For many generations, society has assumed that childbirth, with its associated fear, pain, and risks, must take place in a hospital setting in the presence of medical professionals who have no relationship to the parents and their baby. Laura Kaplan Shanley rebuffs the context of this assumption, which treats childbirth as a "disease" rather than as a natural process. In Unassisted Childbirth, she calls upon the thousands of years during which women gave birth without medical intervention--arguing that with the proper beliefs, women are capable of and can opt for delivering their own babies, with or without their partners. Shanley, who had her own four children at home without medical assistance, explains how women's apprehensions contribute to most difficulties encountered in labor. In addition, she points out, only after the practice of placing women in infectious hospital settings began did the risk of hemorrhaging, sickening or even dying in childbirth increase. As she assessed prenatal procedures that supposedly assure the expectant mother, Shanley reveals the fallibility of such long-relied-upon techniques as ultrasonography, induction, supine birth positioning, the use of IVs, enemas, anesthesia and fetal monitors. The author then explores how women can, by building faith in the power of the birth process, change the feelings of guilt, shame, and fear that inhibit many from attempting unassisted home birth. Finally, she and others who have delivered their own babies--sometimes in the face of formidable societal opposition--tell their stories, full of love, triumph, and pride. This remarkable book offers new insight, alternatives and information for expectant mothers, midwives, childbirth professionals and all others concerned with the issue.
Reviews of: Unassisted Childbirth
I suspect that every pregnant woman, at one time or another, has the urge to close all the doors and curtains, hide out alone in her bedroom, and be with just herself and her child. Now, most women don't choose that moment to be when they are in labor, but this book is about the women who do.
I bought this thinking it would be more of a handbook on birth. I was planning a home birth, and wanted to be prepared for all the contingencies that could arise. This is, however, not a medical text, nor a guide for childbirth itself. Instead, it's an argument for choosing the UC route when giving birth, a political statement about how birth has become a business in North America, and why and how women can take that power back into their own hands, direct their own childbirth, and have a powerful birthing experience.
The book is encouraging and empowering, but not for everyone. If you aren't open-minded, and are more the "What to expect when you're expecting" type, this book likely isn't for you. However, if you're interested in learning why and how having babies got so complicated, or are interesting in support for an argument with a spouse on why home birth might be a better choice, this book makes a strong and worthwhile case.