Monday 19 November 2012

Review of "Birth and Sex" by Sheila Kitzinger

As an antenatal teacher, I am an avid reader of the work of Sheila Kitzinger - a social anthropologist specialising in pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting, and a campaigner for the choices of women in childbirth. As well as being a pioneer campaigner, Sheila's work also includes research, writing and lecturing on the subject of childbirth and she has written over thirty books on the subject.

Recently, Pinter sent me a copy of Kitzinger's new book titled "Birth and Sex". For those familiar with Kitzinger's work, this book builds on her body of previous work. In this book, Kitzinger develops the ideas of others such as Gaskin and Odent, who believe that the experience of childbirth is inexplicably linked to sexual experience. Through the book, Kitzinger describes how women need to rediscover and embrace their own sexuality to have a positive experience of childbirth.

Kitzinger explores how modern day birth has been de-sexed by the move of birth from the home to hospital, and examines the impact this has had on the way women give birth and the experiences they encounter as a result. Kitzinger suggests that the rush of hormones and surge of energy flowing through the body during birth is similar to the hormones and energy a woman experiences during orgasm as pain and pleasure are closely linked. When a woman can follow her instincts during birth, oxytocin and endorphins in her body behave in the same way as they do to create an orgasm during sex. However, in today's modern culture where we revere technology and use it to enhance every aspect of our lives, women forget, or are hesitant to acknowledge that birth is something which is not necessarily enhanced by technology. During birth, women need to embrace their inner mammal in order to shut down the thinking part of their brain and allow the mammal side of the brain to take over. The traditional high-tech birth environment which the western world has become accustomed to, often inhibits or suppresses the woman's animalistic instinct and stimulates the thinking part of her brain, resulting in her mind working against her body. Research shows that the best environment for women to give birth in, is typically the kind of environment where they would have sex - a familiar, safe, dark environment where the woman is able to trust her own instincts, be confident in her body and be able to completely let go into herself - much as she would when experiencing orgasm.

In Birth and Sex, Sheila Kitzinger suggests what can be done to create an environment in which a woman is able to trust her instincts and be confident in her body. Kitzinger believes that by rediscovering the power and passion that lies within their body, women can reclaim the spontaneity and sexual ecstasy of childbirth. The book also explores alternatives to medicalised pain relief such as the use of water and song during childbirth.

For those unfamiliar with Kitzinger's work, those who are very immersed in medical childbirth or who experienced a very medicalised childbirth, some of the chapters in her book may require a small step of faith to entertain Kitzinger's ideas and consider her point of view. (Note: Those who are squeamish may want to approach the "Genital Geography" chapter of the book with caution). For those hoping to experience a positive of childbirth, or for those who believe in a woman's ability to birth her baby, and understand how closely birth is linked to sex, and the birth environment, this book cements everything they may already be aware of.

For anyone interested in childbirth, this book offers a refreshing alternative to other books on the market. Whatever your views on childbirth are, this book, from one of this century's leading pioneers of natural birth is a great read and offers interesting researched, evidence based information to pregnant women, their partners, and those caring for them during birth.

Disclosure: Book offered in consideration of review

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