Best Birth Book Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

If you are only going to read one book during your pregnancy, this should be the one!  

Ina May's Guide

A little background on the author

Ina May Gaskin is very well known across the globe and has been working tirelessly for over 3 decades to deliver woman centered care to her clients and community  at “The Farm” in Tennessee.  Her midwifery beginnings were very humble, working out of a school bus that had been turned into a mobile home.  She and her husband were part of a caravan of people who were travelling across the United States in search for a piece of land to call home.  They wanted to work together as a community to grow their own food, raise their children and share their knowledge and resources.  That is exactly what they did and what they continue to do today at “The Farm”.

Why this book rocks!

The reason why I love this book is not only because it shares so many beautifully powerful and POSITIVE birth stories.  I also love it because it provides you with truly helpful information to guide you in making the decisions that are right for you and your family.

This exceptional midwife brings the point home that most births are low risk and go very well.  The book will fill your heart and head with positive birth stories. She feels that it is important in this day and age of fear in childbirth to remind women of the power and beauty of the birth process.  Here is Ina May telling you in her own words why birth stories are so important:

“Stories teach us in ways we can remember. They teach us that each woman responds to birth in her unique way and how very wide-ranging that way can be. Sometimes they teach us about silly practices once widely held that were finally discarded. They teach us the occasional difference between accepted medical knowledge and the real bodily experiences that women have – including those that are never reported in medical textbooks nor admitted as possibilities in the medical world. They also demonstrate the mind/body connection in a way that medical studies cannot. Birth stories told by women who were active participants in giving birth often express a good deal of practical wisdom, inspiration, and information for other women. Positive stories shared by women who have had wonderful childbirth experiences are an irreplaceable way to transmit knowledge of a woman’s true capacities in pregnancy and birth.”

Sphincter Law

Ina May spends some precious page space explaining a really interesting concept called “sphincter law”.  She explains this in the following quote.  “The state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated to the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity.”  She goes on to explain how all of our “sphincters” are related and connected to one another.  Clenching your jaw and mouth during labor will make it difficult for your cervix to dilate.  It will make it difficult for your vagina to open to let your baby out.

Since the cervix is a sphincter it naturally follows a few rules that all the other sphincters in the body follow.  It cannot be commanded to open like you can command your hands to open or your mouth to open.  Sphincters, like your anus and cervix tend to work best in private and familiar settings.  Imagine trying to poop in front of several people.  You would probably have a hard time.  The same holds true for pushing out a baby.   It sounds a little weird at first but she makes her point well.

It’s her way or the highway?

This is definitely not a book that will make you feel “less than” if you choose a medicated hospital birth.  Ina May’s point is only to inform women of all the options out there.  She will guide you through current scientific research around some childbirth issues.  Share her wisdom from having helped women bring their babies safely into this world over the last 30 + years.  She is not anti-doctor or anti-anything.  She agrees that some women need the expertise of obstetricians.  She really just wants to share her knowledge and absolute love of the process of babies being born.

Closing remarks

This is a great bedtime read.  It will leave you feeling positive and make you look forward to birthing your baby.  This will lead to good birthing dreams.  Make a nice hot cup of chamomile tea with a bit of honey and take in this sweet gift.  This book is widely available from your local library, either on paper, as an e-book or audio-book.  We also have copies of this book at our clinics for you to borrow.  Happy reading!



Josée Nolet is a registered midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Josée here.