Review: The Positive Birth Book

Alex reviews ‘The Positive Birth Book’ by Milli Hill. This post contains affiliate links, marked by a *.

I first heard of this book when newly pregnant with my second child. Having had a
‘good’ birth experience last time around, I was keen to maximise my chances of
replicating this second time around and hoped it would help, which it certainly has.

What is truly wonderful about this brilliant book is its accessibility. It gives readers a
huge amount of information, much of which they might not get otherwise during
pregnancy, in a concise and chatty format that keeps your attention while telling you
all you need to know. Somehow Milli Hill has managed to communicate this in ordinary,
day to day language, without losing any of the necessary context or detail from some
fairly complex concepts. The short sections, even in long chapters, make it very easy to dip into the book when short on time, or when looking for something specific.

The tone used in the book is that of an extremely well-informed, impassioned friend,
whose only goal is for you to achieve the birth you want, regardless of what that birth
might look like. It is refreshingly honest – it does not promise that birth will be easy,
nor does it shy away from the fact that things might very well not go to plan. The
chapter “What If…?” takes a realistic yet positive look at what that might mean and
how to deal with unexpected, and often unwanted, changes of plan without
becoming a passive observer of your own birth experience. The main focus of the
book is the importance of planning and urging mothers to be to avoid the trap of
“going with the flow” on the basis that birth is unpredictable, emphasising that this
does not mean that a birth plan is not absolutely essential.

There is no judgment or bias to be found anywhere in this book, which is impressive
and frankly unusual. Milli doesn’t shy away from giving statements of fact, but solely
to give women the evidence on which to base their own informed, and personalised,
decisions on the type of birth that they want to aim for. There is no hierarchy of birth
preferences advocated – no presumption that c-sections are a last resort, no
advocating “natural birth at all costs” – and the accompanying visual birth plan icons
bear that out by encompassing all possible decisions so no mother to be is left out.
There are sample birth plans, from actual couples, along with real-life and varied
birth stories, and a chapter on “birth of a mother” for those early days post-birth.
This includes a fourteen-page section on breastfeeding which, again, manages to be
both informative and thorough without judgment. There are top tips from Emma
Pickett and a huge number of resources cited for further information.

This book fills a very much needed hole in the market for pregnancy education –
empowering women with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions
and to advocate for their rights. It sets out how to challenge health care professionals
respectfully but firmly on the risks, benefits, alternatives and supporting evidence for
a proposed course of action, which many women don’t even know they are allowed
to do. This book sets out how to do it in a non-confrontational but unapologetic way.
Every pregnant woman, expectant partner and birth professional should read it.

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