Top critical review
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Fascinating observations but lacking in practical ideas
on 20 February 2001
This book compares the experience of giving birth in industrialized cultures (such as in the UK) with that in various other non-industrialized cultures (everything from ancient times to African countries today). It's an interesting read from one of the gurus of natural childbirth.
Having recently given birth in a London hospital, I can certainly agree with Kitzinger that the way labouring women are processed through the hospital system means that a lot of the emotional and spiritual aspects of birth are overlooked. But I can't agree with her suggestions that we should be emulating labouring women in non-industrialized cultures, preferably giving birth at home and with as minimal intervention as possible, even without pain relief if possible.
I'm sure every woman wants as natural a birth as possible. But to reject the hospital system is to overlook the point of medical intervention, namely that birth in its natural state is a dangerous affair for both mother and child. At the beginning of the 20th century, a British woman had a one in thirty chance of dying in childbirth, and the mortality rate of mothers in some African countries today is one in seven. In the 1930s my own grandmother died in the process of giving birth to my father in a Thai village that had no hospital.
This book neglects to consider that as flawed as the hospital system is (horribly understaffed and uncomfortable), it means that birth is relatively safe. While I think it's good that Kitzinger questions medical procedures, I am extremely disappointed that she doesn't offer practical ideas about how to integrate the spiritual with the medical.
I would be interested to hear other people's views on this - feel free to email me.