by Jo Anne Lindberg
After having a crash c-section, for no apparent reason, author Tina Cassidy (a journalist) dove into what turned into a two-year research project. She bookends the factual part of her book, Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born, with her personal story and conclusions based on her research. Beginning with a study of the evolution of the pelvis from prehistoric times and covering midwifery, pain relief, c-sections, the advent of doctors attending births, and gruesome operations on mothers and babies, she even questions if fathers should attend births. In her last chapter, she talks about the postpartum period. The book is very comprehensive and often includes little known birth facts about peoples worldwide.
At times I think she is a bit too sensational in tone but she does attempt to be fair about presenting both sides of each issue she is covering in true journalistic style. The only major complaint I had was her statement that 70% of women in the UK and US are breastfeeding. I’m guessing she did not dig deeper than initiation rates for that figure. While many more women start fewer than 20% make it to six months. So that was quite misleading. She did spend a good deal of time discussing the merits and challenges of bonding and breastfeeding.
My reaction to the rest of the book ranged from fascinated to repulsed to humorous. She raised many good questions. It is my hope that after reading this book women will question convention much more than they do. So much of what happens in the labor and delivery rooms of hospitals today is not evidence-based medicine. Babies and mothers often survive birth rather than enjoy or embrace it as a right of passage. Medicine has it’s place and there is no denying that. What we also know is that much of what goes on during birth is often unnecessary and is often harmful in ways that may not be obvious.
Another point of interest is that the author is American. The book I read was the British version. I liked getting the perspective of another country on the subject. The book did try to cover the subject of birth globally as much as possible. Mother mortality rates are also included with the statement that the US is behind 25 other countries. Some of them are considered undeveloped. (Note: Ina Mae Gaskin, certified professional midwife, believes that maternal death is underreported and has a project going to document maternal death.)
If you are looking for yet another book to satisfy your need to know more about birth, I recommend this one. It is a quick read and packed with well-researched information.