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PUSHED by Jennifer Block Kirkus Star


The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

by Jennifer Block

Pub Date: June 4th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7382-1073-5
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong

Some terrible truths about being born in the USA.

Were there ever any doubts as to the personal being political, this former editor at Ms. and editor of the revised Our Bodies, Ourselves convincingly lays them to rest in a gripping exposé of American obstetrics. With extensive field research and thorough historical contextualization, Block reveals some disturbing statistics in this country’s birth management and shows how medical views of birth are as subject to change as the whims of fashion. Current interventionist trends in obstetrician-centered care have yielded the ironic phenomenon of natural childbirth in the U.S. becoming an almost anomalous event. Block shows that, in the United States, “well over half of labors are chemically induced or augmented,” and “two-thirds of women have their water broken manually”; two years ago, nearly a third of women gave birth by cesarean section, and of those delivering vaginally, another third had an episiotomy. Yet preterm births are rising, cerebral palsy rates remain constant and “women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth in the United States than in Europe.” Why? Because, Block argues, what’s deemed safe changes: “In the age of evidence-based medicine…care is constrained and determined by liability and financial concerns, by a provider’s licensing regulations and malpractice insurance. The evidence often has nothing to do with it.” Somewhere along the line, probably when barring midwives from the delivery room came into vogue, the notion that “what’s best for women is best for babies” was lost; that message Block hopes to deliver anew to her readers.

A provocative and hotly controversial analysis of a side of reproductive rights feminism seems to have forgot.