Book Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin


Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin published by Bantam Books 2003 ISBN: 9780553381153


One thing that I learned from being a teacher is how to research. I could go into a class and try to wing it, but I realized that I enjoy my teaching experience a whole lot better when I was prepared. I have taken this philosophy into marriage and motherhood as well. Hence why I read many books on the birth experience.

Maybe reading all this stuff about childbirth would freak a first time pregnant woman out, but I’m more of a realist than a romantic; I like to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about a situation. My fear of the birth process greatly diminished after reading books. In fact, I was a tad looking forward to it. What I gained from my reading was that labor was intense but doable, and they were right.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth was one book that really helped me prepare mentally (which I think is 90% the battle). Ina May has been in the business for a long time and is very capable midwife. The first 123 pages is all birthing stories from people that Ina May has helped on “The Farm” (a hippy commune and birthing center). After about 8 birth stories that went about like this—I was really scared, and it was really hard but Ina May was amazing and help me through and I had a natural birth whoohooo—I decided to skip to the stories and go straight to the information (too many birthing stories were a tad overwhelming).

This book gives a overview of the birth process. What to do during labor. The fact that labor isn’t as scary as Americans like to think. The one things that I took from this book (and it really helped me during labor) was what Ina May calls the mind/body connection. Basically what you think in your mind affects what goes on in your body. If you thinking negative thoughts (“this is going to hurt” or “I don’t want to do this” or “this is going to kill me”) your going to be fighting against your body making it much harder for your body to open up and let the baby out. Thoughts are powerful. This may sound a little weird but as I was reading this, the verse from Proverbs (23:7) popped into my brain

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”

Contractions are intense, but realizing what they are doing and allowing them to work makes a huge difference in your birthing experience (it did for me. My first birth was only 11 hours from when the water broke to the baby’s birth). Not fearing made a huge difference.

Another bit that really helped me was her chapter on the sphincter law. A sphincter muscle (mouth, anus, and cervix are some of these muscles) is most likely to open up if the person is in  a comfortable relaxed atmosphere (could you go to the bathroom if a bunch of people where watching you?) The cervix is a sphincter muscle, and it opens up much easier if the women is in a comfortable atmosphere (for me it was the hospital. I loved my room, the nurses and doctor). Also keeping mouth open during labor and taking deep breaths encourages the cervix to open as well. Understanding what my body was doing and how it worked really helped me to have a much better labor than if I had gone into this without any knowledge.

There is more that I could comment on, but this post is already too long. Suffice it to say, I would recommend this book to anyone having a baby especially if you want to do a natural birth.