Review: A Book for Midwives

Review: A Book for Midwives
Hesperian Foundation
CD-Rom, 2011
544 page pdf book in English and Spanish
by Susan Klein, Suellen Miller, and Fiona Thomson
ISBN13: 978-0942364-24-8, $16.00

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

As a child, I was fascinated by my father’s copy of the book, Where There is No Doctor. Fast forward twenty or so years and imagine my glee when as a birth activist adult, I then discovered A Book for Midwives, also published by the Hesperian Foundation. Hesperian’s goal “is to promote health and self-determination in poor communities throughout the world by making health information accessible. [They] work toward that goal by producing books and other educational resources for community-based health.” In keeping with this goal, A Book for Midwives is available for FREE download on the Hesperian site. (Personally, I appreciate the professionally printed version of the book I purchased, because I think it would cost more same in ink to print it myself, but without the nice cover!).

A Book for Midwives is excellent; a true community resource. It is also a very sobering look at the reality of women’s health and health care in other countries. It contains reminders such as “do not hit or slap a woman in labor,” and other things that can make you cringe. A Book for Midwives is basically a textbook for midwives, health care workers, or educators working in developing countries and/or with very limited resources. I appreciate how it makes information available that is sometimes “hidden” in other books–i.e. explicitly technical content and “how to’s” that are normally reserved only for “professional” people. It is simply written and extremely blunt. There is no fluff and nothing romanticized about pregnancy, labor, and birth. In a way, it was hard to read a book that makes it so very clear how very, very difficult things are for midwives and women in impoverished areas (living in the US, I am used to the “normal, healthy pregnant women” approach to midwifery care). The book covers a wide range of information from preventing infection, treating obstetrical emergencies, doing pelvic exams, and breastfeeding to HIV/AIDS, testing for STDs and cervical cancer, and IUD insertion. There is also a section in the back of the book about medications, medication administration, giving injections, and other topics. It is an extremely comprehensive resource. (Just a side note, in the section on contraceptives, the book is heavily in favor of hormonal methods such as pills as well as very positive about IUDs and sterilization.)

Recently, Hesperian made A Book for Midwives available for purchase on CD. The CD includes the 544 page book as a pdf file in both English and Spanish. Both high resolution and low resolution versions of the book (in both languages) are included on the disk. This format makes it easy for the book to travel with you via laptop for trainings or presentations. I was particularly excited to convert it for my Kindle, making it readily available for travel and reference.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the CD for review purposes.

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