Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
Normally I avoid books by television personalities, so it is probably for the best that I didn’t notice Ricki Lake’s name on this book when I first requested it from the publisher. Although I had heard of her documentary, made with the co-author of this book, “The Business of Being Born,” I didn’t actually realize it was hers. Then the book arrived, I saw the name of a talk show host on the cover, and I put it off for awhile.
I very much wish I hadn’t done that, “Your Best Birth” was absolutely fantastic. Ricki and Abby have done a lot of research into birth in America and around the world, and it shows. As the title clearly states, Ricki and Abby are in favor of as natural a birth as possible and they are completely up front about this. There is absolutely no attempt to hide their agenda and engage in scare tactics.
One of the things that I most appreciated about “Your Best Birth” is that the real agenda was not to push natural birth, but to get women informed about their choices in childbirth and what options there are other than traditional hospital birth, as well as the pros and cons of various procedures. Far from denigrating things like induced labor and epidurals, Abby and Ricki listed the benefits and risks of these procedures, listing times when these would be valid or beneficial treatments and times when they are not necessarily in the best interest of mother and child. They recognized the need for women to make their own decisions, and were never negative about women who make different choice than they would themselves. In addition, they seemed to cover every birth and labor (as far as I can tell, since I will be giving birth for the first time in the next month or two). Following are the chapter headings, so you can see the breadth of what they cover:
- Not Your Mama’s Birth Plan
- Your Best Birth Place
- Obstetricians: Finding Dr. Right
- Midwives: Not Just For Hippies Anymore
- Doulas: Labor’s Love
- The Guest List: Birth as a Private Party
- For Sexual Abuse Survivors, a Healing
- Epidurals: You Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
- Inductions and Pitocin; Let’s Get This Party Started
- Electronic Monitors: Reading Between the Lines
- Episiotomies, Vacuums, and Forceps: The (Un)Kindest Cut
- Cesarean Sections and VBAC: To C or Not to C
- Loving Your Labor
- Bonding With Baby
My only real problem with this book is that it wasn’t published 9 months ago when I was just thinking about getting pregnant. I might have done more research to choose a hospital with a lower C-section rate (ours is 40%, above the national average of 31%, although my obstetrician’s practice has a lower average than that). I also would have known the questions to ask my health care provider and hospital so that I can have the sort of birth I want – in fact, I’d know what on earth my options even are, as not too many of my friends have had babies yet. However, even knowing that it is likely that my birth at this hospital may not be what I would now consider my ideal after having learned all my options, this book still calmed many of my anxieties about labor, just by fully explaining what would be happening and what choices I have.
I would highly recommend this book to pregnant women, those thinking of becoming pregnant, and partners of pregnant women. At the very least, it is a great start to thinking about how you want your birth to be, instead of simply going with the flow at the hospital. And even if it is too late to incorporate some of Abby and Ricki’s ideas into your birth plan, you can still come away from this book feeling empowered (in a totally non-cheesy way) and confident about giving birth. I may be giving this as gifts to pregnant friends in the future.