Breech Birth Woman-Wise
by Maggie Banks

Breech Birth Woman-Wise

[1998, Birthspirit Books; Hamilton, New Zealand; paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 48, Winter 1998, © 1998, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jill Cohen.]

“Any midwife will feel the lick of the flame as she challenges the status quo,” writes Maggie Banks in her new book. Banks should know. Involved with childbirth and woman care since 1972, she became a registered midwife in New Zealand in 1987 and started her homebirth practice in 1989. She assisted women seeking an alternative to the medical approach to breech birth and from these experiences compiled research based information that provides readers with the plain facts about breech birth.

This is a straightforward book that covers incidence and types of breech, reasons for breech presentation, diagnosis, concerns regarding breech, birth planning, positions for labor, assisting breech birth, and the follow-up. A thorough glossary helps the reader who is not familiar with medical terminology, and makes this book more accessible to everyone.

Only 3–4 percent of births are breech, says Banks. She then asks, “As low as this percentage is, what can we provide for the mother and baby?” The medicalization of breech has generated a high rate of automatic c-sections with no choice given to the birthing woman. While many studies and statistics have been accumulated for observational evidence, when women have not been given choice and cesareans have been performed on them, these statistics become merely circumstantial evidence. Thus “uncontrolled observations…do not answer what might have happened if a different form of care had been provided.” Banks cites study after study which indicate that especially frank and complete breech with steady dilatation of the cervix and descent of the baby’s presenting part are the best indicators of a woman’s ability to give birth.

The photo essay in the chapter “Giving Birth” is not only stunning, it’s awe-inspiring. Along with planning strategies, we meet a couple at home using a birthing pool for relaxation. The woman labors. Banks makes many suggestions, often captioned under the photo, taking a hands-off attitude. Positions are discussed and using them successfully demonstrates how very well birth works. I was so excited by the end of the chapter that I had to re-read it three more times!

In this age of technology, it’s a breath of fresh air to read a work like this one. It is inspiring, builds confidence, creates practical choice and makes good sense. Mothers and midwives alike will learn from this book that breech birth does not mean automatic c-section. Banks provides her readers with sound information to help inform women and keep birth normal. Written for women and midwives in a very loving and encouraging style, this book shows that Maggie Banks really cares about women and birth.

Reviewer Jill Cohen is Associate Editor at Midwifery Today magazine and the editor of The Birthkit.