Sentences such as “Many couples like to take a tape recorder, along with the music of their choice,” will soon give away the era of Active Birth. It’s old. But so is birth. The beauty of some of the older birth books still on the market is their emphasis on the timeless aspects of birth. That is indeed what this book best focuses on.
Active Birth has the best descriptions I’ve found of the natural feelings encountered during birth. You will learn a lot about what to expect from the different stages of labor and how to help your birth go well. Author Janet Balaskas includes phenomenal advice on both things to do with your body and also helpful mindsets, good support strategies, and care to take with the environment around a laboring woman. It is very clear to me that she deeply understands how to support birth physiology, and she does a nice job passing that insight on through her book.
The basic premise of Active Birth is that birth is usually a healthy, uncomplicated process. The best way to prepare for giving birth is to strengthen and become comfortable with your body. There are certain movements and positions that help tremendously with birthing. Since most women have no examples to follow, it is useful to practice these birth positions and movements. In order to help in these pursuits, the book provides over 50 pages of instruction in yoga poses, breathing techniques, and massage.
Active Birth does address medical management of birth. Because it is old, some of that information is outdated. Considering the dates, though, it is actually still a very accurate commentary on the impacts of management options. Balaskas believes that modern obstetrical care is a wonderful safety net not necessary for most women but profoundly important for some. While it is clearly a book promoting natural and active birth, there are applications made for applying the advice if you do have an epidural.
The book has pictures and illustrations that enhance and clarify the excellent descriptions of various positions and their impact on anatomy and physiology. Active Birth strongly promotes birth in the squatting position, though other positions are covered. In my experience, lying on your back, either flat or in a semi-reclined position, is sometimes very effective for birth. This book suggests that back lying is never favorable. I would encourage an open mind. I agree with everything she states about positions and their impact on anatomy, but despite that, there are many times when the combination of confidence and rest afforded by back-lying make it the most productive position. In other words, there is a time and a place for everything.
This is a truly empowering book. Just by reading it, you will gain so much insight into what birth may be like and how women get through it. You will be encouraged by her confidence in you and all women. And you will learn how to use your body effectively during the birthing process. If you actually put Balaskas’ advice regarding exercise, breathing, and self care into action, Active Birth will be an incredible asset to your health and your birth. I highly recommend it for all!
About Active Birth’s Author, Janet Balaskas
Janet Balaskas coined the term “Active Birth” with the publication of this book and her work with the Active Birth Movement back in the early 1980s, which worked to allow women to move freely during labor, rather than being placed in stirrups. She is a childbirth instructor and founder of the Active Birth Centre in London, where she also lives. She is the mother of four children.