The American Way of Birth by Jessica Mitford, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The American Way of Birth

The American Way of Birth

by Jessica Mitford
     
 

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This provocative book shows how & in what circumstances Americans give birth. It is not about the miracle of life, but about the role of money & politics in a lucrative industry; a saga of champagne birthing suites for the rich, & desperate measures for the poor. It is a colorful history — from the torture & burning of midwives in medieval times, through the

Overview

This provocative book shows how & in what circumstances Americans give birth. It is not about the miracle of life, but about the role of money & politics in a lucrative industry; a saga of champagne birthing suites for the rich, & desperate measures for the poor. It is a colorful history — from the torture & burning of midwives in medieval times, through the absurd pretensions of the modest Victorian age, to this centurys vast succession of anesthetic, technological, & natural birthing fashions. And it is a comprehensive indictment of the politics of birth & national health. Explores conventional & alternative methods.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mitford ( The American Way of Death ) interviewed obstetricians, midwives and antenatal and postnatal mothers for this journalistic probe of how Americans are born. In graceful prose she relates our appalling infant mortality rate to the obstacles poor women face in finding prenatal care and decent hospital treatment. After reviewing the potential hazards of obstetrical forceps, electronic fetal monitoring and diagnostic ultrasound, Mitford discusses the complications mothers often face after having a cesarean section and examines the financial and legal motives behind doctors' widespread performance of these largely unnecessary procedures. She takes readers on a grand tour of the midwifery scene, from a Bronx center for low-risk women to a Californian context in which the medical establishment harasses home-birth midwives with police break-ins. In an epilogue Mitford documents hospital routines and deceptive overbilling, criticizes the American Medical Association's powerful lobby, which squelches healthcare reform, and reviews efforts to pass a Canadian-style national health insurance bill that would eliminate the profiteering of U.S. hospitals and doctors. First serial to Good Housekeeping. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Mitford's probe into American obstetrics as well as the hospitals, clinics, and welfare agencies that supervise the prenatal care and births of American babies results in an indictment of the medical practices surrounding something that should not make us sick--giving birth. She also broaches the broader subject of the healthcare system or lack thereof, which governs much of American behavior surrounding the individual's own healthcare practices or failure to seek it out. Although her book is mostly anecdotal and meant to be read as if she were speaking to us directly, her attempt to be witty is annoying. Furthermore, much of the content lacks focus and will have difficulty holding the reader's attention from beginning to end. For a more engaging analysis of American birth practices, see Robbie E. Davis-Floyd's Birth as an American Rite of Passage ( LJ 8/92). For public libraries only. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.-- Patricia Sarles, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York
Kirkus Reviews
From the author who 29 years ago roasted the funeral industry in The American Way of Death: a witty, pungent, comprehensive look at the frequently unfortunate practices that guide how American babies are born. The struggle over abortion has overshadowed many other issues that affect American women. Twenty years ago, giving birth was high on the list of women's concerns. Natural childbirth, Lamaze, midwives, birthing clinics for normal deliveries, even home births were widely discussed and practiced by many pioneering women. Surgical techniques, including Cesareans and episiotomies, were questioned, and often scorned. Mitford's telling investigation of American birthing practices today reveals that little has changed, and that in some cases things are worse. For instance, the infant mortality rate in the US puts it 24th among industrialized Western nations—a rate that could quickly be reduced if out-of-control hospital and doctor costs were reallocated to prenatal care. If this book doesn't pack the surprises that Mitford's expos‚ of funeral homes did, it's only because the issues have been in the air for so long. What Mitford brings to them are hard numbers, revealing interviews, and astute observations, pointing the finger at practices like speeding up normal labor to accommodate the doctors, not the mothers. Or at midwives who are driven out of practice because doctors and hospitals refuse them backup (a throwback, Mitford wonders, to the medieval view of midwives as witches?). And, of course, poor and uninsured women, often most in need of superb medical care, who are treated at best offhandedly, at worst with actual cruelty. Informed choice is the course Mitfordrecommends—but the choices must be available. An epilogue reviews the rocky history and problematic future of some form of universal health insurance for the US. Indispensable for prospective parents who may discover that they can just say no to doctor-dictated birth practices and can prescribe their own terms for having a baby.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452270688
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/01/1993
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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