Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

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Cassidy got interested in the topic after realizing that three generations of women in her family had completely different expectations about what childbirth should be like. One of the more amusing sections here details the attempts of cultures around the world to induce labor.


The Egyptian Siwa tried to scare tardy babies into entering the world by shooting two rifles near the expectant mother. Other cultures have shaken pregnant women on blankets or hung them from trees. In her captivating first chapter, she addresses how evolution has affected childbirth.

Most mammals have a much easier time giving birth than do humans, because their birth canals are roomier.

Birth: The Surprising History of how We are Born - Tina Cassidy - Google книги

Walking upright, as people do, requires a compact pelvis, and humans have bigger brains than any other mammal. In other words, the very combination of features that allow people their place at the top of the evolutionary heap, large heads and small pelvises, combine to make birth terrifically difficult. There was a problem adding your email address.

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Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born - Kepler's Staff Review

A former writer and editor for The Boston Globe, she embarked upon her research after the harrowing birth of her own son George, by emergency Caesarean section at a major Massachusetts hospital, following a prolonged and unproductive labor. Or so it was deemed by the overworked staff, a contingency that my Bradley Method instructor in Los Angeles, proselytizing for a birth medicated only by deep contemplative breaths, warned is all too common.

What she discovered in her research is revolting, in both senses of the word. For a book about birth is also inevitably a book about death.

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In an appendix, Cassidy lists the lifetime risk of maternal mortality in countries around the world at the turn of the millennium; the United States, at 1 in 2,, ranks worse than Qatar or Serbia. Later, feminists agitated for the right to sink into something ominously and glamorously called Twilight Sleep, a cocktail of scopolamine and morphine first distributed at a clinic outside the Black Forest that erased all memories of the proceedings from its straitjacketed, thrashing recipient.

Now the reactive vogue for natural lying-in or squatting, as the case may be has been co-opted by a litigation-wary medical establishment. Still, things could be a lot worse.