The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know
By Ananda Lowe & Rachel Zimmerman
Bantam Books, 2009
Softcover, 270 pages
Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE
The Doula Guide to Birth is written for pregnant women, though the title may suggest that it is for doulas. It also has a chapter and sections specific to birth partners. However, doulas will also find the book to be a friendly, enjoyable read and may pick up some fresh perspectives for their work with birthing women.
The book also includes (short) sections for often-ignored or marginalized segments of the birthing population such as same-sex partners, parents using a surrogate mother, and women planning for adoption.
The first five chapters of The Doula Guide to Birth cover benefits of doulas, the role of fathers/partners and the complementary nature of the doula role to other support people, general overview of labor, childbirth education options and medications, and finding a doula.
The later seven chapters delve deeper into less typical subjects such as doulas and medical providers, when should you really go to the hospital, labor techniques, unexpected interventions, birth plans/birth essays, and what really happens postpartum.
Though not a criticism per se, I did feel like the first half of the book reads very much like an extended “commercial” for doulas. The second half of the book really shines. My favorite chapter was “labor is not about dilation”: “Although there is currently a heavy emphasis on dilation, vaginal exams, and timelines for giving birth, labor is not about dilation. Your body knows how to give birth whether or not you ever have a pelvic exam during labor. Birthing women need encouragement to trust their bodies, and to be the stars of their own labors. Doulas help provide this encouragement. And the confidence a woman discovers in labor can help carry her through the demands of parenting and future challenges in life.” (emphasis mine).
The Doula Guide to Birth is supportive of the midwifery model in philosophy, but only includes very brief mentions of midwives, the assumption being that most births with be in the hospital.
The book has extensive endnotes and an appendix with a birth evaluation form.