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Birth and Beyond

Obstetrician Dr Yehudi Gordon's comprehensive tome on the the path towards and into parenthood

Posted: 12 June 2005
by ThinkBaby

Birth and Beyond - Dr. Yehudi Gordon

A wealth of information reassuringly and sympathetically written. Great reference section at the back
With so much information it can take a little while to familiarise yourself with the book and realise how best to use it. The emphasis on a holistic approach might not be to everyone's taste
Features: A solid, near 600-page hardback tome aiming to be a practical handbook covering everything from the stages of pregnancy to the first nine months of your baby's life.
Price: £20
Contact: From Vermilion Publishing, available in bookshops and at

What it offers
Birth and Beyond author, Dr Yehudi Gordon, is a highly experienced obstetrician who now runs the Birth Unit in North London. As you would expect from someone who was a pioneer of active and water birth in the UK, the heavy tome places a strong emphasis on empowering parents through knowledge and advocates integrated health care, i.e. both conventional and complementary therapies.

If you're one of those people for whom complementary medicine, yoga and the like is anathema, then you're probably not going to get along well with this book. Which would be a pity, because there's a wealth of useful information here for nearly all stages of pregnancy and early parenthood. If you're more open-minded towards complementary medicine then you'll probably find the collaboration and mutual respect between medical professionals and complementary therapists refreshing.

Rather than being an intimidating tome of the whats to, and not to, do, Birth and Beyond is more a celebration of parenthood, and particularly motherhood, and of the choices and opportunities it involves. The emphasis on a holistic approach notwithstanding, the impression you take away from the book is not one written to suit the latest fad in the medical profession but a rounded effort that combines the latest medical knowledge with parenting wisdom handed down through the ages.

The first two-thirds of the 600-page heavy-weight aim to prepare future parents by detailing what you can expect from pregnancy, birth and life as a new parent. It's in the conveying of the details of pregnancy and development and outlining the challenges you will face as a new parent that the book is particularly strong.

To start, a breakdown of pregnancy by trimester looks at how both your baby develops and how you will be growing, changing, and possibly feeling, at the same time. A rather substantial section of the book looks at the practicalities of birth, with helpful hints on how to prepare for the experience mentally and physically and natural ways of coping with the pain. Gordon also does well to outline what medical intervention may be necessary, when and why, in very non-threatening language.

The section on the first nine months of your baby's life covers everything from child development and dealing with issues of feeding, changing, sleeping and so on, to checklists of necessary items and how to cope with the physical and emotional impact of being a parent.

You'll probably want to dip in and out of these sections as the need or mood takes you, but the text is well and clearly enough written that it's no problem to read chunks at a time as general preparation.

A hugely useful part of the book is the back third reference section, which covers a host of conditions, problems and potential dangers, and offers succint but informative explanations or advice for each. Long after you cease to look at the first two-thirds of the book you'll probably be delving back into this section for help or reassurance.

Where it's lacking:
Gordon's book is very good on the fact and theory of baby development and birth and he's good at signalling the potential physical and emotional impact of parenthood. Where Gordon's book is less good however, is in attempts to deal with the emotional or psychological impact of parenthood: Coping mechanisms are suggested, but they can sometimes come across as a little simplistic, as with the section on partners relating to each other as parents and learning to communicate to solve disputes. Here the problems couples face ring true enough, but the solutions suggested appear a little too neat and unconvincing.

That criticism could be extended more generally as the first two thirds of the book present a somewhat uncomplicated, some would argue even sanitised picture of pregnancy and motherhood. But the book is saved from this criticism by the warts and all A-Z health guide at the back of the book. We imagine this was done quite intentionally both to prevent unnecessary anxiety and for ease of searching. For a start the first part of the book eases you into the preparation for birth and parenthood with a positive, can-do approach, rather than assaulting the future parent with a plethora of worrying potential problems. Secondly, the reference layout for when you want information on a specific condition or health problem makes searching for information a lot easier, as it's not all mixed in with the general preparation advice.

The ThinkBaby verdict

A good read for general preparation with a positive and encouraging approach which will reassure many future mothers and boost their confidence as they prepare for an enormous life change. The reference section at the back is an invaluable resource that you can dip into as an when you need, rather than scaring yourself with information overload at the off.

Performance: 4/5
Value: 4/5

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