Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank

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Overview

"[An] engrossing survey of the history of childbirth."—Stephen Lowman, Washington Post
Making and having babies—what it takes to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and deliver—have mystified women and men throughout human history. The insatiably curious Randi Hutter Epstein journeys through history, fads, and fables, and to the fringe of science. Here is an entertaining must-read—an enlightening celebration of human life.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen Lowman
Randi Hutter Epstein is here to tell us in Get Me Out, her engrossing survey of the history of childbirth, that even with all of today's whiz-bang technology, "We are still in the dark about so many things that go into making babies." Writing that pregnancy has always been "a wonderful blend of custom and science," Epstein takes us on a delightful romp through past guides that are filled with a whole lot of do-this-but-avoid-that advice. "You've got to be kidding me" will be the reaction to most of it.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
Medical journalist Epstein provides a sharp, sassy history of childbirth. The book is as much a study in sociology as historical snapshot of human birthing practices and gynecological advances, with particular emphasis on developments in the late 19th- and 20th-century United States. Beginning with Eve, who "started the whole birth-is-painful thing," and concluding in the present with couples "who sperm-shop and freeze eggs for one reason or another," Epstein convincingly demonstrates that the human desire to control all aspects of birth has been "a goal since antiquity." The author covers several centuries'-worth of wildly divergent birthing customs and practices. From the earliest books on women's health, written by monks, to childbed fever being spread by health practitioners and birthing wards, to early-20th-century feminists arguing that upper-class women had weaker physiologies than their working-class sisters, to the staggering statistic that C-section rates in America have risen 46 percent in the past ten years with no corresponding drop in maternal mortality, Epstein ably investigates the charged, ever-evolving scientific and social perspectives on birth. The author's engaging sarcasm, evident even in a caption of an illustration of an absurd obstetric contraption-"Nineteenth-century Italian do-it-yourself forceps. The fad never took off")-lends this chronicle a welcome punch and vitality often absent from medical histories. Roll over, Dr. Lamaze, and make room for Epstein's eyebrow-raising history.
NPR
“Randi Hutter Epstein's book is full of delightful—and sometimes disturbing—anecdotes.”
Booklist
“Engagingly combining wit and wisdom, Epstein traces humanity's relationship and obsession with its own reproduction . . . dynamic reading, to be sure.”
Science News
“[A] fascinating and powerful recounting of conception and childbirth.”
Boston Sunday Globe
“Epstein's fine history of childbirth . . . carefully describes both the introduction and progress of new methods and the mind-sets that have generated, encouraged, accompanied and justified them.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393064582
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/11/2010
  • Pages: 302
  • Sales rank: 1,262,743
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., is a medical journalist who has written for magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times andthe Washington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and four children.

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