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Conscious Empowered Birth
book review

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
Reviewed by Cristin Tighe

This book provides an excellent framework for key questions tht any support partner should know, related to before, during and after birth, as well as a great section on the medical side of childbirth. As a doula, I felt it was wonderful that the book was written directly to me as the audience. As a mother, I liked being “in the shoes” of a coach and hearing the tips and techniques that a birth partner could use to support and guide things along more smoothly. This book is really for the husband or support person, but I would recommend this book to new mothers as well, because it is comprehensive, an easy read, and it clearly, simply lays out processes and choices that can be complex. This book will be useful also as a great future reference guide to get quick information on certain topics.  For example, using the chart provided on page 54 to help a woman chart her contractions, or any the grey sections with specific information on topics such as:

•    Supplies to take to the hospital (p.14-16)
•    Supplies for a home birth (p.16-17)
•    Signs of labor (p.45-47)
•    If bag of water breaks before birth begins (p.48)
•    Timing contractions (p.53-55)
•    When do you go to the hospital or settle in for a home birth? (p.66-67)
•    Normal labor in a nutshell (p.89-93)
•    Positions and movement for labor and birth (p.112-117)
•    Take-charge routine (p.134-136)
•    On-the-spot coaching (p.136-137)
•    The emergency delivery (p.142-145)
•    First aid for emergencies in childbirth (p.145-147)
•    Backache during labor (p.152-158)
•    Incompatibility with the nurse or caregiver (p.165-167)
•    Prolapsed cord (p.213-216)
•    Know what to expect during cesarean birth (p.257-262)

There was information that was new to me, that seems very useful, like how to do Perineal Massage (p.22-23) to prepare for birth. Another example was how to handle a prolapsed cord (p.213-216) or emergency delivery. The chapter on the medical procedures around birth and also what different types of medication are used is very informative. It seemed, at times, that the negative impacts of some interventions and medications could have been discussed in more detail; but the book’s aim is to support the birth partner, who more likely in the U.S. and many other countries, may be part of a more medicalized birth.

The key strength of this book is to help each person involved in the pregnancy, birth and after to understand clearly the different roles each person plays, what they will be going through, and how to balance supporting the mother with everything else happening. It seems a major contribution, and of all the books I have read so far, is the one I would definitely recommend is taken to the birth, if needed for reference.

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