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4.7 out of 5 stars118
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on July 4, 2006
Like many first-time expectant moms, I devoured MULTIPLE books on pregnancy and birth before I started Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, but I WISH I HAD READ THIS ONE ***FIRST!!!*** I started with the ubiquitous book that tells you "what to expect", but what I wanted was a book that would TEACH me, not TELL me how I could go about my pregnancy and birth in a way that was educated, informed, self-directed and naturally beautiful! Out of the wealthiest industrialized nations that has one of the worst perinatal mortality rates, Ina May of the US rises like a phoenix, a beacon of hope and light to share with women who want to affirm their bodies' innate ancient wisdom how to give birth powerfully. Filled with first-hand accounts of births, the wealth of her own experience as a midwife (her group was involved in catching some 3000 births with only a 1.4% c-section rate!) and research and citations from current medical journals and reviews, this book is a MUST-READ if you want to take charge of your body, your baby's birth and ask the right questions of your birth care provider! I started my pregnancy convinced that I would only birth in a hospital, but as I began to educate myself, I found that as a low-risk pregnancy, a home birth was truly what I wanted and that it would be the safest place for me to birth my baby. I believe each woman should be able to choose what she wants, and if you want an epidural in a hospital, more power to you, but do yourself and your baby a favor and educate yourself -- learn what an epidural is, what potential complications can occur, how medical technology as intervention in an age-old natural birth process can lead to more interventions that may not be what you bargained for...and also learn how beautiful birth can be, how there is no need for fear of it! Ina May's Guide to Childbirth teaches you what the hospitals and doctors won't take the time to tell you unless you are prepared to ask AND she also teaches you how to view birth as a natural, beautiful, joyful rite with techniques and information to aid birthing that doctors and hospitals may not know and/or advocate. At first, I was afraid of the impending birth of my child. Books like this one helped to inform me and to shed my fears. I have found myself quoting Ina May to others as I find gems in there that even other birth professionals don't know. Ina May has done her homework, has the experience and puts it in a book for all of us to benefit. DO NOT READ ANY OTHER BOOK ON CHILDBIRTH until you've read THIS ONE!
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on January 23, 2005
This book is one of the best that I have read. The first half of the book is filled with empowering birth stories, and the last half with some excellent advice and information about the childbirth process.
This book tells you everything you need to know to maximize your chances of having a natural childbirth, from the best positions to labor in to what sounds you should make to help labor progress.
It also gives you unbiased information on the risks and benefits of interventions such as epidurals, episiotomies, and c-sections.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a must read for all pregnant women who want to acheive a natural childbirth.
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on June 3, 2003
I am a birth fanatic, reading everything I can get my hands on. Spiritual Midwifery was the first book to wet my appetite and I've been nonstop since. Then, I read this book. Part one is the most beautiful, natural birth stories. Part two covers all the issues you could think of and the whole time makes birth so natural and safe. I have no fear of birth, just excitement. My body is made to do this, all I have to do it listen to it. I've found myself going back to this book instead of finding new books to read. All the information is right here, given to me by the person I trust most for birth information, Ina May Gaskin.
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on February 6, 2014
This was very calming. I especially enjoyed the birth story section, which was the second half of the book. There were so many different ways that labour progressed that I felt mine was normal, too, even though it didn't follow what most childbirth manuals say. (had painful cramps every 15 minutes for 2 days before the real thing kicked in... hadn't read about THAT anywhere else)

I reread it before my second child was born. A very soothing way to build confidence that yes, my body can do this! (and even when a birth results in c-section or less invasive procedures, the way it is framed in this book still is a triumph of the woman's body)

I definitely appreciated and used the delightfully named 'law of sphincters' to ease both kids into the world with minimal damage to me.

