I really enjoyed this book! It took me only four days to read it. I admire how relaxed, calm, and easy-going Ina May is about the whole birthing process. I love the fact that she sees birth is a natural venture, something that a woman does, instead of something that is done to her or for her.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a simple book to read. It is not full of medical jargon or tables of numerous statistics, but instead is written in "everyday" language.
There are two parts to the book. The first part concentrates on birth stories written by women who had their babies with Ina May and her colleagues. The second part covers what Ina considers to be birth essentials. She talks about the mind/body connection (which is not a "new age feel-goodery thing", but a real, physical and mental sensation). She also writes about the hormones that respond during labor and birth, as well as choosing your prenatal care, and the difference in the models of care between midwives and doctors.
Ina May does not go into great detail about the physiology of pregnancy and labor (what with sketches and charts and such) but she touches on the intimacy of the whole process, and the need for physical and moral support.
The one idea I did not care for is the thought that birth is sexual and can be turned into a sexual act. (This idea does not take up a lot of space in the book, nor is it the main focus.) Of course, babies are conceived during sex, and the act of nipple stimulation (as well as kissing and touching) can (and often does) lead to contractions and the birth of a baby. But I would not go so far as to preach the sexual importance and orgasmic pleasure that some people have experienced during this time.
I recommend this book to anyone. If you are interested in childbirth (whether it be the medical side or the more natural side to it), or if you are expecting your first child or your ninth child, or if you just like reading good birth stories, this is a simple and good book to choose.
If you are more interested in knowing and understanding the physiological side of birth (not so much the experience, but the scientific process along with its stages and numbers) than this is still a good read, but should not be, perhaps, the only book on your reading list.
"Wherever or however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life." --page xii
"I felt so powerful! How many women will never feel that power? Maybe the true price of an unnecessary cesarean is not the scar or disappointment or pain of recovery. Maybe it is the loss of that empowerment." --page 51 (Diana, who vaginally gave birth to a 10 1/2 lb. baby after 2 previous cesareans)
"We did not learn how to facilitate or support it [normal birth]. The tools that we have applied have disrupted the process- I can look back on my many instances where I used a medical tool (epidural, Pitocin, artificial rupture of membranes, even cesarean section), only to realize later that it had disturbed the normal process or precipitated a complication... I have felt compelled by the obstetric imperative to do something, when what was actually needed was support, careful reassessment, or patience." --page 114 (Heidi R., M.D.)
"...birth in our social context has become somewhat complicated to fathom, given a collection of widely accepted cultural myths about this physiological act. Contrary to myth, for instance, intrinsic physical characteristics only rarely interfere with the capacity to give birth...mental attitudes and emotions, on the other hand, interfere with the ability to give birth far more than is generally understood." --page 130
"We need to always remember that mothers who are afraid tend to secrete hormones that delay or inhibit birth." --page 149
"Because trust is such a valuable and powerful feeling, it is important for pregnant women to be cared for by people whom they trust. Love is another very powerful healing and easing emotion. Trust and love make relaxation possible. I believe the best midwives are those who feel a special kindness and love for the women they care for." --page 180
Happy Reading :)