July 20, 2011
In Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, Ina May Gaskin discusses the experience of birth as a life changing, powerful and extraordinary occasion for mothers, but also ways in which this experience has been denied women through the increasing use of C-sections, technological innovations and drugs. Gaskin also provides the reader with the history of midwives, obstetricians, and technological advances that both aids and challenges the process of childbirth.
As an experienced midwife, Gaskin believes that we have lost confidence in women’s ability to go through natural childbirth. This is partly due to the small number of midwifes in the United States, the universal practice of obstetrics, imposed time limits on birth, media depictions of C-sections and a lack of knowledge concerning the risks of technological equipments used to aid birth. Gaskin claims that we should only use C-sections, inductions, forceps and other medical interventions if there is a medical reason as to why a woman cannot deliver a child through natural childbirth.
Gaskin points out that women in America today are more likely to die from complications of birth compared to their mother’s, a phenomenon that Gaskin claims can be reversed by implementing mother-friendly childbirth initiatives, the skills and knowledge of midwives, and through education. Even though Gaskin focus much of her attention on the United States, she provides important insight into the practice of midwifery and childbirth in many different nations and draws from experiences and interactions she had while visiting other countries. The book can therefore be applicable to the process of childbirth outside the United States.
Gaskin believes that childbirth is both a physical, mental and spiritual experience. During pregnancy and childbirth, women are exploring their selves, as well as their minds and bodies, leading to a sense of self-discovery. Women who are fearful or anxious are more likely to experience pain and complications during childbirth. Gaskin also states that some women are in denial about the safety of C-sections, epidurals, inductions and the scheduling of births. Many therefore opt for such procedures when their bodies are healthy and able to go through natural childbirth. Many women therefore miss out on what Gaskin calls “the most powerful experience of their lives”.
The book is well written, easily understood and at times quite humorous making it accessible to all readers. The stories written from the perspectives of mother’s as they approach and go through childbirth are intimate, eye opening and interesting. The intended audience is not only mothers and fathers to be, but also anyone who is interested in childbirth, the practice of midwifery, the use of technology in childbirth as well as the natural birth philosophy. By providing the reader with information concerning the mother-friendly childbirth initiative, resources related to the midwifery model of care, readings, films and a glossary of terms, readers are able to implement the information given to them if they wish to do so.