Fair warning, this book has been described (by me, while lending it to all my pregnant friends) as "hippie-dippy", but if all the crunchy lingo doesn't bother you, it is a wonderful read.
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on March 8, 2003
I have known Ina May for a long time, and I have been waiting for this book for years. Now that I have my copy in hand, I am not disappointed. First off, she starts the book with 100 plus pages of birth stories. Wonderful birth stories, scary birth stories, maddening birth stories, and even second generation birth stories. I loved reading the story of the birth of Mariahna, and then several pages later the story of how Mariahna herself gave birth. There is a special bonus in the birth story of two obstetricians (a married couple) giving birth. The book would be worth the investment if only for the birth stories.
Part two of the book includes well written and researched information on pregnancy, birth, midwifery, and obstetrics. It includes a historical perspective that is fascinating and imformative. Statistics and research are covered in a way that is neither dry nor boring.
I highly recommend that anyone pregnant, contemplating pregnancy, or involved with pregnant women should read this book. While one may disagree with some of the conclusions and recommendations, the data is compelling and the recommendations both evidence based and cost effective.
When the wealthiest country in the world has criminally high infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates, it is time for some change. Read the last chapter (first if you like) for a vision of how that change might be brought about.
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on April 28, 2004
Since I became pregnant I have been a book hound and I've read several different titles (especially books on Natural Birth). I have found Ina May's book to be the most honest and inspiring! She is not afraid to offend and really tells it like it is! I reference it often and I feel lucky to have read this before labor and delivery. I am very satisfied with this book!
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on September 2, 2003
I'm currently 29 weeks pregnant with my first child, and I've read a lot of the "bestselling" pregnancy and labor books on the market (i.e. "What to Expect", the Dr. Sears books, etc) but this one blew the rest out of the water when it comes to labor and delivery! Ina May's book explains the importance of psychological readiness for labor and delivery, as well as awesome techniques to overcome the "obstacles" of labor naturally. The first half of the book consists of very inspirational natural birth stories which made me feel prepared and even EXCITED about natural childbirth before I even read the second half of the book.
After reading this book, I decided to switch from using my OBGYN to a midwife instead. My OBGYN is supportive of my decision to try a "natural" childbirth, but her definition of the concept doesn't go beyond "patient doesn't want an epidural". She is totally untrained and unprepared to help me naturally deal with stalled labor, avoiding an episiotomy, delivering a "stuck" baby, etc. I know she would give me drugs or wheel me in for a C-section long before a midwife despite her "supportiveness".
You CAN try the ideas in Ina May's book on your own during labor, without the doctor knowing a thing about natural childbirth, as long as the OB isn't going to argue with what you want to try in the middle of delivery! For example, if baby's shoulders are stuck, most OB's will want to do an immediate C-section; Ina May's book tells you that if you simply turn over on your hands and knees, the baby will most likely slide right out!
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on May 20, 2004
The warmth, intelligence and humor of Ina May Gaskin really come through in this book, as does her concern with safe and supportive surroundings for all women during birthing. Ina May and her fellow midwives at The Farm are responsible for major research demonstrating the safety of home birth and birthing-center births.
I value this book primarily for giving me a first-person perspective of labor and delivery, in the words of both midwives and birthing women (and their partners). I also felt that the exploration of aspects of birth not usually talked about was great--orgasmic birth, use of nipple and clitoral stimulation to help with labor and delivery, careful pushing and breathing and laboring positions to prevent perineal tears, the pelvic press to help with shoulder distocia, etc. These are topics you won't find in any depth in "What to Expect," etc!
The underlying assumption in this book is that women can give birth naturally if they are prepared, supported and surrounded by fearless and knowledgable labor attendants. Ina May tells us that our bodies can do this, that we have reserves of body and mind that our indutrialized Western culture has discounted, and that we can each reclaim the feminine power of birth.
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on December 31, 2003
I have worked as a Labor & Delivery Nurse for the past 10 plus years. I have taught childbirth education for the past 5 years to couples who want research based factual information on the birth process. I have witnessed the truly miraculous journey many women have embarked upon in giving birth. To my dismay though or should I say disillusionment, many women were introduced to the routine medicalization of birth to help facilitate and expediate the birth process. These routine medical interventions many times were performed for the convenience of the Obstetrician not with the best interests of the laboring woman and baby at heart and left many emotional scars as well as insults to both the mother and to the baby.
Ina May's book explores the options available to women and their families in the childbirth arena. Birth can occur without routine medical interventions! True and factual accounts of births by women are narrated in the first half of this book along with researched, fact based information regarding birth and how it can and should occur. There are options for birth for everyone it can be individualized and completely different for each and everyone.
This is an informative and inspiring book that gets to the heart and soul of what transpires during the birth of a family. I agree as many others have stated that this book is a must read for every childbearing woman out there. I recommend this book to women in my own childbirth education classes. I have been transpired and mainly inspired by the birth stories presented along with Ina May's account of childbirth in the past, present and what lies ahead for the future. I now teach my childbirth classes with more heart, inspiration and fevere since reading this great book.
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on September 29, 2003
I was cautiously optimistic in reading this book as so many I have read (and I have read hundreds of perinatal books) fall short of my expectations. Ina May's Guide not only is superb, it is exactly what I have been looking for for years. A book not about the basics of modern technological birth, but of its essence - a normal, life affirming process. The birth process that has been repeated since the beginning of humanity with rarely a mishap... unless interfered with. Sadly todays birth is mired in interference as proven by the dismal morbidity (and I include cesarean section as morbidity, Ina May has proven in her own statistics the true rarity that major abdominal surgery should be used for birth) and mortality statistics in North America. I have been a birth professional since 1997 and recently gave birth to my fourth child a VBA3C (vaginal birth after three cesareans) and it was because of women like Ina May that I support women and have regained my own trust in my body which had been taken from me by modern obstetrics in their bid for efficiency.
This is not a homebirth book, but rather a book for all women, regardless of birth place or attendant, to learn about how our bodies work and in making informed decisions based on well documented evidence without the often one-sided advice of medical oriented authors.
This is one of the true gems that ranks at the top along with the Canadian hallmark Pregnancy and Birth: The Best Evidence by Barrett and Pitman and Henci Goer's book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Learn from the most amazing midwife this century has to offer.
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