When you're an information junkie like me, it's hard to nail down "just one book," to suggest to expectant mamas. There are lots of greats. Many women don't know all the information that's available to them. While What to Expect When You're Expecting is a wonderful resource and considered The Bible to most, it just scratches the surface of knowledge, understanding and preparation you can easily get your hands on before you give birth.
What's interesting to me is that it seems many women read a lot, sign up for weekly updates online, and talk to their doctors and friends about what to do in pregnancy. What do I eat? How much exercise? Is bleeding okay? I hurt here or there - is that normal? However, when it comes to the actual birth process, they tend to think they'll get all the information they need in the few hours they sit through of a hospital childbirth class, or that they'll just go with the flow once they get to the hospital. There is a perception that once a woman gets to the hospital, her work is done and she turns over the rest of the work and decision making to the doctor and hospital staff. Leave it to the experts, right? After all, they're the ones who "deliver" the baby!
There is also an assumption that doctors and nurses will tell you all you need to know about interventions, and certainly wouldn't intervene if it weren't in you or your baby's best interest. Sadly, this isn't always the case. In fact, often common medical opinion and practice is not actually supported by scientific research. To top it all off, informed consent doesn't really include all that much information.
The book I'm loving right now is The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.
As I've shared before, my biggest passion in doula work is that women be well informed about childbirth, their bodies, and all of their options when it comes to their own birth experience. Women must know they HAVE choices, and they must truly know and understand their options in order to make those choices. Goer's book does just that. She goes into great detail explaining the reasons behind all of the common interventions, and the true risks and benefits of each.
Understanding the reasoning behind each intervention is crucial. For example, how would knowing the risks of benefits of continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) help you if you don't even know why the practice began in the first place? What and why are they monitoring? How necessary is it? Only when you know the answers to those questions can you then examine the pros and cons of the practice to then decide whether or not you would like to include it in your birth plan. Did you even know you can decide whether or not you want EFM?
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth covers cesareans, breech baby delivery, labor induction, IVs, electronic fetal monitoring, artificial rupture of membranes, dealing with slow labor, epidurals and narcotics, episiotomy, repeat cesareans, doulas, midwives and obstetricians, and choosing your birth location. The author explains how and why various practices came to be and, more specifically, explains the findings of scientific research showing whether or not those practices benefit baby and mother, and includes the real risks of each.
I have no doubt you will be surprised by most of the information in this book, in a good way I promise! I have a great deal of awe and respect for modern medicine and I know that interventions have their place, especially when emergencies arise. However, normal birth often needs no intervention because it isn't an illness or a problem; it is merely unpredictable and completely different for each mother a baby duo. Modern medicine trains doctors to treat and prevent illness, so I think it's difficult for obstetricians to step back and allow birth to happen rather than treat, manage, and ultimately control it.
If you are an expectant mother or father, read this book. If you are a woman, read this book. If you KNOW someone who is a mother or a father, read this book. Read this book! Be a thinking and discerning woman when you plan when, where, and how you will birth your baby. Be informed and be empowered!
Love and Honey,