Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

by Ina May Gaskin

Paperback, 2003



Local notes

EC Parenting


Bantam (2003), Edition: 1, 368 pages


A leading authority on midwifery offers expectant mothers an alternative to hospital birthing, explaining how to create a mutually supportive relationship among birth-care providers and make informed choices.


Original language


Physical description

368 p.; 6 inches


0553381156 / 9780553381153

User reviews

LibraryThing member damsorrow
To be honest with you, after I finished reading this book, I took out my IUD in hopes that I'd get knocked up and have the opportunity to meet Ina May.
LibraryThing member Wosret
If there was one book I could get everyone to read, it's this one. Whether you're planning to have a baby, are pregnant, or if you give two hoots about the care that pregnant women and babies receive in North America. I read it as part of my Doula training and wish that I'd read it while I was pregnant.

The first half of the book is birth stories, usually written by the mother giving birth. They are moving, amazing, intimate peeks into one of life's biggest adventures. So many of them start out with: "I had my first kid(s) in the hospital and it was awful. There has to be a better way! So I went to The Farm for this one. " They definitely don't have to be read in order. I found it useful to open the book at random and read the story I found there.

The second part of the book is more scholarly. There are references to statistics and studies that show how different pregnancy and baby care is in North America compared to the rest of the world. I was quite alarmed to learn about some things, such as stitching up a uterus after a Cesarean birth in one layer rather than two, and Ina May's experience that this practice dramatically increased dangerous hemorrhaging during subsequent labours. Stitching up in one layer is done to save time, and is one of many examples in which time and money has come to take precedence over maternal and baby health.

This book made me want to buy a bunch of land and build my own hippie commune.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
The midwife lent me a whole stack of books (and is always pushing me to take more), but so far the only one I've read cover-to-cover is this one. And I'm wishing I'd read this before I had Jefferson.

Roughly the first half of this book is birth stories. Almost all of them are midwife-assisted births at The Farm, a village/commune in Tennessee, mostly just in homes without a lot of special equipment. Very few of the births had to be transported to the hospital, though those are represented as well. The stories are testament to what a calm and experienced birth assistant, a trust in the power of a woman's body, and the natural process of birth itself can do -- even when the mother gets temporarily hung up by fear, even with extremely large babies, and even with some fairly troublesome complications.

The second half of the book is a collection of essays by Ina May on the current state of birthing in the United States. (Primarily it's about this country anyway, there is also a lot of data from other countries for comparison.) The latter chapters are sometimes hopeful, sometimes chilling, but mostly make me glad we're trying for a midwife-assisted home birth this time.

But this book is mostly famous in our house for two pictures of a face-presentation. Jefferson was looking over my shoulder one day as I was reading this book and liked all the pictures of babies. So I started flipping through it with him looking for the pictures. Most were standard mom and baby post-birth posed shots, but on page 58 there is a picture of a baby where only the face has emerged from the birth canal, and then another of the baby right after delivery, with its poor face all smooshed and swollen. I was a little worried about Jefferson's reaction, as I hadn't intended to give him quite such a graphic introduction to "where babies come from," but he loved the pictures, and for a while developed a nightly routine of wanting to see the baby pictures before bed. At one point he even indicated the face presentation and told me he wanted me to have that baby. I told him no matter how much I loved him and wanted him to be happy, I would never wish for a face presentation.

Anyway! I loved this book. Very authoritative and informational. Would recommend to anyone interested in a more natural version of childbirth.
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LibraryThing member lorin77
This is a fantastic book! My husband and I are in the planning stages of parenthood, so even though I am not there yet, my sister gave me her old baby books. This was in there and I am really happy I read it.

What I loved about this book was part 1 - the stories by women who had a natural childbirth and are happy about it. So often (as Ina May says in the beginning of the book), when you are pregnant, people seem intent on telling you the worst horror story possible about child birth. Just reading these stories (even if you are undecided about natural child birth yourself) makes you realize that those bad stories are the minority and what a wonderful thing having a baby is! I would recommend this book to any woman who is pregnant or planning on getting pregnant.… (more)
LibraryThing member hipdeep
I had the opposite reaction to the first review. The birthing stories struck me as repetitive and predictable, and I skipped most of them.

