Birth Book Review - Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

TITLE: Spiritual Midwifery (4th edition 2002)

AUTHOR: Ina May Gaskin - certified professional midwife for more than 35 years at ‘The Farm Midwifery Centre’ Tennessee. International lecturer and author.

PUBLISHER:Book Publishing Company

WHO IS IT FOR? Women and anyone who likes them! Mothers, partners and birth workers, particularly those with an interest in experiencing and supporting home birth and unmedicated birth.



Every woman, regardless of her choice to have babies or not should take the time to read this book and in doing so realise what a precious position she holds on this Earth, what a powerful, beautiful force of nature she truly is.


Anyone who ever plans to attend a birth would be also be wise to read this book and realise the true depth of responsibility that their role olds. In fact just about anyone who has a vested interest in bettering their community, local or global must realise the huge social significance of this text and its message - How we choose to support birth and the family, speaks loudly about the type people of society we are choosing to be.


Originally published in 1975 when the conflict over home birth was bitter between the medical profession and the women’s rights movement in the USA, the original book couldn’t have arrived at a more culturally significant time. The first half of the book is a collection of beautiful and empowering birth stories from women who were choosing to go against the grain and have their babies at home in the commune referred to as ‘The Farm’ with the author Ina May in attendance as midwife. What was happening on ‘The Farm’ really was a revolution when you consider what women all over the country were having to endure in hospitals- medication, intervention, separation from their partners and their babies and a distinct lack of any emotional support. Ina May and the women who chose to have their babies on ‘The Farm’ showed the country and indeed the world another way.


Some readers may not be able to get past the language used in this book, in fact I know of a few people who hated it and couldn’t complete it for that reason. I would invite those readers to consider again the era and circumstances under which this book was originally written and published. Yes sometimes the tone may seem a little ‘hippie’ but this was the 70’s! Yes they use terms like ‘psychedelic’, ‘telepathic’ and ‘good energy’ but these are just one way of expressing the state of heightened awareness that can occur during an unmedicated birth. However you choose to feel about the words used to describe it, what these women were experiencing was a very real, utterly human and pure experience, they were indeed on a ‘trip’  - totally scientifically explainable by the crazy chemistry of birth - endorphins, adrenaline, oxytocin all in exquisite balance.

It is my suspicion that it is societies embarrassment surrounding raw primal experiences such as sex and birth in general that explains some people's negative reaction to this book.

As a Doula I have no doubt that I will be encouraging clients to read this text, the birth stories especially. I feel it is a particularly inspiring read for mothers planning a home birth or an unmedicated birth in the hospital. Ina May's later publication “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” may be more appropriate for those who need a more condensed read.


Although the information in the latter half of the book is directed towards the midwife there is definitely valuable information there for the aspiring Doula or other birth worker. I adored reading about the pelvic floor in such great detail, I found the anatomy of the pelvis fascinating. The sections on multiple pregnancies, complications and VBAC were very informing and I will no doubt be referring back to them if and when I have a client with any of these circumstances. Although some of the references in this section may be a little outdated it is the sentient of the book that is truly timeless.

What I especially love Ina May for is her consideration and appreciation of what she calls ‘energies’. Really, she is just fantastic with people in the most fantastic way, that is to say in a way that is the helpful to their development and enables them to take responsibility for themselves and their situation. She never takes the path of least resistance or allows people to get stuck in negative or unhelpful ways, she helps the women she works with to really grow  - in the way one is required to grow to have a baby. She understands what it is to be human, to be a woman, to give life, to lose life, and it doesn’t scare her to share it. Bless you Ina may.