Birth Day

If you look at my Books 2012 page, you’ll notice that I’m reading a LOT of books about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. This is allowed, yes?

Most of them are probably only interesting and worthwhile if you’re preparing to have a kid, to be sure. But I just finished a book that I had to recommend even to all my non-spawning friends: Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth, by Mark Sloan. The sub-title really says it all, but truly, this is an excellent book if you’re even slightly interested in how babies are born — and how that’s changed over time. Most importantly, on the more controversial topics, like epidurals and C-section rates, I found the author to be remarkably well-balanced and even-handed.

The most interesting thing I learned in this book was that a lot of European countries allow women to self-administer nitrous oxide as a mild anesthetic during labor. It doesn’t knock out all the pain like an epidural does, but it’s often “just enough” for women who want a little pain relief but not the negative aspects of a full epidural (like being immobilized). We don’t offer nitrous in the U.S. because…money. Namely, there is none to be made by hospitals that offer it. What a shame! I think laughing gas would be a delightful addition to childbirth.

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