Book note: New “Bodies”


Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth is the latest in the series of books by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective providing information about women’s health and sexuality. This book examines childbearing in depth, provides up-to-date medical information about birth in the United States today, and includes additional recommended resources for readers.

Like previous books in the series, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth features the stories of many women sharing personal experiences. The authors’ objective is to help pregnant women take care of themselves and make informed decisions from the first weeks of pregnancy through the months of early motherhood.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Published by Touchstone (2008). $15.00.

There are seventeen chapters organized under five sections. The first four cover the cycle of parenthood: preparing for childbirth, pregnancy, giving birth, and life as a mother. The advantages and disadvantages of a range of maternity care practices in the United States today are discussed.

Also in the Daily Planet, read Jennifer Holder’s essay on the original Our Bodies, Ourselves.

The fifth section, “Knowledge is Power,” critiques the social, economic and political factors pertaining to women’s health. At the back are twelve pages of additional recommended resources that include books, articles, periodicals, websites, organizations and audiovisual materials.

Judy Norsigian—one of the authors of the original Our Bodies, Ourselves and now executive director of the non-profit organization named for that book—wrote by e-mail that together with the launch of the book, the OBOS organization has embarked on an education campaign. She indicated that some of the main issues addressed in the campaign are: (i) the steady rise in births by cesarean section rate since the turn of the century (now at about 1 in 3 births, with many hospitals reporting rates of more than 40%); (ii) the growing problem of lack of access to vaginal births after previous cesarean sections (the rate has fallen more than 70% since 1996); (iii) a small increase in maternal mortality rates reported by the Centers for Disease Control in 2007 (the first such increase in many years) and the current U.S. infant mortality rate, among the highest in industrialized countries; (iv) the enormous amount of misinformation in the media and on the internet regarding best practices in birth; and (v) the need for more midwives in all settings, especially the hospital setting; and the role of doulas.

Given the challenges facing women making childbirth choices today, Norsigian offers the following recommendations for women who are anticipating uncomplicated births and would like to increase the chances of a safe, satisfying birth with minimal interventions:
• Find a doctor or midwife with low rates of intervention.
• Choose a birth setting with low overall rates of intervention.
• Try to find caregivers who support your philosophy and preferences regarding birth.
• Arrange for continuous labor support from someone with experience.
• Explore all options for pain relief and choose them as needed.
• Avoid continuous electronic fetal monitoring when possible.
• Avoid routine use of other medical interventions when possible.

Jennifer Holder contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.