What helped my mental preparation was Ina May's persuasive and rational argument for midwifery. Her research appears solid and should be read more widely. For me, that was the best part of the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member meganparenting
The best part of this book is the wealth of stories. Each of the personal narrative describes a different birth story, and most of them are positive. In a culture where we tend to limit our tales to the frightening and the painful, I hope this book would provide some positive mental preparation.
LibraryThing member rfewell
great inspiration for natural childbirth
LibraryThing member kellyholmes
If you're already sold on the idea of natural childbirth, I highly recommend this! It talks about some things that I hadn't read about or heard about yet--like there being a direct correlation between relaxing your jaw and relaxing during birth. However, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who isn't already sure of the natural childbirth option. Ina May is very knowledgeable and obviously excited to share what she knows about birth. But a few times, the anecdotes or birth stories strayed so far from what is mainstream in the U.S. that I have a feeling they would set off some people's "weirdness" radar and they would dismiss the whole book, which would be a shame.… (more)
LibraryThing member julierh
this is sort of a part two of spiritual midwifery. what is nice about it is that she includes many more recent stories of births on the farm (including the story of an obstetrician couple who wanted a natural birth. interestingly, they were among the most fearful couples that she has ever worked with) and a pretty thorough description of labor and delivery. it is full of useful information and things that to try in labor that have proved successful for women time after time in her practice. invaluable.… (more)
LibraryThing member rbtwinky
This is a great book for women who want to have a positive natural birth experience. Gaskin provides wonderful stories followed up by seemingly well-researched practical information. The book is full of inspiring stories and you-can-do-it attitude. As Gaskin herself states, this is not always easy to find in the language our society uses regarding birth.

At times I felt as though Gaskin was talking to a fellow healthcare professional (or trying to convince me to become one). Frequently Gaskin came in on the extreme hippy side of things. She advocates a meatless diet and no ultrasound despite there being no evidence of any detrimental effects after decades of use. I would say the book's biggest downfall is that it is becoming obsolete. The statistics seem current to 2000, which is almost a decade past at this point. If Gaskin doesn't come out with a new edition soon, she may loose her audience.
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LibraryThing member nattso78
Great book - a real eye opener & terrific reference manual for childbirth!
LibraryThing member HomeBirth
What you need to know to have the best birth experience for you. Drawing upon her thirty-plus years of experience, Ina May Gaskin, the nation?s leading midwife, shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience. Based on the female-centred Midwifery Model of Care, Ina May?s Guide to Natural Childbirth gives expectant mothers comprehensive information on everything from the all-important mind-body connection to how to give birth without technological intervention. Filled with inspiring birth stories and practical advice, Ina May?s Guide to Natural Childbirth takes the fear out of childbirth by restoring women?s faith in their own natural power to give birth with more ease, less pain, and less medical intervention.… (more)
LibraryThing member JoannaRuth
This is such a thoughtful, informative book regarding natural childbirth. Midwife Ina May Gaskin holds a masters degree in English and it is evident in her writing. Her thoughts stem from more than 40 years of experience attending births and highlight the stark difference between the traditional medical framework that obstetricians work within to assist women in delivering their babies and those who practice true natural childbirth. Arguably the most astounding section of her book is the statistics from 2,028 births that she has assisted. The difference between these statistics and typical hospital statistics are jaw-dropping to say the least, and left me knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that a natural birth is not only possible, but also healthier for both mother and baby. Truly this is a must-read for every woman who is pregnant or who ever plans to become pregnant and every person who will assist in a woman's labor and/or delivery.… (more)
LibraryThing member JamieBH

I purchased this book knowing that I'd like to have a natural birth and avoid an epidural and Caesarean section. I hoped this book would give me the courage and strength to move forward with my birth plan and I think it's done just that. The first half of the book offers several empowering birth stories that help boost my confidence. The second half of the book offered advice and historical data/research regarding natural birth vs. medical intervention and really helped me understand what I'm about to experience. I feel more than ever now that I can make informed choices during my own birth. Great read and one I'd highly recommend to anyone pregnant or hoping to be pregnant one day.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrianFannin
I managed not to read all of this, but there's no radio button for "put it down unfinished because my wife just had the kid". Very worthwhile for anyone who is either pregnant or plans on getting that way, or whose partner, daughter, sister, friend will go through child birth. She's a bit over the top at times, but a refreshing contrast to the clinical perspective.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarybrandy
There's a lot of really good information here, but it's buried under a ton of anecdata. I skimmed the first 20 or so pages of midwife-assisted birth stories and then skipped the other 95 pages of them. The organization leaves a bit to be desired, with chapters of information on the labor process sandwiched between chapters on the history and future of midwifery.

Still, with under 6 weeks to go, I don't have much time to do more than skim. The parts that are useful are very useful; the parts that weren't were easy enough to flip past.
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(193 ratings; 4.4)
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