife emotionally, I began to appreciate that there was more to having a baby than having a tooth extracted.
Since then, I have met a lot of women who recognised that birthing their children was one of the most emotional moments of their lives, and a heavily medicalised approach to birth devalued this.
Western society has tended to make birth a medical incident like a broken bone, while it is much more a natural part of life, and a time of intense emotion and joy.
There is a risk if you don't take charge of your child's birth you will miss out on this, and potentially regret it the future.
That said, if your birth has complications, certainly modern medicine has a crucial role, but reading stuff like the Inna May Gaskin book will help understand the bigger picture.
For you, this is likely the biggest deal of your life, for an OB it is a slot in their diary - you have the most invested in this, so make sure it is how you want it to be.
Other good books:
New Active Birth - Janet Belaskas
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - Henci Goer
Note that Inna May Gaskin is a bit out there, but probably encapsulates some of the philosophy around natural birth. Don't get put off if it sounds a bit hippy, just use what you need.
posted by bystander at 3:32 AM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is the book that I recommend to every expecting friend I know: Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn.. While I was hoping for as natural a labor and delivery as I could I found that many of the natural childbirth books were condescending, trying to scare you or downright hostile even toward other theories of natural delivery. This book is written by a nurse midwife and offers information on all types of labor and delivery strategies so that you can decide for yourself and create a birth plan that fits YOU.

Congrats and good luck.
posted by rosebengal at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2009

Note that Inna May Gaskin is a bit out there, but probably encapsulates some of the philosophy around natural birth. Don't get put off if it sounds a bit hippy, just use what you need.

Meant to come back and say: yes, Ina May's books are a bit woo woo. It is important to remember, however, that the first edition of Spiritual Midwifery was published in 1975. Ina May was - literally - living in a commune in the full blown hippy experience.

She, however, is not out there. She subsequently became a trained, certified and state licensed midwife, helping women to deliver babies at a busy, internationally respected birthing centre with incredibly low intervention and transfer rates. She pioneered the use of the Gaskin Maneuver in the US (a recovery position for shoulder dystocia) and is the only midwife who has an obstetrics procedure bearing her name.

More than anything, Spiritual Midwifery's many birth stories offer an antidote to the medicalised version of birth we see in popular culture. It gives you a broader spectrum for your idea of what birth can be like, so you plan yours for where you really want to sit on the scale from, say, unassisted home birth to planned hospital c-section. You can't make informed choices if you don't know what all the choices are, after all.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:24 AM on January 27, 2009

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