Google+ Authentic Parenting: Book Review: Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley

Article first published as Book Review: Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley

Laura Kaplan Shanley’s book “Unassisted Childbirth” (1994) was not what I had expected to read when I bought it. I had set out thinking I would be reading a guide to unassisted childbirth, but found something entirely different.
Instead, the book raises awareness about a little known topic and tries to open your mind to the power of nature and the human body. It questions the cultural, technocratic beliefs about births and urges a fresh look on birth and it’s surrounding practices.

Shanley takes an anthropological and historical tour of birth to show us how it can be done differently, and how many women before us have gone through birth without the seemingly prevalent fear and pain. She discusses the power of the mind to control the body and reality, and steer the outcome of events. She takes the writings of the likes of Grantly Dick-Read to the next level, and hands the birthing woman the tool to overcome culture and the way we envision birth.

“I contend that panting, pushing, and pain are not natural at all. There is another way of giving birth. One has only to observe the average house cat in labor to see true natural childbirth in action.”

Even though it was not what I had set out to read, the book was an eye-opener, which refreshed and strengthened ideas that were already lingering in my head, but had never been pronounced fully. Childbirth isn’t meant to be painful, instead it should be a joyous, transcending experience. We make of childbirth what our culture and our preprogrammed mindset determines it to be.

I am really happy to have read this book and have gained new insights doing so. Yet there was a moment in the book where she goes to far over to the God/creator side for an atheist like me. Birth is indeed about spirituality, but when one writes a book for a larger public, one must at least leave the sort of spirituality for the reader to fill in. When reading about childbirth, I am not seeking a lesson about the bible or creationism.



  1. Hi! I would love to read it although I'm not so sure about the mammalian comparison quoted... I'm almost sure that the cephalic-pelvic relation in a household cat is much lower than in humans (due to our bipedity and large brains)... But I do believe that birth can be what you imagine it to be and in fact women in western civilization today are made to believe they cannot birth. All the best!

  2. Hey Moya!
    Great remark on the housecat. It's true that humans have a harder predicament with the vertical pelvis and large brain... but I do believe that we're still making it harder on ourselves than it should be
    Thanks for the discussion! Hope you get to read the book one day, very inspiring

  3. I just love Ina-May Gaskin "spiritual midwifery". lots of info on physiology and many hearthmoving testemonies of natural labour and birth. :)


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