INA MAY’S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH, Ina May Gaskin
This is a must read for every pregnant woman. There isn’t much I can say other than that. It was the first book I read when I found out I was pregnant. I did a search of the books about birth at my local library and this was one of two or three that came up. A “Guide to Childbirth” seemed like a a good place to start my preparation for childbirth.
I have had a few friends read this and tell me that it is so empowering and that they felt more than ready to have their baby after reading it through. Those reviews are a testament to both the content of this book and Ina May herself. She is not called the nation’s leading midwife for nothing. I’ve seen her interviewed a few times and her confidence about a woman’s ability to birth her baby naturally can put almost anyone at ease. That confidence, that is based on knowledge and experience, comes through in the pages of this book. You believe her when you read that childbirth does not have to be approached with fear. You believe her when you read that your body knows what it needs to do to manage pain and progress during labor. And, if you are me, you will read about her “Sphincter Law” and believe that it is the key to a successful natural, vaginal birth. Then you will proceed to practice it in the bathroom when faced with the seemingly inevitable constipation that hits pregnant women.
In case you are pregnant and don’t read this book, I am going to give you a short summary of Sphincter Law because I think it is imperative that you know it before labor.
- Sphincter: a circular band of voluntary or involuntary muscle that encircles an orifice of the body (anus, vagina, cervix) or one of its hollow organs.
- Sphincters do not obey orders, like PUSH!
- Sphincters function best in an atmosphere of familiarity and privacy (ever try to poop in front of people? or on vacation?).
- Sphincters may suddenly close when their owner is startled or frightened. This is part of our natural flight or fight response.
- Laughter helps open the sphincters (ever laugh so hard you peed your pants?).
- Slow, deep breathing aids the opening of the sphincters
- Immersion in water helps because it is difficult to hold you muscles still and rigid while in water.
- A relaxed mouth means a more elastic cervix. Ina May has observed that “women whose mouths and throats are open and relaxed during labor and birth rarely need stitches after childbirth. On the other hand, women who grimace and clench their jaws while pushing have a greater tendency to tear, because their perineal tissues are more rigid.” (My first two births were these exact scenarios. With Madeline it was forced pushing, holding my breath with a clenched jaw. Got myself a 4th degree laceration. With Houston, I was in the water, mouth hanging open, hardly pushing, and didn’t tear at all).
- Here’s where you can practice. Next time you’re in the bathroom and things aren’t working as fast or as easily as you would like, open your mouth and let your jaw hang open. To help things along even more, make sounds “associated with pleasurable lovemaking.” I don’t mean re-enacting the night you conceived the baby, but low moans will work.
This is my favorite practical, preparatory book for pregnancy women. I tell everyone to read it and it is always first on the list when friends ask for recommendations. If you’re pregnant, buy it. If you know someone who is pregnant, buy it for them.