Kirkus Star


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A compelling argument for a new view of the birth process--from the respected author of Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Year (1976). To Noble, the fault is not only with medical mal-practices that treat pregnancy as illness (already under attack in women's health guides), but also with the now-accepted methods of ""prepared"" childbirth. Techniques such as Lamaze, she contends, are damaging in two ways: first, they separate the mother's body and mind in her reactions to pregnancy and childbirth; second, they set up artificial guidelines to explain and structure the birth process. ""In typical controlled labor, the mother works against her body,"" rather than letting her body work and respond to its signals (by eating, walking about, or loud moaning, for instance). And not only do breathing and other learned techniques separate women from their bodies, they may actually impair labor by causing tension in abdominal and pelvic muscles. At the same time, Noble notes, both parents become concerned with how well they're performing the techniques and coping with their ordeal in front of others--instead of simply experiencing and responding to the mother's needs. Noble also has much to say about the medical care of women-in-labor (episiotomies, intravenous feedings, fetal monitoring); and she scores childbirth educators (Lamaze, in particular) for being coopted into the system. What does Noble offer instead? She first proposes that expectant parents take a fresh look at physiological alternatives to current birth methods--Leboyer, for one. Above all, they should treat the mother's bodily sensations as important, unique signals--not some part of a set experience that every couple goes through. Seen in this way, the unknown need not be frightening. The case is vigorously presented and sensitively put, with specifics for implementation.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin