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Book Review: Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care


Jennifer Block’s Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care
is one of those books that’s been on my “to read” list for ages.  I finally had a chance to give it a read over the holiday break and wanted to briefly share my thoughts.

As I’m a bit of a birth geek, I can’t say I learned anything I didn’t already know.  BUT if you don’t know much about the politics of birth in the U.S., it’s a real eye-opener.  Even as someone who does know a fair amount, I was still really engaged – and really enraged.

Block makes a case for the (mis)treatment of women in labor as a civil rights issue.  Through a series of powerful first hand accounts, she explores where birth goes wrong – the way women are “pushed” into making choices either through lack of information or a lack of options that are not in their (or their babies’) best interests.  Although medical professionals are not presented as without blame, Block fairly illustrates the way even those providers who want to do differently for their patients are finding their hands increasingly tied by medical bureaucracy.    She also takes a look at the home birth scene, focusing on the issues that have forced many home births “underground.”

I feel like this is a must read for anyone who cares about women’s issues or anyone who is preparing for birth.  I do think that most health care providers want to do what’s best for their patients.  However, I also feel that the current medical model of birth – and the political and financial pressures around it – are NOT in the best interest of mothers and babies.  For that to change, we need mothers to be informed and supported.

Block’s central claim is essentially that too frequently mothers are forced to take a passive role in their labor and delivery – the opposite of ideal.  Through her readable prose and well-selected vignettes, she paints a compelling picture of why there is an urgent need for change.


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Published in Book Recommendations