Posted: Oct 31, 2013 10:00 AM
 
Dr. Anne Lyerly’s groundbreaking book, A Good Birth, reveals the five secrets to a good birth based on her landmark Duke study which includes interviews with over 100 mothers, midwives and maternity-care providers willing to discuss the ins and outs of childbirth in all its glorious and gory details.

Birth stories have the power to connect and reveal a woman's true thoughts on the day she became a mother. Dr. Anne Lyerly realized this and tapped into 10 years of research with well over 100 birth stories in search of the answer to one big question: What makes for a good birth... for a woman? Looking beyond the natural versus medical debate, Lyerly hit a nerve with her study and book. We found out why.

Why this book?

Anne Drapkin Lyerly, M.D.Anne Drapkin Lyerly, M.D., and mother of five, says, "In my 20 years of working on issues related to birth, I've found that there's a deep confusion in the goals of birth or what makes a birth good. Most doctors are trained to think of a “good birth” in terms of its medical success. But as millions of mothers know, there are other elements that are commonly overlooked."

Dr. Lyerly knew that when women discuss birth stories, the conversation of whether or not their birth was successful goes way beyond whether or not their babies were born healthy or even where their baby was born. So she set out to answer two important questions: What is a good birth? And why?

Fueled by the desire to listen to diverse mothers, Dr. Lyerly drew upon her professional and personal experiences as well as her landmark Duke study to reveal that the most important voice in the delivery room is, in fact, the mother's. Ironically, it's also the voice that's often overlooked — or at the very least minimized — when good or successful births are described.

What struck me time and again was not what distinguished one birth from another, but what about them was the same.

In her Duke study, Dr. Lyerly spoke with women and caregivers about their birth experiences, hopes, fears, reactions and takeaway feelings. She traveled the country collecting birth stories from women of varying socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and birthing situations to investigate the factors that are common among vaginal, VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and unplanned, planned and elective caesareans.

Dr. Lyerly says, “It was important to me that we let women talk — that we not impose our views or ways of thinking, that they be allowed to speak in their own words. What struck me time and again was not what distinguished one birth from another, but what about them was the same.”

Why now?

Among these similarities, Dr. Lyerly found that women wanted to talk about their birth stories. Every woman has experienced the connectivity found in a birth talk in line at the grocery store, a doctor's office waiting room or school pick-up line. Stories of birth are meant to be told and Dr. Lyerly realized that the women who tell them have the insight new mothers and their caregivers need to help ensure that this experience is, indeed, good.

For many women, the birth of a child is among life's most memorable and emotional experiences. However, squabbling between physicians and mothers and constant opinion-driven media have colored women's views and added a layer of regret, guilt and uncertainty to the whole process.

Dr. Lyerly says, "For many women, the birth of a child is among life's most memorable and emotional experiences. However, squabbling between physicians and mothers and constant opinion-driven media have colored women's views and added a layer of regret, guilt and uncertainty to the whole process."

With this work, Dr. Lyerly set out to remove these lenses and bring birth stories back to their roots: What makes a birth experience good and why.

The 5 secrets

Dr. Lyerly found five themes that cut across home and hospital, straightforward and complicated births. They are:

  1. Agency
  2. Personal security
  3. Connectedness
  4. Respect
  5. Knowledge

In A Good Birth, one chapter is devoted to each of these factors. Well written and informative, Dr. Lyerly's book explains her research findings and take-aways and, importantly, why these factors rose to the top of the goodness scale.

Lyerly says, "Although control is mentioned by almost every woman, it doesn't quite fit into the criteria for a good birth, as birth is a fundamentally uncontrollable situation. I discovered that women had a variety of ways to approach this lack of control. The book describes how women can be at peace with this by being in tune with the other five factors."

For every woman

Dr. Lyerly says, "A Good Birth is not a how-to. It's a deeper look at how what really matters goes beyond the clinical outcome or even the usual questions of hospital versus birthing center, and reveals the universal needs of women, such as the importance of feeling connected, safe and respected. It's the story of birth from women who've been there, who understand what a pregnant mother fears and hopes, who want to relate their story, not to preach, but to give the wisdom of this profound and positive experience."

Meant to unify women in their experiences, A Good Birth is every woman's birth story.

A Good Birth cover

Dr. Lyerly says, "Describing what went well, what didn't and what they'd do differently next time, these mothers give voice to the complete experience of childbirth, helping both women and their healthcare providers develop strategies to address the emotional needs of the mother, going beyond the standard birth plans and conversations."

Reading this book brings you back to your own birth stories and will change the way you not only feel about them, but also the way you discuss and share them. In other words, it's a must-read for every mother.

To redefine good birth stories, you can find Dr. Lyerly on her blog, follow her on Twitter and Facebook and, of course, buy A Good Birth.

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