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Natural Hospital Birth

by Cynthia Gabriel

Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel

It saddens me that this book needed to be written. In my ideal world, hospitals welcome and support laboring women who plan natural births to the same extent as they do women planning early epidurals. All labor rooms have large birthing tubs, birth balls, rocking chairs and aids for pushing such as Penny Simkin’s sling. Care providers not only are comfortable with “alternative” pushing positions, but promote them. And anesthesiologists never, ever stick their heads in the door offering only a brief window to do an epidural. But, of course, most U.S. hospitals do not (yet?) provide an optimal environment for natural birth. About a third of American women deliver surgically, induction is the norm in many hospitals, and too many care providers and nurses have little or no experience with natural birth. So Cynthia Gabriel, a medical anthropologist, doula, and mother of three has written this book to help women who choose to deliver in a hospital accomplish a natural birth. I think she has done an outstanding job. Gabriel is intense and honest about the pain that most laboring women feel. This is not the first book that I would give to a primigravida who is not sure whether she wants a natural birth. (That would be Pushed by Jennifer Block.) But once a woman is committed to natural birth, I would encourage her to read this book – probably even read it twice. Gabriel stresses the strategies that experienced childbirth educators know to increase the likelihood of achieving natural birth – allowing labor to begin on its own, staying home until labor is well established, asking for another hour when interventions are suggested, changing positions throughout labor, and pushing instinctively. She also addresses the special needs of mothers expecting twins and VBAC mothers, providing encouragement that they too can have natural births. Birth stories throughout the book illustrate the points Gabriel makes and make her recommendations more real. My only small quibble with the book is that she could have spent a little more time promoting midwives. I know that there are some midwives who practice a medical model of birth, but in general, I believe that choosing a midwife or midwifery practice is one of the most important strategies for those who want a natural birth. For those who teach natural childbirth classes in a hospital and for women planning a natural birth in a hospital, this books should be “must reading.”

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