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Parenting Book Review: HEART & HANDS: A MIDWIFE’S GUIDE TO PREGNANCY AND BIRTH

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By Elizabeth Davis

Reviewed by Roberta Waters

Rating:

 

This midwifery student classic, newly revised and updated in 2004, has much to recommend it.  Unfortunately, although the author claims to have worked to remove much of the medical focus, it is still heavily influenced by medical protocol.

 

Elizabeth Davis is a Californian.  California began licensing traditional midwives in the early 1990s.  Unfortunately, Ms. Davis apparently forgot that in much of the United States today, midwives continue to struggle for the right to lawfully exist and for women to legally choose who will be with them and where they will birth.  Midwives and homebirth parents are subjected to civil and criminal penalties.  The witch hunt is not yet over just because some organizations created a certification and some states have incorporated it into their licensure laws.  It is a disservice to the reader to fail to acknowledge this discrimination.

 

While much of the information regarding midwifery care for the student midwife is excellent, there are many instances where the author includes a comment intended to draw a certain conclusion, but fails to indicate the source of the fact.  Because this book is intended to be used as a textbook/reference, it would be more useful to have included the sources for these “facts” so that the diligent reader could reference them for additional information.

 

The drawings of midwifery clients receiving gynecological care are awesome.  The photos that accompany the other portions of the book are good, but more photos demonstrating some of the targeted sections would improve the quality of the book. 

 

Another criticism is to correct the conflicting messages regarding maternal positioning.  For example, in regards to CPD, Ms. Davis writes that a way to correct inlet disproportion is the have the mother assume knees-chest position and then have the midwife dislodge and reposition the baby’s head.  The accompanying photo, however, shows the mother flat on her back – medical-style!

 

Shoulder dystocia is described as the result of a baby’s shoulder being “impacted behind the public bone.”  This definition, while widespread, begs for some scientific proof.  Can a baby’s shoulder truly be impacted if the attendant can get their entire hand inside the mother’s vagina and grab on to the baby to turn it?  And is it really impacted if the attendant can cause the baby’s body to turn, even though the baby does not emerge further?

 

Suprapublic pressure is another concept that needs scientific proof.  What other muscle is made stronger by pressure on it when it is flexed?  Are there athletic competitions where the participants bind their muscles to make them stronger?

 

This book is intended also for use by parents and Ms. Davis presents a nice assortment of maternal and newborn concerns and issues to educate the diligent reader.  It was refreshing to see her section on newborn male circumcision, which she discourages.  Unfortunately, she fails to give the reader any further resources for additional questions, although many are available online and in print.

 

Overall, this book is informative and tends to be less medical than many others.  It will provide information for readers in a double-spaced, easy on the eyes format.  However, if you are looking for a resource that proclaims that “YOU can do it – you can birth because you were made to do this”, all the complications mentioned and tales of difficult births may disappoint you.  Nevertheless, it is a good book for some general information about childbearing and midwifery and midwives.

 

Reviewed by Roberta Waters

 

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