Gentle Birth Choices: A Guide to Making Informed Decisions about Birthing Centers, Birth Attendants, Water Birth, Home Birth, and Hospital Birth

Overview

Barbara Harper outlines the elements of gentle birthing: support from loved ones, a reassuring and quiet environment with soft lighting, and minimal medical intervention. She shows you how to plan a meaningful, family-centered birth experience and discusses the many alternatives available, providing a new model of maternity care that reduces the need for high-tech crisis intervention and focuses instead on preparation and good health for mother and child. 

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Overview

Barbara Harper outlines the elements of gentle birthing: support from loved ones, a reassuring and quiet environment with soft lighting, and minimal medical intervention. She shows you how to plan a meaningful, family-centered birth experience and discusses the many alternatives available, providing a new model of maternity care that reduces the need for high-tech crisis intervention and focuses instead on preparation and good health for mother and child. 

With Cesarean section rates in some hospitals at more than 50%, women are acknowledging that childbirth reform is an essential aspect of reclaiming responsibility for our bodies and our lives. 

Includes information on:

•Giving birth in a freestanding birthing center, at home, or in a hospital birthing room.

•Finding a primary care-giver who shares your philosophy of birth, whether midwife, doctor, or both.

•Deciding how to best use current technologies. 

•Practical advice for couples wishing to explore the option of waterbirth, a choice  that maximizes the attributes of water as a natural, pain-relieving relaxant and an alternative to drugs and their unwanted side effects. 

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Editorial Reviews

Alec Franklor
" . . . guides expectant mothers through a maze of opinions and unquestioned 'best practices' while offering a host of information on both the physical and emotional aspects of holistic prenatal preparation."
author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage Robbie E. Davis-Floyd
"Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have needed to help them sort throught the myriad number of choices and options."
Fall/Winter 2001 Lamaze International
"One of the Top ten recommended books for pregnant women and their families."
From the Publisher
" . . . guides expectant mothers through a maze of opinions and unquestioned 'best practices' while offering a host of information on both the physical and emotional aspects of holistic prenatal preparation."

"Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have needed to help them sort throught the myriad number of choices and options."

"Harper is among the most active, enthusiastic, and effective writers and advocates in the field of childbirth education today."

"One of the Top ten recommended books for pregnant women and their families."

Mothering Magazine
"Brace yourself for a powerful experience. This remarkable production combines art, education, and politics. Highly recommended."
New Age Retailer
“A must-have for expectant mothers and their loved ones. . . . Gentle Birth Choices is an intelligent and sympathetic guide to birthing options that explores nontraditional ways that put women and their babies first.”
Midwifery Today Magazine
"Gentle Birth Choices is the best film on childbirth available today."
Robbie Davis-Floyd
"Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have been needing to help them sort through the myriad choices and options that confront them today."
Robbie E. Davis-Floyd
"Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have needed to help them sort throught the myriad number of choices and options."
Branches of Light
". . . [Harper] dispels medical myths and reimagines birth without fear, pain, or violence. . . . The DVD vividly demonstrates the strength of women during childbirth and the healthy and happy outcome of women exercising gentle birth choices."
HEALTHWORLD
Gentle Birth Choices provides a new model of maternity care that reduces the need for high-tech crisis intervention and focuses instead on preparation and health.”
NEW AGE RETAILER
“A must-have for expectant mothers and their loved ones. . . . Gentle Birth Choices is an intelligent and sympathetic guide to birthing options that explores nontraditional ways that put women and their babies first.”
Lamaze International
"One of the Top ten recommended books for pregnant women and their families."
Michel Odent
"Harper is among the most active, enthusiastic, and effective writers and advocates in the field of childbirth education today."
Healthworld
"Gentle Birth Choices provides a new model of maternity care that reduces the need for high-tech crisis intervention and focuses instead on preparation and health."
Felicia M. Tomasko
"From a yogic perspective, pursuing the gentlest approach to a natural process like childbirth involves trusting in the capacity of one's own body. Harper provides the information necessary to do so, not only during labor, but throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond."
Lamaze International
"One of the Top ten recommended books for pregnant women and their families."
Robbie E. Davis-Floyd

"Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have needed to help them sort throught the myriad number of choices and options." 
From the Publisher

" . . . guides expectant mothers through a maze of opinions and unquestioned 'best practices' while offering a host of information on both the physical and emotional aspects of holistic prenatal preparation."
Michel Odent
"Harper is among the most active, enthusiastic, and effective writers and advocates in the field of childbirth education today."
Michael Odent
Barbara Harper is among the most active, enthusiastic and effective writers and advocates in the field of childbirth education today...
Lamaze International
One of the Top ten recommended books for pregnant women and their families...
Robbie E. Davis-Floyd
Exactly the sort of guide that pregnant women have needed to help them sort through the myriad number of choices and options...
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892815289
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 11/28/1996
  • Edition description: BK & VIDEO
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Harper - midwife, nurse, and mother of three - is the founder of Waterbirth International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and research about natural childbirth, including the use of water to ease labor and delivery.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Gentle Beginnings

Human birth is the most miraculous, transformational, and mysterious event of our lives. It is also an experience that is shared by every single member of the human race. The birth experience indelibly imprints itself in the lives of both the mother who is giving birth and the baby who is being born.

A gentle birth begins by focusing on the mother’s experience and by bringing together a woman’s emotional dimensions and her physical and spiritual needs. A gentle birth respects the mother’s pivotal role, acknowledging that she knows how to birth her child in her own time and in her own way, trusting her instincts and intuition. In turn, when a mother gives birth gently, she and everyone present acknowledge that the baby is a conscious participant in his or her own birth. The experience empowers the birthing woman, welcomes the newborn child into a peaceful and loving environment, and bonds the family. The goal of a gentle birth is to reclaim the wonder and joy that are inherent in the beginning of a new life.

Gentle births occur throughout the world: in homes, where births have traditionally been natural and without intervention; in birthing centers, which are becoming more popular as women demand greater freedom in giving birth; and in some hospitals that are responding to the needs and desires of today’s families. Women worldwide are seeking more natural, family-centered ways to birth their children and experience this passage into motherhood as life affirming, without the suffering and trauma that have been traditionally associated with labor and delivery.

Ingredients for a Gentle Birth

Before describing the important elements of gentle birth, I want to point out that these are merely suggestions. Gentle birth is not a method or a set of rules that must be followed. Rather, it is an approach to birth that incorporates a woman’s own values and beliefs. Every birth is a powerful experience—sometimes painful, always transformational. Each birth is as unique as the woman giving birth and the baby being born. There is no illustrated owner’s manual.

Many women’s early social conditioning that makes them believe they are unable to give birth normally must be replaced with a newfound understanding of the philosophy of and the ideas behind gentle birth. When women realize that their bodies know how to give birth and that their babies know how to be born, they gain confidence. Only then is gentle birth a possibility.

A gentle birth takes place when a woman is supported by the people she chooses to be with during this most intimate time. She needs to be loved and nurtured by those around her so she can feel comfortable and secure enough to follow her natural instincts. A birthing woman must be trusted so she in turn can trust herself, her body, her partner, her baby, and this process of giving birth. Her intuition must be respected. During a natural gentle birth, a woman feels and senses the power of the birth and uses this energy to transform every part of her own being. A gentle birth is not rushed. The baby emerges at its own pace and in its own time, received into the hands of those who love and recognize it for the divine gift that it is.

Some of the most important ingredients for a natural gentle birth are described on the following pages. Each woman has individual needs and preferences, so again, use these elements only as guidelines.

Preparation

The education that best prepares a woman for a gentle birth is one that empowers her through information and a belief in her ability to give birth naturally. The original childbirth educators were mothers who labored in front of their children and included them in the folk medicine of the day. Pregnant women asked their mothers about a pain or an ache, and the mothers responded by saying, “Oh, I had that with all three of you.” For the daughter to experience her mother giving birth is worth a whole course in childbirth education. In sharing her mother’s labor and giving birth, she learns about the essence of this miracle firsthand.

