I have read a lot of pregnancy books. I mean a LOT of pregnancy books. I have a bookshelf that is starting to bend in the middle a bit due to my efforts to contain them all in the same place. I’m sure I look like some crazy birth nutter to anyone who stumbles across said shelf in my house. The beauty of pregnancy, labour, birth and have a small baby is that it’s generally universal, so books from all over the world can be useful to you if it’s the biology and theory that you’re after. That’s why I have many. Lots of perspectives and lots of experience. But one crucial element missing from those books is that all important local information – what goes on in your maternity unit – and that’s where the importance of Irish pregnancy books come in.
There’s not many Irish pregnancy books though, and even in that small number there is a very broad spectrum – from the prescriptive and often non-evidence based The Irish Pregnancy Book: A Guide for Expectant Mothers by consultant obstetrician and former Holles Street master Peter Boylan to Tracy Donegan’s Irish Better Birth Book at the other end of the scale. So I was delighted to hear about a new ebook on the block called From Bump to Birth: Essential Tips and Advice for your Pregnancy and Labour by Louise Ni Chríodáin and Margaret Hanahoe.
Midwife Margaret Hanahoe is currently the assistant director of midwifery in the National Maternity Hospital. In 1999 she set up and developed Ireland’s first community midwifery programme -the DOMINO and homebirth programme – there. I had the pleasure of having Margaret visit my home for my first homebirth antenatal appointment and have seen her speak at many conferences since. I like her style! But what about the book?
From Bump to Birth is written by a woman with this perspective:
“I have delivered babies for 30 years, in a range of varied and different circumstances. I work in a hospital that developed the concept of the ‘active management of labour’, but has an integrated community midwives service that advocates natural birth. And though I began as a midwife expert in “active management”, I set up and worked in our Community Midwives scheme for 12 years, promoting, encouraging and facilitating hospital-based natural births and homebirths.
“Over the years in Ireland I have regularly witnessed hostility from some hospital, government and health-service officials towards independent homebirth midwives, and a longstanding “suspicion” by some homebirth midwives towards anything “hospital”.
“I have seen at first-hand the many benefits for mother and baby of natural birth, but there are times when no amount of coaching, coaxing and encouragement will be able to get the baby out without medical intervention. “I have also seen how when well, healthy women with a normal labour are ‘speeded’ up by breaking waters and administering oxytocin, they are left unable to cope with labour pains and have to choose an epidural – leading to an instrumental delivery.
“So, what is my own view after 30 years’ experience? I believe there should be choice. Hospitals need to embrace the benefits of natural birth and leave it alone, intervening only when medically necessary. A woman that is well supported by midwives to achieve a natural labour should be encouraged to do so and given the support do to so. If it is not going to happen naturally then, and only then, is it time to intervene“
This is a quote that makes me want to hear what this woman has to say! Bump to Birth is a book that expertly threads that fine line between being quite clear about hospital policy and what their “birth plan” is for you, and providing evidence-based information and frequent reminders that you need to inform and educate yourself for your best possible birth experience.
It is jam-packed of holistic and sensible tips for preparing for labour, birth and easing pregnancy symptoms as well as covering all the psychological and emotional bits. The kind of stuff that Boylan’s book poo-poos, but a wise midwife with bucket loads of experience has under her belt – homeopathy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, massage, water immersion, visualisation, relaxation techniques, active birth techniques, positioning exercises, hypnotherapy and GentleBirth, recipes for eating, applying and soothing..all good stuff! There’s also links included so that you can read up on the evidence behind many of the subjects covered.
I’d recommend that you read the book in its entirety first, rather than dipping in and out initially. In fact, I think before you read page one, everyone should skip straight to “Margaret’s foreword to labour”, where the above quote comes from, just to give you a sense of the book as a whole. It might be easy to misinterpret some sections of the book if you only take in snippets, particularly if you’re a “veteran” as the book describes women who have already had one baby and know your hospital policies from your international best practice! But reading it in its entirety knits together all of the information. What’s also great for reading between the lines is the “mums’ tips” which are dotted throughout the book. You’ll read many diverse experiences in there, which carry extra weight when you know that they are quotes from women who have given birth in Ireland.
My biggest issue with the book is its presentation. It is such a shame that it is available in ebook format only as this is the kind of book you’d like to keep on your bedside locker and revisit as your pregnancy progresses. It would also benefit from some illustrative diagrams or even a few boxes here and there just to break up the text. I was only dying to see a diagram of one of the hand acupressure points described!
But at €2.99, this book is a must-have for any woman planning or expecting a baby in Ireland. If you’re trying to decide between this book and Bump to Birth please don’t waste your money on the first one. There’s a quote in there that says gravity confers no benefit on the birth process. Enough said!
Bump to Birth: Essential Tips and Advice for your Pregnancy and Labour by Louise Ni Chríodáin and Margaret Hanahoe is available on Kindle from Amazon now for €2.99/£2.34. Hopefully some very sensible publisher will snap it up and do us up a few printed copies. Every mum should have one.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it however all views are my own.