on July 10, 2003
I have always been really scared of the birthing process. After reading this book, I felt much more empowered and confident about the whole process. Now I am really looking forward to it and feel like I understand so much more about how our bodies naturally can help us through birthing. This book sparked my interest and now I have learned a lot more about natural, drug-free birthing options. I am excited instead of scared. As with anything, we still need to make our own personal decisions about how we want to do things, but I really feel like reading this book opened me up to many options that I wasn't aware of or hadn't considered. It amazes me how many people go through being pregnant and birthing with a very limited view of how it "should be done". When I was reading the book, there were so many times where I thought, "yeah, that makes a lot of sense", even though I had never thought about it myself.
I highly recommend this book!
on October 30, 2002
This is an excellent book. The pictures are gorgeous, as usual Suzanne Arms has done terrific photography, and the descriptions of childbirth are pretty acurate. I must state though that every woman's experience of childbirth will be her own and be different so just because someone's childbirth was one way as described in this book it does not mean it will happen the same way for you. Technocratic birth is still the norm throughout the country and it is important to read books like this to prepare yourself should you be considering a hospital birth. The writer has obviously had a bad experience in the hospital, but many people have and I admire her wanting to share her experience as a warning to others. In my last hospital birth in 1999 I too was subjected to many of the interventions I did not want, for the third and final time I gave birth in the hospital. Never again. I wish I had read this back in 1995 before I had my first son and maybe things would have been different. Hospitals are for sick people, not pregnant women who are low risk. Also, someone else who reviewed here made some mention of a baby having an umbilical cord wrapped around its neck as a reason for c-sec, but that is not necessarily true. It is a small matter to unwrap a cord from around an infants neck as it is being born...I know as this happened with my son at his birth at home this past spring. If I had been in the hospital...would they have cut me open? Who knows?
on December 25, 2001
I would like to say that first of all, I agree with the previous reader from Austin (who rated this book a 1 out of 5 stars) only in that the author definitely has a strong bias against the medical establishment. The bias is so severe it does at times appear as a chip on her shoulder and she is so against modern medicine that she argues against any involvement with doctors at all. And I also agree that her choice of pictures/illustrations do seem overly dated given the publication date. (I actually had no idea that it was published as recently as 1994. I definitely perceived a 1970s feel.)
Given that, I would still say that the basic points of her information are worth considering. A natural birth is natural. In the normal situation of birth, the body is able to handle the huge amounts of stress that it experiences. And a woman's mind CAN be capable of cooperating with the body. The author also gives anecdotal evidence that the mind is also capable of working against the body. Basically, a natural birth is a whole experience and all components of the woman must work together to get the most out of such a tremendous experience. Her body, mind, emotions, and social support system must work in agreement and any conflict may cause problems or delays.
I read this book earlier this year after resolving to start a family. I read it a full 9 months before I actually became pregnant. At first, I was very convinced that natural birth is the only way. But after 9 months of contemplation, I now believe natural birth is the best way, but not the only way. Perfectly normal and happy families are created through less natural processes. And I still have another 8 months to dwell on my own choice for the birth of my first child.
So my goal is to start from an ideal birth plan that is natural, but safe, and then I can determine where I am willing to accept changes. After all a healthy baby and a healthy mom is what is ultimately important, right? Sure it may be better for my baby to be born drug free. And it may be better for me to nurse my newborn immediately and upon demand the whole time I am in the hospital so that we may bond as soon as possible. But it is also better if I never eat cheetos or pizza, and I can live with myself if I indulge in that occasionally.
So here's my bottom line. If you're considering a natural birth method and want some stories and a varied picture of what types of options are available, definitely read this book. But read it with some salt (as several other reviewers have said). Be critical and objective of all that you read. Likewise, be just as critical and objective of what your OB and doctors tell you. Be an informed medical consumer and I think you will be happy with a healthy baby, however she arrives. Good luck!
on July 14, 2000
This is absolutely a lovely book. When I first became pregnant, I assumed that when it came time to birth to my baby, I would check into a hospital, get my epidural, and have my baby. However, as the months past and I began to appreciate the tiny individual inside me, I started to get curious about the entire process of child-bearing and birth. This particular book is slightly biased against American Obstetrics, but with good reason. I would advise all pregnant women to read this book, whether this is your 1st pregnancy or your 5th: but do read it with a grain of salt. Our medical establishment, for the most part, is interested in what's best for us and our babies. But this book can help those of us who haven't experienced birth, or had an unsatisfying birth experience previously, to educate ourselves on the birth process in order to make informed, sound decisions about what birthing method is best for us and our babies. I strongly recommend purchasing this book with the accompanying video-the video is excellent: informative and high-quality. It shows several different women actually birthing their babies. The way those babies (free from the sedative effects of narcotic or epidural anesthesia) respond to their parents and the others around them immediately after birth will awe you!
on March 28, 2000
Gentle Birth Choices is an excellent book for all expectant parents, regardless of their birthing intentions (i.e. birth center, home birth, hospital birth, natural birth or water birth). Moreover, childbirth educators of any affiliation will benefit from the information covered in the text and on video.
Gentle Birth Choices is riveting, yet powerful. Barbara Harper guides the reader through a history of birth and birthing procedures, dispels the myths perpetuated by the medical establishment and presents alternatives to hospital birth. However, for those who are unable to birth outside of a hospital, Ms. Harper provides guidance so that the reader may obtain the best, "gentle" birth possible. The book benefits expectant parents in that it presents them with options, some of which they may have not previously considered. Moreover, childbirth educators will not only find the book informative for teaching purposes, but also useful for influencing the medical establishment in a tactful manner.
