Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quickie book reviews

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin:

  • Lots of very practical information for helping a woman in labor. For example, I'd heard of doulas doing "take charge routines," but I didn't completely understand what it was until I read the description in this book. Lots of great tips on positioning and many ways to support a woman in labor.
  • I felt like this book was aimed mainly at birth partners like dads, co-parents, friends who would be at the birth, etc. It's not just for doulas. It's very accessible to someone who just wants to help their wife/friend/partner give birth.
  • Talks about pregnancy discomforts and how labor and birth go so you can be informed as a birth partner. It's quite comprehensive and really covers all you need to know if you're the dad supporting your wife, for example.
  • Very helpful for doulas, too.
HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan:
  • Gotta be honest, I had to return this one to the library before I could finish it. 
  • Enjoyed reading the history of HypnoBirthing - what a cool lady she was to fight for her right to be awake at her birth and have her husband present! Contains some lovely, positive birth stories.
  • Good overview of what self-hypnosis is; nice focus on positive language; etc. Has some nice relaxation and visualization exercises.
  • The book is clearly designed to be used with a course; sometimes there are notes about exercises that "you'll learn during your course." Because of that, I certainly wouldn't say that I "know" HypnoBabies just from reading this book. If I'd listened to the CD I'd probably know it a little better. As it is I'd say I'm at least more familiar with it now, especially with the positive language and how the relaxations work. 
  • I'd say that you can probably learn a lot and get pretty good at it just from reading the book, doing the CD, and practice your relaxation a lot. Not having access to a course shouldn't be a barrier to doing HypnoBabies, but the author clearly thinks that you should be doing a HypnoBabies course if at all possible. 
Born in the USA by Marsden Wagner.
  • A book about the flaws in the modern American maternity care system, sort of in the same vein as Pushed. The big difference is that this one was written by an OB, not by a journalist. It has a lot of great "insider" information coming from an OB, but is, I think, less balanced; he's not a journalist and he doesn't work quite as hard to include the "other side's" view. Pros and cons. I appreciate having a book like this from an "insider," though, and I think that value helps to balance out the flaws.
  • The main point of the book is that our current system really puts doctors first. I'm paraphrasing here, but he notes that  ACOG is a trade organization, like a labor union. They have two main priorities: protecting the interests of their members, and producing a better product (in this case, health babies primarily, also healthy mothers). However, if there’s any conflict between those two goals, the interests of the members always come first. (ca. p. 32)
  • His argument (it's the subtitle of the book, in fact) is that our maternity care system must be changed to put women and babies first, not doctors and hospitals.
  • Makes some good points about how loyalty to the ACOG party line is strictly enforced, as OBs who try to do things differently from their colleagues are often ostracized: fired, hospital privileges revoked, unable to work and forced out of town, etc. This makes it very difficult for reform to come from within that community.
  • He actually seems to be a fan of lawsuits because it's a way for non-doctors to force change. He also makes a good point about capping damages: if you cap damages at $250,000, but medical negligence disables your child to the tune of a million dollars in lifetime care and medical bills, is that right? Should that family go bankrupt for the sake of a doctor's malpractice premiums?
  • He talks a lot about Cervidil, and rare but disastrous consequences from other interventions.
  • Makes some very good points about how universally accessible prenatal care would prevent many, many premature births and neonatal deaths, and also save a lot of money on NICU care.
  • I did find the book to be quite biased in some cases exaggerated to the point that it does hurt the message a little.
  • Overall, though, I found it to be quite thought-provoking and mainly pretty reasonable. I think it's valuable to have an OB speaking about the problems he sees in obstetrics and arguing for more midwives and the evidence is good. The book is very well-cited with an extensive list of sources at the back.

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