Book review: Epstein’s _Get Me Out_

15 June 2010 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

I finally got to read Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, by Randi Hutter Epstein, this week, when it came up on my library reserves list. It’s an entertaining read, decently written, with all the standard ancecdotes and then a few new ones. From the beginning, I had high hopes for this book:

Get Me Out is not an advice book. It won’t tell women what to eat or which test to take. . . but the stories and tragedies of yesteryear will prompt readers to be more inquisitive about health decisions today. The guidance that I hope you glean from this  book should pique your curiosity to think about the medical maze in a different sort of way, to ask deeper questions, and to question yourself about the choices you make. Is it because of a new study or a new medical fashion? (xiii)

Still, the author is a doctor, and she is on the side of a medical view of birth. This bias becomes most apparent in her chapter on unassisted birth, in which she’s dismissive of freebirthers and other proponents of the current anti-medical childbirth movement: “Their [Freebirthers’] logic is not farfetched. Sometimes doctors or midwives do cause problems. And stress has been shown to shown to tighten muscles and increase pain. But then again, their logic is not completely accurate either. Sometimes doctors save lives. . . . Chances are [if you have an unassisted homebirth] you and your baby will be fine, because birth complications are not the norm. But you are taking a risk” (183-184). Epstein goes on to mention an infamous  perinatal death after a freebirth, with the implication that doctors save lives, and birthing without doctors leads to babies who die.

Of course, the entire point of the midwifery model of childbirth–and of freebirthers, even more so–is that everything, every decision, is “taking a risk.” Have the doctor strip your membranes a week before your due date? Risk. Have the doctor do vaginal exams during labor? Risk. And so on, and so forth.

In short, Epstein’s book is interesting, but don’t read it expecting something completely new, different, or unbiased.

–Christina

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