Like the book, the video is an asset for both expectant parents and educators. Whether you have never seen a birth before or have witnessed thousands, the births contained in the video tape are absolutely beautiful and refreshing, relaxing yet empowering. After watching the video you will want to share it with everyone you know!
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend both book and video! In fact, I've already gone one further -- I purchased it for my cousin who is expecting in April.
on April 23, 2002
This book has changed my life, 10,000-fold, for the better. It was loaned to me in the beginning of my first trimester, and I devoured it -- I gulped it down like a drowning person desperate for air. (I am due in about 5-6 weeks.) It helped me to return -- on a straight and narrow path -- to my original hopes of having a midwife attended homebirth.
Barbara Harper introduces us to the fact that modern medicine has "medicalized" childbirth, which is a normal bodily function, a natural process. She goes on to dispel myths, such as once a Cesarean, always a Cesarean; childbirth for women over 35 is difficult, and high risk (!); pain killers won't harm the baby; and a number of other myths, which most of us have been taught by our obstetricians to believe. She offers us further information that many of us have likely been unaware of, such as the non-necessity of cutting the cord immediately, and the fact that it is in fact likely to be harmful to the newborn to have the cord cut immediately.
When writing about the electronic fetal monitor, Barbara Harper says that "Dr. Robert Hon, inventor of the EFM [electronic fetal monitor], asked his colleagues to consider the causes of the rising cesarean rate in the United States. He stated that he never intended the EFM to be used in routine obstetric management. 'If you mess around with a process [birth] that works well 98 percent of the time, there is a potential for much harm.'"
This book has been, for me, a comforting, lifesaving, safety net in which to fall at a time when I was newly pregnant at 37, and frantic with miserable discomfort at the care I had been receiving at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
And of the seven Appendices offered in this book, Appendix F: Resources, provides a wealth of references to other groups.
I must also add that this book changed my husband's life just as much as it did mine, if only because it brought me to my search for a homebirth midwife. And in that search, we were introduced to another fabulous book called Silent Knife (find it under Nancy Wainer Cohen), which my husband has told me has changed his life, and which is a must-read for any woman trying to avoid a C-section, or a repeat C-section.
Barbara Harper has has also introduced me to a vast collection of other authors, whose books I have begun to acquire at a steady pace. To note just a few: Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger, Nancy Wainer (Cohen), Frederick Leboyer, Ida May Gaskin, Marsden Wagner, David Stewart, Henci Goer, Penny Simkin, and many others.
Barbara Harper founded Global Maternal/Child Health Association (GMCHA) and Waterbirth International in 1989. I called GMCHA and left a message on their machine looking for some information, and I was thrilled to be able to personally thank Barbara Harper, and to tell her that SHE changed my life, when she called me back herself. So I was doubly happy to see that she remains fully a part of the organization she established.
I have come to two conclusions through my recent reading, thanks to my introduction to Gentle Birth Choices, and all of my reading since then: 1) To rely so fully as Americans do, on advice from the medical profession, is a tremendous abdication of responsibility. Though the search for the right care is not easy, good things do not come easily, and we must take back responsibility for our own health care, rather than blindly relying on doctors; and 2) Those of us who continue to insist that doctors MUST know what they're doing, are not behaving with respect toward their God. I happen to be Atheist, and my view is that Nature has designed the human body. For many believers, the human body has been designed by God. Either way, the human body is a finely honed machine, designed by something or someone greater than any of us. For humanity to behave the way that we do toward the birth process shows a profound lack of respect for Nature/God. Do we really think that a system designed by God or Nature is so faulty that C-sections are required approximately 25% of the time? Those who will simultaneously prefer an obstetrician-attended birth in a hospital, and who will allow the numerous interventions likely to attend their birth in a hospital, and who also claim to love their God may want to re-evaluate both their understanding of medical practices in America, as well as their understanding of God.
This book, and ALL of the others to which it has led me, will provide readers with information from an endless supply of studies, all of which have been published in the most highly respected medical journals (JAMA, British Lancet, Am. Coll. of Obstet. & Gyn., etc.), every one of which show results that prove that ALL medical interventions only contribute to difficulties in labor. Why do our doctors continue to practice this way? Read up -- educate yourself -- you'll be glad that you did. And you'll want to thank Barbara Harper profusely, as I still want to!!!
on October 7, 2000
Harper has good points and empowers women to make wise choices and take responsiblity for their own labor, deliver, births. Unlike the reader who found it to be information not pertinent to today (I wish I had her hospital & doctor in my town), my birth experience with my first (& so far only child) was very much taken out of my control. My child was never in danger, I was never in danger. And despite my "birth plan" and my constantly telling my doctor that I was okay with however long my labor took as long as baby & me were fine,she intervened and eventually I ended up with a c-section. Hospital protocol dictated that I be put in hospital gown, hooked up to iv and fetal monitor despite the fact that it slowed my labor and made the pains more intense. A nurse came in every hour and offered me some sort of pain releif despite the fact that I had expressed that I didn't want it. She'd tell me I didn't have to be martyr. That was agrivating. As a result, I've been looking for hope to avoid this the next time around. Had I read this book before I believe I would NOT have the physical or emotional scars of the cesearean. I know some women are okay with their c-sections and I probably would be too if I knew that my life or my baby's life had been saved. But neither of us were ever in jeporady.