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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 18 December 2001
I read first this book as a student midwife about 2o years ago. It gives a brilliant insight into what women should be able to acheive. The fact that it is at variance to the normal birthing process in the western world is proof that we don't do it right, not proof that it's too old fashioned or hippy-ish. Read this book and trust that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
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on 28 December 2010
This book is not just a book explaining wonderful natural techniques for giving gives you freedom from the fear of childbirth. All my life I have feared the whole process of childbirth and was worried that when I became pregnant one day that my fear of the labour and transistion would ruin my experience of the pregnancy. Then my friend bought me this book and it has all changed. Ina May Gaskin is an inspirational midwife that teaches us that the human species has been conditioned to believe that childbirth is full of pain and alarm. There is way too much intervention in today's hospital births and when childbirth is approached with the understanding that it is a completely natural and amazing happening, then a person can realise that the great deal of pain felt is due to being scared, up-tight and not relaxing the body enough to allow the opening to happen. Also, contractions are described as 'rushes' and this seems to make complete sense. You'll see why when you read this book! Its a precious must have to every pregnant woman and you won't regret being introduced to the wonderful Ina May Gaskin :o)
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on 20 May 2004
This book is one for those who are willing to be open minded and to learn from people who have become expert in regaining natural birth amongst their community. They are NOT taking drugs as is implied by one reviewer they merely call contractions 'rushes'. It is very inspiring. i think that one of the greatest gifts a midwife can give a woman in labour is her faith that every woman is capable of becoming a birth goddess in their own right.
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on 17 February 2010
I first read this fascinating book in 1982, when I was a midwife myself doing an advanced course. I don't think I would have stuck with it when I was a student midwife - it would have come a bit strange to a callow young Brit. With a bit more maturity I found some superb insights.

Ina-May thinks midwives should have had babies themselves. I've never had a child, so that puts a bit of emotional distance between myself and the book. She may well be right - I have no way of telling. She writes for those giving birth, and practicing midwifery, in a commune in Kentucky. I work in an NHS
Trust in the English midlands. I'd love to go to Kentucky, but it isn't going to happen! There is a certain sense of being in another world when reading this book.

Apparently there are no midwives in America (at least, I don't think there were when this book was written), so Ina-May writes to educate lay people as midwives, telling them what she thinks they ought to know. It's interesting to find out what she chooses to include.

First it is supremely noteworthy that she writes a single textbook for both parents and midwives (although she includes further reading suggestions for the latter). If you go into a bookshop in England, you might find highly technical books for the professionals, and much "softer" books for their patients. In this book, both groups are encouraged to use the same language, and language is power! If you use the same language as the patient, you are on the same level; you have no secrets from one another. You don't talk down to them. It is a sign of mutual respect. For example, I think she calls the woman's perineum her "fanny", and encourages the midwife to use that term, because it is "more friendly". I can't imagine any of my midwifery tutors telling me to ignore Maggie Miles and call the perineum the fanny! The word fanny sounds wierd and dated to me, but that's not the point. They're encouraged to use the same language, and that shows a profound insight into human interaction.

I found some of the other things she teaches midwives to be a source of admiration tinged with black humour. In one place she tells them how to give an injection. Injections, dear reader, are not difficult to give, but she's writing for real novices. But then she tells the same novices how to reduce an inverted uterus! This is extremely rare, but a major emergency - while the placenta is being delivered the womb drops through the vagina and turns inside out, and since that means it can't contract, the the placental site is likely to bleed massively and the patient exsanguinate, so you have absolutely no time to mess up this difficult procedure. I think if I was this midwife, I'd die of heart failure - talk about a crash course!!

Another bit that reduced me to tears was her advice about a midwife's priorities. Once she agrees with a family that she will help at the birthing, she has to put the needs of that family absolutely first - ahead of any needs of her own or of her own family. If you tell a mother you'll deliver her baby, that's it! Unless you actually drop dead first, you'll be there. What's more, I get the impression that she really means it, and so do her midwives. It isn't a pious exhortation, it's for real.

As a midwife reading this book I didn't learn how to do any procedures I didn't already know. In many ways I didn't find it all that progressive, even then. I can't say how it would read to a pregnant woman, never having been one myself. But the attitudes it proposes are staggering and humbling. I wish I measured up to them.
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on 30 March 2012
I have read this book through all three of my pregnancies and can credit it with my fear free, drug free, home birth experiences. It takes a while to wrap your head around the hippy references but throw yourself into it and it could fundamentally change the way you consider childbirth and parenthood. Once you realise its something you are doing instead of having done to you and enjoy the journey you can honestly have a positive labour and birth which will leave you feeling like Superwoman. I thoroughly recommend.
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on 25 October 2015
Great book, however more for US market, gives lot's of midwifery information, some very detailed towards end of the book.
There are lot's of birth stories and information within it.
The drawings are beautiful.
Initially only got it as on Doula reading list, after having got into reading it, feel it contains a vast amount of information, much more than just required for being a birth companion , as it gives many medical procedures.
Could be used as a reference book, as it contains vast amount of information in particular for those embarking on a home birth or free birth journey.
Would definite recommend for midwifes to read or anyone interested in any kind of birth work, or those who wish to inform themselves in a more natural way of birthing.
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on 21 August 2010
A friend told me at 37 weeks pregnant with my first child that giving birth was like being hit in the vagina with a base ball bat. Luckily another friend recommended this book. I couldn't believe that what Ina May wrote back in the day would actually happen during my 'labour' but it changed my way of thinking and I can honestly say giving birth was the best, and most transcendental experience of my life. Thank you Ina May Gaskin.
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on 26 November 2006
If you can look beyond the very "hippyish" language (a sigh of the times!) this book is a truly fabulous piece of work, and an inspiration to midwives and mothers alike. Yes, its slightly dated, but the actual purpose, to show women as capable of birthing their babies and to make us all consider the effect of medicalisation on childbirth are still very relevant.

I would recommed all those working in, and expecting a baby in countries who have taken over childbirth as a medical event read this and other similar texts to reevaluate which outlook is really the most "advanced".
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on 8 April 2014
The book talks about Ina May's birthing philosophy and her experiences as a midwife before and when living at the Farm - a collective of free spirits that she and her partner helped to establish. A very good book, showing that birth can and should be a spiritual experience.
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on 9 November 2014
A must read! Really helped me during labour although I wouldn't say it was a trippy experience lol (had to be monitored etc) it gave me strength to resist pressure of interventions e.g. epidural and have confidence and faith in my body
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