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Reviewed Publisher: 
Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 363 pages, ISBN: 978-1-57441-297-0.
Reviewed Title: 
Birthing a Better Way: 12 Secrets for Natural Childbirth (2010)
Publication Date: 
October, 2010
Starting Page: 
Page Count: 

This book presents a supportive, no-nonsense approach to informed childbirth in any setting; a hospital, birth center, or at home. Cook and Christensen have compiled 12 "secrets" for natural childbirth encouraging women to understand the powerful and spiritual process of birth and to be truly informed when it comes to birthing in any setting. I am thrilled this book is hitting the birth market and I have high hopes that the bold captivating title, with the promise of learning 12 natural childbirth secrets, will contribute to the movement towards natural, holistic birth.

Each chapter addresses one of the "12 secrets for natural childbirth" and provides a wonderful compilation of research based information, advice from well-known experts in the field, and a wide variety of positive and encouraging birth stories. Among the first pages, readers will find professional advice from Christine Northrup, M.D. and Margaret Christensen, M.D., addressing a common fearbased model of birth and encouraging women to arm themselves with natural childbirth information and a supportive environment when bringing their baby into the world. Kalena Cook describes her personal motivation to avoid a cesarean and thus, through dedication and research, have a natural childbirth. Her birth inspired her to write a book filled with positive and informative stories, evidence-based support for natural childbirth and professional advice for mothers-tobe concerning how to make the best, informed decisions for their birth experience. The first of the "12 secrets for a natural childbirth" entails reading positive birth stories and provides information concerning why women choose natural, un-medicated birth when medication is widely available. Included is also Kalena Cook's personal birth story and some of the shocking information she discovered during her journey toward motherhood. Cook makes her points in a factual and blunt way such as stating "These drugs can affect the baby's ability to breathe after birth. I was shocked to find that the FDA does not require drugs used in labor be proven safe for the unborn baby" (p 12). Following Cook's birth story readers will find Margaret Christensen's story about how a doctor, despite the challenges and pressure from hospital colleagues and medical training, is able to transform her birth experience from that which she experienced giving birth to her first child, full of interventions, to practicing age-old birth traditions such as hypnotherapy and visualization during her subsequent births.

Among the other "12 secrets for natural childbirth" are: Turn Scared into Sacred, Don't Take Labor Lying Down, Learn Hospital Strategies, Transform Life's Challenges, Go Confidently With Expert Encouragement, and many more. The secrets range from informative (Know There's a Reason for the Squeezin'), to providing access to out of hospital options (Find Out How Birth Centers Bridge the Choice), as well as acknowledging the spiritual enlightenment an informed, natural childbirth entails (Make a Mind-Body-Spirit Commitment). There are birth stories of successful, planned natural births in the hospital, birth center, and at home, as well as stories of unexpected complications, delivering twins naturally, VBACs, delivering a baby with Down Syndrome, and more. The final chapter, Prepare for Baby's Arrival, covers breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and the controversial issue of circumcision; again, Cook provides straightforward information concerning the lack of data supporting such an unnecessary and traumatic procedure. There are additional resources in the appendix addressing nutrition, exercise, epidural ingrethents and side effects, as well as resources and simple birth plans, making this book a truly comprehensive birth book for mothersto-be.

Throughout the book readers will be encouraged, guided, and motivated by influential birth professionals such as Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, Sheila Kitzinger, Susan Atkins, Aviva Romm, and many more. Access to statistics, comparative views of technocratic vs. holistic birth models, questions to ask yourself and professionals concerning the environment you are considering for your birth, outlines of commonly offered childbirth education classes, how to calculate due dates, and much, much, more is provided throughout the pages of this book. I am certain women of all cultures, ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status will find this book useful and rewarding when discovering the birth they want to experience. My hope is that the bold, powerful title along with the promise of learning "secrets," which entices us all from time-to-time, will give women the confidence to pull this book from the shelf first and heed its wonderful direction.

A fantastic resource for mothers to be, whether their first child or their fourth, Birthing a Better way is exactly that; a resource informing women how to birth a more natural, informed, and better way. Cook provides bold, clear statements concerning the dangers of interventions, the importance of bonding and being supported through the physical and spiritual process of birth and transition to motherhood. I am thrilled to be a birth professional today when we are beginning to let our voices be heard and we can stand proudly by natural birth and say "This is a better way to birth!"