May 29, 2009

The Labor Progress Handbook, 2nd Edition

by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta

Wow. This book is so useful, especially for someone like me whose mind works best in a linear, graphic way. Starting with definitions and moving from before labor through pre-labor, early labor, active labor, to second stage, the authors explore why and how labor can be dysfunctional and what to do to restore it to functionality. There are also sections with specific descriptions of maternal positions and movements, and comfort measures.

I do know, however, that in labor or when with a woman in labor, one doesn't necessarily use the information laid out here in such a linear A-B-C way. Intuition plays a big role, and communication, in deciding what to actually do in the moment when something is making a labor difficult and long. Oftentimes, though, I think birth attendants can feel just as "stuck" as the mom does when things are not going smoothly, and having the information in this book (or maybe even the book itself!) at hand to get some new ideas working could be a huge help at those times.

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

by Susun S. Weed

I loved this book. It really appealed to my emotional roots in the semi-counter-culture of the 80's, where I spent a lot of time as a child absorbing the cool differentness of my parents and their friends.

It's also actually a useful resource :-) It describes the properties and uses of a variety of herbs in a variety of forms for a variety of problems and/or needs during the time just before, during, and just after pregnancy. While I have read other books which include herbal remedies for childbearing, I felt this book gave me a better sense of herbs as medicine and how to use them as such in a way that respects their potency and potential for benefit . . . and harm. I also appreciated the detailed instructions on how to find, prepare, and store herbs for medicinal use.

One thing I did notice was that there is not a lot of explanation of why herbs work. That is a little off-putting to the scholar-huntress in me. I want to understand why and how things work, and I like it when people experiment and find empirical evidence for what they think and what they think works. That is not the place the author of this book is coming from. The herbalist tradition, at least as she presents it, is one of inherited wisdom which can be added to by an herbalist's personal experience, but which does not really need to be skeptically verified. I respect this perspective, but it's not one I choose for myself very often.

May 15, 2009

Pregnancy & Birth: The Best Evidence - Making Decisions that Are Right for You and Your Baby

by Joyce Barrett, MD, and Teresa Pitman

I think this would be a great book for libraries to have (mine didn't) and for me to have to share with parents I'm working with if they are the sort of parents who are very interested in research and making the "right" choice. Although since the book is almost 10 years old at this point, I might prefer to send people to a resource like The Cochrane Collaboration which is at least in theory updated regularly.

Many topics are unlikely to change over time, however - the risks and benefits of, say, episiotomy, aren't going to suddenly reverse in predominance. It's more the stuff that hadn't been researched 10 years ago that might be out of date.

May 14, 2009

The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth

By William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN

This book is, of course, a classic, and I've read it a couple of times before.

What I noticed reading through (most of) it this time was the spirit of it: it's a spirit of fighting for what you want/believe is right, and of seeking for the information you need. And the Searses believe that they know what you should want/believe is right/information you need. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see how it might feel judging to some people in some circumstances, which I'm not sure I've seen or understood before.

I was interested in the biochemical/mechanical explanation of why relaxation in labor is important to pain coping. It makes sense; and I still kind of wonder about the emphasis on relaxation. My personal experience tells me that no matter how relaxed I am, I'm still going to experience cervical stretching as painful, and that for me, more active pain coping practices will work better.

But I'm not the only kind of person in the world. And so I'm inspired to keep working to improve my ability to help women labor who need more active ways of laboring, and those who need my help or encouragement to relax.

May 9, 2009

The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth

I'm doing my doula reading . . .

The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth (4th Edition) by Sheila Kitzinger is beautifully written. It's innocent, poetic, and inspiring.

It also drove me kind of nuts.

Reading it reminded me of this scenario: imagine a parent teaching her teenage child to drive. She wants to be positive and encouraging, and so as her child is driving along she says something like this, "Oh, honey, I'm so excited that you're learning to drive! It's going to be so great for you to be able to get places on your own! You're getting so mature and WATCH OUT FOR THAT CURB!"

Much of the text is very problem focused. I like it better than, say, What to Expect When You're Expecting because the problems it's focused on are the problems I am personally biased to see as real, rather than those I see as iatrogenic. But I still feel more supported and nourished as a doula, mentor, and human being by authors who help me find solutions that work for me than by those who spend a lot of time pointing out all the things that can go wrong.

There is lots of good information in this book, though, and one particular section really surprised me by describing for the first time I've seen in print or on-line an exact scenario (involving 1st trimester bleeding) which I experienced in my first pregnancy but never really had explained or validated before.