Preparing for a Healthy Birth
by Sylvie Donna

[2010, Fresh Heart Publishing: 547 pages, paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 96, Winter 2010/2011, © 2010, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Toni Rakestraw.]

This is a really positive book. It outlines labor, what to expect from a cesarean, how hormones work, planning ahead, psychological aspects of birth…the whole works. So what makes this book different? For starters, Donna includes what she calls birth frames. Inside these frames, mothers from all walks of life share their particular stories. These stories add a personal touch to each segment of the book, kind of bringing to life each explanation the author provides. Some segments have a single birth frame while others have several to show how experiences can vary. The cesarean segment, for instance, includes several stories about women who ended up with cesareans that left them feeling something went wrong, as well as stories by women for whom cesareans were life-saving.

Another special aspect of this book is that many of the women who share their stories, including the author, had birth researcher and male midwife, Dr. Michel Odent, as an attendant at their births. How many readers have wished to have an experience like that? With forwards by Sheila Kitzinger and Odent, you can see the book is endorsed by two of the most powerful forces in the birth field today. Donna was able to interview Odent several times in the book about various topics. His reassuring voice comes through loud and clear, setting the reader’s mind at ease when she is looking forward to her own birth.

Donna goes on to cover all possibilities from Down syndrome, multiples and birth defects. She gives mothers-to-be tips on how to stay focused, embrace the unexpected and refuse pain relief if that is the goal. She includes an extensive list of useful Web sites, books and other resources.

This would be an excellent book for a lending library so parents-to-be could learn how to get past their previous experiences or go into their first experience with an open heart, yet be prepared to do everything they can to get the experience they want.

Reviewer Toni Rakestraw, mother of eight children, was once a practicing birth doula. Now she spends her time writing, editing and creating birth art. She’s happy to accept editing and art projects. You may contact her at

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