Suggested Reading List
1. Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth (by Ina May Gaskin)
Founding member and former president of the Midwives Alliance of North America and author of Spiritual Midwifery, Gaskin offers encouragement and practical advice in her upbeat and informative book on natural childbirth. Since the mid-1970s, Gaskin and the midwives in her practice on a Summertown, Tenn., commune known as “The Farm,” have attended over 2,200 natural births. Gaskin, who learned the rudiments of her gentle birthing technique from the Mayans in Guatemala, has helped bring attention to the method’s remarkably low rate of morbidity and medical intervention. Couples considering natural childbirth will get inspirational coaxing from more than a dozen first-person narratives shared by the author’s clients. Gaskin decries what she sees as Western medicine’s focus on pain during birth, arguing that natural birthing can not only be euphoric and blissful but also orgasmic (a survey of 150 natural birthing women “found thirty-two who reported experiencing at least one orgasmic birth”). The second half of Gaskin’s book deals with the practical side of natural birthing, including how to avoid standard medical interventions such as epidurals, episiotomies and even prenatal amniocentesis that may be unnecessary, even dangerous, to mother or child. While this may not be the definitive guide to natural childbirth, it is a commfortable and supportive read for women who want to trust their bodies to do what comes naturally.
2. Birthing from Within (by Pam England and Rob Horowitz)
Pam England, a registered nurse and certified nurse midwife, developed the “birthing from within” approach in a series of birthing classes to help mothers reclaim and celebrate the spiritual, emotional, and psychological aspects of birth as a rite of passage. Her book is a collection of methods that have been used for class participants. England is quick to point out that this “is not a script or a rigid method,” and she encourages parents and professionals to use those portions that are helpful. There are numerous exercises and activities to help parents, especially mothers, be in contact with their bodies and feelings. The author recommends throughout that the mother and her healthcare professional work together, giving numerous suggestions for making this a successful partnership. England has done a fair amount of research and does include numerous references; at the same time, she makes it a very personal book. It will appeal especially to patrons interested in alternative birthing methods.
3. Gentle Birth Choices (by Barbara Harper and Suzanne Arms)
Expectant parents are faced with a daunting array of choices to make about prenatal care, labor, and birth. In Gentle Birth Choices Barbara Harper, renowned childbirth advocate, nurse, midwife, and mother of three, explains all the available choices and shows how to plan a truly meaningful, family-centered birth experience. She dispels the medical myths that so often shift control of birth away from women and reimagines birth without fear or violence and with minimal pain. She provides practical advice for couples wishing to explore options such as hiring a doula or laboring in water to avoid the unwanted effects of drugs and epidurals.
4. Spiritual Midwifery (by Ina May Gaskin)
This is the classic book on home birth that introduced a whole generation of women to the concept of natural childbirth. Back again are even more amazing birthing tales, including those from women who were babies in earlier editions and stories about Old Order Amish women attended by the Farm midwives. Also new is information about the safety of techniques routinely used in hospitals during and after birth, information on postpartum depression and maternal death, and recent statistics on births managed by The Farm Midwives. From the amazing birthing tales to care of the newborn, Spiritual Midwifery is still one of the best books an expectant mother could own. It includes resources for doulas, childbirth educators, birth centers, and other organizations and alliances dedicated to improving maternity care at home and in hospitals.
Ina May Gaskin is one of the Founders and the current president of the Midwives’ Alliance of North America. She is a powerful advocate for a woman’s right to give birth without excessive and unnecessary medical intervention. Her clinical midwifery skills have been developed entirely through independent study and apprenticeship with other midwives around the world. Ina May and fellow Farm midwives were instrumental in the development of the rigorous Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) certification process.
5.Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Early Parenting Choices (by Sarah Buckley)
An authoritative guide to natural childbirth and postpartum parenting options from an MD who home-birthed her own four children. Sarah Buckley might be called a third-wave natural birth advocate. A doctor and a mother, she approaches the question of how a woman and baby might have the most fulfilling birth experience with respect for the wisdom of both medical science and the human body. Using current medical and epidemiological research plus women’s experiences (including her own), she demonstrates that what she calls “undisturbed birth” is almost always healthier and safer than high-technology approaches to birth. Her wise counsel on issues like breastfeeding and sleeping during postpartum helps extend the gentle birth experience into a gentle parenting relationship.