Today childbirth educators have taken over the job of mothers whose memories of birth were obliterated with drugs, unconsciousness, and the medical treatments of the day. There are many styles of education and preparation for birth. One of the most important components for all methods of childbirth preparation is a healthy attitude. Women pay attention to their bodies throughout their pregnancy by eating healthful foods, avoiding stress, sticking to a physical exercise program, being cautious about exposing themselves to harmful chemicals or toxins, and maintaining a positive emotional outlook. While preparing for a gentle birth, it’s important to keep an open mind as to how the birth will actually proceed. Flexibility is essential, because in some cases medical intervention may be necessary.

I recommend that a woman look into her attitudes, ideas, and beliefs about birth. This may include exploring her feelings about her sexuality, her relationship with the baby’s father, and her relationships with her parents. A woman who is comfortable with her sexuality will feel less inhibited sexually during the birth. A woman who has examined her own birth will not be likely to repeat the pattern of that birth in the one she is preparing for. A woman who has a good sense of herself will not be easily swayed away from what she knows to be right for herself. A woman who is at peace with her partner and her family members will find comfort in and draw strength from those bonds and will want to include those people in the birthing experience.

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Table of Contents

Gentle Birth Choices
A Guide to Making Informed Decisions about Birthing Centers, Birth Attendants, Water Birth,
Home Birth, and Hospital Birth
Foreword By Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, Ph.D..
Acknowledgment
Introduction

1. Gentle Beginnings
Ingredients for a Gentle Birth
2. The Medicalization of Childbirth
Our Legacy of Birth
From Midwife to Physician
The Promise of Science
Pain Relief: The era of "twilight Sleep"
Hospital Births for Everyone
Unraveling Diagnostic Procedures
The Results of Medical Intervention
3. Dispelling the Medical Myths
Myth: The Hospital is the Safest Place to Have a Baby
Myth: Maternity Care Should Be Managed Only by a Physician
Myth: The Electronic Fetal Monitor Will Save Babies
Myth: Once a Cesarean, Always a Cesarean
Myth: Birth Needs to be Sterile
Myth: Drugs for Pain Relief Won't Hurt the Baby
Myth: An Episiotomy Heals Better Than a Tear
Myth: it's Better Not to Eat or Drink During Labor
Myth: Family and Friends Interfere During Birth
Myth: If You Are Over Thirty-Five, Your Birth Will Be More Difficult
Myth: Boys Need to be Circumcised
4. A Gentle Revolution
Birth Without Fear
Birth Without Pain
Birth without Violence
Birth Reborn
Birth Without Rules
Voice of Protest-Consumers Seek Change
5. Midwifery in America-An Emerging Tradition
The Midwife Model of Maternity Care
Midwifery Education-Education versus Experience
Midwives Confront the System
Midwifery in the Future
6. Water Births
Why Water Birth?
Water Birth History
Beyond the Leboyer Bath
Labor Pools in France
Water Birth Comes to America
Making Waves in California
Water Birth Around the World
Questions Everyone Asks About Water Births
Water Works
7. The Mind-Body Connection
Mind-Body Response
Listening to the Body
Listening to the Baby
Visualization for a Gentle Birth
The Power of Prayer
The Sexuality of Childbirth
Redesigning Prenatal Preparation
Mind, Body, Spirit in Unity
8. Creating Gentle Birth Choices
Planning Your Birth
Consumers Create Choices
Health Care for All Women and Children by the year 2000
Appendix A: Questions to Ask a Doctor
Appendix B: Questions to Ask a Midwife
Appendix C: Sample Birth Plan for a Hospital Birth
Appendix D: Procedures and Protocols for Hydrotherapy for Labor and Birth
Appendix E: Sample Letter to Hospital
Appendix F: Resources
Appendix G: Maternity Health Index
Endnotes
Bibliography
Index

The Gentle Birth Choices Video blends interviews with midwives and physicians with six actual births, showing the options of water birth, squatting, home birth, and vaginal birth after prior cesarean.

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