If there is a conversation about ‘rights’ to be had around birth then the ‘right’ for mothers to make informed choices must be number one. Henci Goer describes herself as a Birth Activist, an American who has written extensive articles as well as books including the very popular and much quoted “Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities”. One of the heartening things about reading American maternity books is that it puts the British maternity services in a good light. However bad we are, we are not as bad as the Americans!
The American Way
This book starts by looking at the problems with the medical model of childbirth particularly the quick recourse to cesarean-sections and the myriad of problems that presents for mothers and babies that are usually glossed over by doctors and mothers. It progresses on to inductions, IVs and electronic fetal monitoring and more common (in America) medical interventions before ending with a look at the importance of choosing the right place to birth and looking at the benefit of midwives.
Don’t scare yourself
This book will give a huge amount of information, relevant to all, about things that in this country you would be strongly advised to avoid by most care providers but there is an increasing prevalence in the medical model raised by the increasing shortage of midwives. If you are reading extensively during pregnancy this is an informative, well written book that tells it as it is. If you are using an antenatal preparation such as HypnoBirthing then don’t scare yourself with this much information about things that are extremely unlikely to be an issue for you in the UK. And if you that that is a contradiction then that is the point of informed choice…you have to decide what information you are going to take in and benefit from. If you start this book and want to stop, do so.
The book looks bigger than it actually is; the last third is references, bibliography and additional statistical back up. If you are a numbers nut this will be good, for most people the first part of the book will be enough and knowing the supporting evidence is close at hand probably means you won’t need to trawl through it.
Despite it all, nature’s way is possible
As Goer puts it in her introduction “You’re expecting a baby or planning to become pregnant. Congratulations! You are embarking on a challenging and potentially highly rewarding journey. Without question, you want to have a safe and satisfying birth experience. I want that for you too, and I wrote this book because achieving that goal isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. Over the past thirty years, obstetric management has converted what should, in most cases, be a healthy, normal process into a high-tech event. Without anybody intending it to happen and with little recognition that it has happened, things have gone terribly wrong with maternity care in this country.”
Though referring to the US it is important for all mothers to remain vigilant in the UK that they get the best experience they are capable of, and entitled to, which sometimes means knowing enough to extract that care from NHS providers who may be entrenched in an institutional system that does not – shock horror – have the best interests of mothers and babies at it’s heart, hard though that is to believe.