The best books about childbirth in the US from a childbirth expert

Robbie Davis-Floyd Author Of Birth as an American Rite of Passage
By Robbie Davis-Floyd

Who am I?

I am a medical/reproductive anthropologist, and my passion for this topic stems from my own two birth experiences: one was an unnecessary cesarean which left me with PTSD, and the other was a vaginal birth at home, which left me feeling empowered—if I could do that, I could do anything! After my first birth, I started asking other women about their birth experiences, and came up with the question that guided my PhD research and became the subject of my first book, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Given that birth is so unique for every woman, why is it treated in such standardized, non-evidence-based ways in US hospitals? 

I wrote...

Birth as an American Rite of Passage

By Robbie Davis-Floyd,

Book cover of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

What is my book about?

This classic book, first published in 1992 and again in 2003, has inspired three generations of childbearing people, birth activists and researchers, and birth practitioners such as midwives, doulas, and even obstetricians to take a fresh look at the "standard procedures" that are routinely used to "manage" American childbirth. It was the first book to identify these non-evidence-based obstetric interventions as rituals that enact and transmit the core values of the American technocracy, thereby answering the pressing question of why these interventions continue to be performed despite all evidence to the contrary. This third edition brings together Davis-Floyd's insights into the intense ritualization of birth and the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth with new data collected in recent years. 

The books I picked & why

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Spiritual Midwifery

By Ina May Gaskin,

Book cover of Spiritual Midwifery

Why this book?

I love this book because it was the very first to talk about spirit and energy in the birth process. In it, world-famous midwife Ina May Gaskin describes how she learned about births from attending them, later studying with a doctor. She describes many births on the farm in which she and her midwifery colleagues learned that birth is a spiritual process that is deeply affected by the energy in the room. They learned to "suss out" that energy and to send people with negative energy out of the birthing room. And they learned that if you change the energy in positive ways, you also change the outcome of the birth in positive ways. In other words, change the energy = change the outcome!

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin,

Book cover of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Why this book?

I love this book because the first part of it is filled with wonderful birth stories that show how world-famous midwife Ina May Gaskin and her midwifery colleagues at the Farm learned how to attend births by helping the birth energy to flow untrammeled. And the second part is an excellent guide to navigating the over-medicalization of childbirth in the US. Drawing on her 30+ years of experience, Ina May shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience. Based on the women-centered Midwifery Model of Care, this book gives expectant mothers comprehensive information on everything from the all-important mind-body-spirit connection to how to give birth without technological intervention.

Giving Birth with Confidence

By Judith Lothian, Charlotte DeVries,

Book cover of Giving Birth with Confidence

Why this book?

This is the only pregnancy and childbirth guide written by Lamaze International, the leading childbirth education organization in North America. I love this book because it provides clear information for pregnant women. The authors present: information to help expectant women choose their maternity care provider and place of birth; practical strategies to help them work effectively with their care provider; information on how pregnancy and birth progress naturally; and steps childbearers can take to alleviate fear and manage pain during labor. Previously titled The Official Lamaze Guide, this 3rd edition has updated information on: how vaginal birth, keeping mother and baby together, and breastfeeding help to build the baby’s microbiome; how hormones naturally start and regulate labor and release endorphins to help alleviate pain; and obstetric practices that can disrupt the body’s normal functioning.

I love this book because, unlike the popular book What to Expect When You're Expecting, it answers all the questions that pregnant women could have about how to choose the right care provider for them, how to decide what kind of birth they would like to have, and how to achieve that birth. It also provides clear information on possible complications of pregnancy and birth and how to deal with these in the most evidence-based and effective ways. It is written clearly and lovingly in language that is easy to understand. And it is written by two of the best childbirth educators in the US, who freely share their wisdom and experience.

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide

By Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, Ann Keppler, Janelle Durham, April Bolding

Book cover of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide

Why this book?

I love this book because it puts parents in control and because it's based on the latest medical research and recommendations. It provides the information and guidance that pregnant families need to make informed decisions that reflect their preferences, priorities, and values. Throughout, the presentation is crystal-clear, the tone is reassuring, and the voice is empowering. And the language is inclusive, reflecting today's various family configurations such as single-parent families, blended families formed by second marriages, families with gay and lesbian parents, and families formed by open adoption or surrogacy. From sensible nutrition advice to realistic birth plans, from birth doulas when desired to cesareans when needed, from reducing stress during pregnancy to caring for themselves and their babies after birth, this pregnancy guide speaks well to the needs of parents-to-be.

Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

By Jennifer Block,

Book cover of Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

Why this book?

I highly recommend this book because it is an excellent exposé written by a well-known journalist on what is wrong with childbirth and maternity care in the US. As I do in my book, Block shows that in this country, more than half of laboring women are unnecessarily given drugs to induce or speed up labor, and one-third have cesareans. Block poignantly asks, "When did birth become an emergency instead of an emergence?" She examines childbirth as a reproductive rights issue, insisting that women have the right to an optimal birth experience, and that right is not being upheld. Block's research reveals that while emergency obstetric care is essential, we are overusing medical technology at the expense of maternal and infant health. 

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