Book Reviews, part 2

In part two of my book review series, I'm looking at two books I checked out from the library not long after I found out I was pregnant. Reading them simultaneously gave me a different perspective than if I had read one before or after the other.

Pushed by Jennifer Block has the subtitle "The painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care"- and it lived up to its claim. Chapter after chapter lists studies and statistics showing the reality of modern labor and delivery- and the dangers of the medicalization of the process. From epidural to inductions to cesarean sections, Block examines "technology" used on women, and weighs the risks and benefits, concluding that doctors are better equipped to deal with people with cancer or a broken arm than a low-risk pregnancy and birth.

The book is well-researched and cited, including 50 pages of appendices and notes. This makes it a bit dry and hard to get through, but very convincing. This book stirred up mixed feelings in me. On one hand, it made me angry that these things were being done to women, without much choice on their part, even in the face of current evidence that the interventions often weren't necessary. On the other hand, the chapters presented all these scary statistics without providing much in the way of answers or alternatives, and this made me feel discouraged. What was I to do if I ended up in a situation like many that were described in the book, which sounded far too common? This aspect of the book left me disappointed.

While reading Pushed, because it was a heavier read, I picked up another of the books from the same library trip to read simultaneously- The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. This book covers almost exactly the same topics as Pushed, with very similar statistics and studies cited (I didn't actually check that they were exactly the same, but the data was certainly consistent, at least.) With Goer's book, however, the chapters are more balanced. Pros and cons of procedures, prenatal care providers, and birth settings were discussed, rather than just the evils of hospitals.

I appreciated the examination of trade-offs and solutions to the issues presented. When I finished reading Pushed, I was left discouraged at the state of birth care. When I finished The Thinking Woman's Guide, I felt more encouraged- I was aware of problems and possibilities that could come up, but solutions were also offered. A woman is not left helpless, she is left with choices. This book convinced me to continue my research and make the most informed, evidence-based choices I could- both for my health and the health of my baby. This has probably been my favorite pregnancy book so far.


Corinne said...

One source on the other side of the spectrum is DR. Amy- The Skeptical OB http://skepticalob.blogspot.com/

She can be a little one-sided and abrasive, but reading through her posts had me doubting some of what the natural birth advocates are saying, I think there might be a lot of exaggerations and simplifications of the data. It does make me scared that there are a lot of unexperienced uncertified midwives out there. I am very glad that in Indiana you have to have a degree and be certified to be a legal midwife! I fall somewhere in between the two camps, I'd like to have a simple, largely unmedicalized birth if I can when the time comes, but I really want those options there quickly if I need them.

Another resource I have found on the other side of things is http://fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com/

Joanna said...

Corinne- I hadn't seen those blogs- those are both interesting resources, too! Like I said, I'm trying to know my choices (many women don't!) and make the best choice based on the evidence. There's plenty on the 'natural' side that I don't believe is evidence-based or even safe, and that will come up in a later book review. Interventions and medical technology have an important role in certain circumstances, and I want to be able to recognize that, too.


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