THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Natural Childbirth in a Hospital
By Cynthia Gabriel
Book Overview
Page 2 of 2

North American women harbor deep disappointment with their birth experiences. As a medical
anthropologist, I have interviewed 170 women about giving birth. I have also attended more than
85 births as a doula.  I have spent countless hours listening to women in the early post-partum
weeks. I have heard tearful story after tearful story about what these women wish could have gone
differently, even when both mother and baby are quite healthy. These are stories that obstetricians
rarely hear.

My research indicates that between 40 and 65 percent of women say during pregnancy that they
would like to give birth naturally, yet only one percent are willing to choose homebirth.  Two
hundred fifty thousand North American women want what only a tiny percentage achieves: natural
childbirth in a hospital. The Best of Both Worlds: Natural Childbirth in a Hospital will tell these
women what they need to do in order to get what they want.

This book will have special appeal to women who have already given birth in a hospital and
experienced unnecessary medical intervention. These women probably have read childbirth books
that do not adequately prepare women to have natural births in North American hospitals. As one
woman says, “What happened in the hospital was so far removed from my birth plan, it was like a
different planet. None of those books told the truth.” In subsequent pregnancies, these women go
out of their way to find different information.

The books currently available to pregnant women miss the mark. Every year when four and a half
million women go to bookstores or on-line to buy books, they are confronted with a choice between
two camps. There are the general, all-purpose, all-audience books that tend to be pro-medical
intervention on the one hand (i.e. What to Expect When You’re Expecting) and there are books
geared toward the natural birth crowd on the other.  For different reasons, neither camp adequately
addresses the specific needs of women planning natural births in hospitals.

Many books on pregnancy and childbirth are written by doctors, nurses or midwives. Their
perspective is entirely different from that of a birthing woman or a doula. As a doula, I am in the
hospital actively negotiating and advocating for what women want.  The medical model books give
far more attention to what kind of anesthesia a woman should choose than to how to have a
natural birth. And many natural birth books mislead women by insinuating that their biggest
challenge is labor pain.  In fact, many women find that negotiating hospital policies and personnel
is their biggest test. No book that I know of gives this issue extensive treatment. The Best of Both
Worlds: Natural Childbirth in a Hospital provides women and their partners with the tools they
need to handle equally well the internal and the external challenges they will face.


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