Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth


Ina May Gaskin's Guide to ChildbirthYou know when you read something written from a ‘master of craft’, that’s really easy to read, full of insight/wisdom…and you hear yourself saying over & over ‘wow, this is good’? That’s this book. {Steve never thought, as a dude supporting his wife, he’d say the same thing about a birth book- he thought it was super educational. He likes to know ‘they why’ behind things- he really liked this one}.

This book is like an ‘instant download’ of real life experience that talks directly to many questions women (and couples) have about birth. And there’s evidence to back up her insights. She’s not trying to impress anyone & sell you ‘on her way’. She just talks about her experience and lets you think what you may. I appreciate & respect that.

Ina May Gaskin is the most well-known Midwife in the Healthcare & Maternity Care world. She’s written books, founded a birthing center, speaks all over the world on maternity care & a lot more.

Most notable, the ‘results’ (healthy babies & healthy moms) she’s achieved at her birthing center are just about ‘the best’, if not ‘the best’ anywhere in the world- (ie-C-section rates at her birthing center were 1.4% (in year 2000), while national average was 24.4%). Her book is considered by many to be the most important book to read of any. Her work is recommended by some of most experienced and influential medical professionals in the world.

The layout of this book has empowering birth stories for first 1/3 of book, then talks specifically all about the birth process. She’s been a midwife for more than 35 years. Her perspective is unique and the results achieved are the result of working with women who’ve had ‘little or no fear of birth’.

The purpose of this book is to teach the true capabilities of a woman’s body during birth. In Ina’s words, the book is meant to ‘encourage & inform’.


-birth is so common, many pregnant women just do what is most popular (not necessarily what evidence shows is best)

-our culture says the most expensive and shiniest technology is best…in birth that isn’t always true.

-culturally accepted norms dictate a lot of current birth practice and procedure (not what evidence shows is best for moms or baby)

-our own mental attitudes and emotions interfere with the ability to give birth far more than is generally understood.

-birth is a normal physiologic process

-Most women need encouragement and companionship more than they need drugs

-western medicine assumes complete separation from any mind body connection (thoughts & feelings have no relevance to physical welfare)- ‘placebo effect’ being well documented exception- (for example- someone told they are taking a life-saving drug, it’s really just a sugar pill, and they get cured. So why isn’t mind body connection also applied to birth??

-words spoken during labor can have immediate & direct effect on laboring woman’s muscles (ie- soft words can either relax muscles and speed labor up or increase tension and halt labor immediately)

-doctors in training rarely sit continuously with a laboring woman for hours- they don’t know what a normal laboring & birth process is like

-Most doctors are taught to intervene in the normal birth process so often and so early that they have never witnessed a normal labor and birth (without any interventions & allowed to progress on it’s own).

-medical textbooks for doctors in the 19th century taught physicians to stay out of the normal laboring process unless needed. When hospitals became common, doctors started intervening a lot more.

-your body is not a lemon! It can do what it was made to do!

-birth as experienced by the mother is the Mt Everest of physical functions in any mammal

-there is no other organ quite like the Uterus. If men had one they’d brag about it, why don’t we!

-the 3 layers of the muscles in the uterus are amazingly powerful yet super stretchable

-uterus starts out size of pear and becomes size of large watermelon. Incredible!

-gravity can greatly help 2nd stage of labor (birth)

-rhythmic contractions thin and open the uterus

-one of the best parts of labor are rest periods between contractions

-Ina’s midwifery center shows how rare it is for complications to occur when women are properly prepared and technological interventions are kept to a minimum (until medically necessary)

-pain is a relative term- many women don’t experience much pain, many experience pain. Common across cultures is how the pain gave women sense of bonding/satisfaction with baby. So much of labor & birth pain seems to be mom’s attitude and if she’s expecting to effectively handle it. Often then she does just that.

-labor pain is different than other pain

-women don’t know that a change in labor positioning, attitude and atmosphere can change labor (for the better or worse) in big ways

-the brain can work to help birth or hinder it- often it’s a choice by the laboring woman & a function of her surroundings

-labor has it’s own rhythms- it doesn’t just conclude within any rigid time limit. Expecting labor to begin & end on a set time limit is setting mom up for disappointment. Let labor do its thing.

-2 models of care: medical model & midwifery model

-women are treated as a homogenous group in the medical model of care. Everyone treated like the same body, same uterus with the same baby. Yet in reality, everyone is different. (like in anything else)

-more than 70% of babies born in the countries with the lowest rates of maternal & newborn deaths happen with only midwives in the room (no docs).

-Gardeners know for healthy young plants you plant and nourish the soil- water especially when seeds germinating, etc. …why is birth of a little human any different. Nutrition, taking care of self is super important.

-many studies agree- that fewer than 10% of women need induction for medical reasons (there are some good reasons for medical induction)

-meeting organized by the World Health Organization concluded regions shouldn’t have induction rates higher than 10%.

-chemically induce labor often gives women stronger, harsher & significantly more painful contractions

-women who could manage pain fine in spontaneous labor (labor with no induction), often find they need pain medication for labor that was induced

-there are almost always clear symptoms when a baby is in danger from staying in the womb too long

-movement helps cervical dilation and helps bring baby into the most advantageous position for birth

-women historically & culturally usually feel better birthing standing up. First recorded instance of birthing on back was in 1663 King Louis XIV. (so men could more easily see baby born)

-many women have bought into the idea that their bodies require serious help to birth a baby. Women’s vaginas can expand and contract just the same as a penis does. Pelvis bones expand with help of relaxin hormone. Very few times can a woman not birth a baby due to the baby’s size. (studies prove)

-medical science shows routine episiotomy has no benefits and serious disadvantages

-delayed cord clamping shows 25-50% of baby’s blood flows into baby

-step one to prevent Post-Partum Depression is t get some sleep after birth- even if you are on cloud 9.

-the US has one of the highest infant & maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world


What we liked most about Ina’s Guide to Childbirth was how she talked about the Midwifery Model’s very different approach to birth, without bashing the hospital model. She makes clear points on some of the differences & gives you the grace to figure out what is right for you. This book is a MUST READ for all pregnant mamas.

This book IS NOT for the crunchy granola natural birth wannabe pregnant mamas. This book is for everyone. You learn so much about your body & how your body is fully capable to give birth. Wherever & However you decide to give birth you’ll be better off having read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. 

You can get the book here

(To satisfy our friends at the FTC- this is an affiliate link. That means if you decide to buy this book, amazon might send us so much money for helping you out, we could probably buy a jet & a matching yacht. :) )

We Hope these Book Notes are just a starting point for some big time Discussion. We can learn so much from each other {especially when we have differing thoughts}…

What did you learn from this book? What specifically helped you the most? How come? Let’s chat about it. Please share in the comments below.