Since I recently wrote a post inspired by a quote from The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence, I figured it was high time that I share the review I wrote of the book! The review was originally written in 2007 for CfM News.
The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. By Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries. Published in 2005 by Meadowbrook Press (307p), $12.00. ISBN: 088166474X
Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, CCCE
Very few pregnancy books deliver the message that we think pregnant women need to hear most: Birth is a normal and natural part of life….We believe deeply that birth is a process you can trust just as millions of women before you have. This belief isn’t sentimental; it’s based on our thorough understanding of the physiologic birth process and research that confirms interfering in that process is harmful unless there is clear evidence that interference provides benefits.
So begins an opening section of the book The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. The degree to which the book accomplishes its simple message can be summarized with a simple review: Excellent! The Lamaze Guide is digestible and reasonable for busy people to manage at less than 300 pages of text and it contains a simple, profound, and elegant message that women in the U.S. desperately need to hear.
The book begins with defining normal birth as “…a normal birth is one that unfolds naturally, free of unnecessary interventions.” It then briefly explains the history of birth and how and why normal birth is not actually the norm in our culture. The authors then clearly address the following areas in one chapter each: early pregnancy; choosing a caregiver and birth site; middle & late pregnancy; preparing for labor and birth; the simple story of birth; keeping birth normal; finding comfort in labor; creating a birth plan and a baby plan; communication and negotiation; greeting your newborn; and early parenting. The authors are clearly very supportive of midwifery and the Midwives Model of Care (though it is not referenced by name) as well as of the benefits of a doula in the birthing room.
The book is framed in the context of Lamaze International’s powerful foundation, the Six Healthy Birth Practices:
- Let labor begin on its own
- Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
- Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
- Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
- Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push
- Keep mother and baby together – It’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding
The book is also guided by Lamaze’s comprehensive and lovely philosophy of birth:
- Birth is normal, natural and healthy.
- The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.
- Women’s inner wisdom guides them through birth.
- Women’s confidence and ability to give birth is either enhanced or diminished by the care provider and place of birth.
- Women have the right to give birth free from routine medical interventions.
- Birth can safely take place in homes, birth centers and hospitals.
- Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom.
After effectively bolstering the confidence of women in birth, The Lamaze Guide concludes with several useful appendices. The first is the excellent tool “Effective Care in Pregnancy & Childbirth: A Synopsis.” Though this information is easily available on the internet (see www.childbirthconnection.org), I find that many parents do not come across it on their own. How powerful to have it included for easy reference of indisputable evidence based practices. The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative is included in another appendix as well as the always excellent text of The Rights of Childbearing Women. I was delighted to see all of these powerful documents in one place—and, in the hands of consumers who need to be aware of them.
This book is a refreshing presence on the shelves of my local bookstore (yes, there is only one retail book shop in my community and The Lamaze Guide is the only “alternative” birth book stocked in the store!). As I read the book, I kept nodding along and wishing it was in the hands of each pregnant woman in my community. Lamaze has a “name recognition” that gives this book the potential to have a wider and broader impact than other alternative birthing books which, though brilliant contributions, may only end up in the hands of “the choir.” The Lamaze Guide is written in such a matter-of-fact and comforting tone that I cannot see it being off putting to the average consumer as having “hippie” language or “extreme” ideas. The blueprint for normal birth that the book lays out is extreme compared to the standard practices at most hospitals, but the way in which the information is presented opens doors of communication, understanding, and exploration as well as providing the evidence basis to back normal birth. I would not hesitate to lend this book out as it will not scare anyone away with “weird” ideas. With the other books in my personal library, I have to carefully consider my audience before choosing which book has the right style and blend of information—not this one! It is good for everyone with its open, simple message. It is a good addition to lending libraries, personal libraries, to give as a gift, or to recommend to others. The Lamaze Guide is straightforward and clearly written with an unabashedly honest and truthful message of what normal birth is and how it can either be supported or undermined.
My only critique of the book is that in contains no real acknowledgment of the several other well known and effective organizations that train and certify birth educators (other than Lamaze International itself). Conspicuously absent from the resources pages are any of these other organizations.
In conclusion, The Lamaze Guide is a source of information that women need to have and a message that women need to hear. I think Giving Birth with Confidence accomplishes its purpose skillfully and has the potential to be a transformative influence. I hope women read it, absorb it, and begin to Celebrate Birth!