Ruth Ehrhardt's The Basic Needs Of A Woman In Labour : Book Review by Athulya Sekhar

Ever heard of the adage “Good things come in small packages”? The book, The Basic Needs Of A Woman in Labour by Ruth Ehrhardt is a testament to that. At a mere 32 pages, this book leaves a deep impact on the reader with its honest and loving, yes loving!, look at the miracle that is pregnancy and labour.

I’m currently in my 2nd pregnancy and I’m trying really hard to have a natural, intervention-free delivery that I was not able to experience the first time around. As a first time mom-to-be I let myself be talked out of something I really wanted, out of fear and the lack of empowering information. So this time around, I’ve been determined to do everything I could to fix things. That’s when I saw this book mentioned as a must-read for expecting moms on an online forum, and I was lucky to find myself a free Kindle copy from Amazon India during their sale.

I read the book in flat 15 minutes. And though I have read reams and reams of words on the beauty and essence of a natural labour and delivery, Ruth Ehrhardt struck a chord with me, unlike the others.

Ruth Ehrhardt, according to the book, grew up in a protea farm in South Africa, where she and her mother ‘fell’ into the profession of ‘catching the babies of the local farm labourers’. Now a trained Doula with 4 home birthed children herself, Ruth’s childhood seems to have influenced much of her life’s work. And the book reflects that. Much of the book focuses on how essential it is to respect the body’s physiological ability to do something that it is meant to do. Labour is talked about as being a ‘state that cannot be forced’ and how a woman in labour, when allowed to do her own thing, needs nothing more than an attentive ear and calm hands.

Oxytocin is an important topic in this book. I was absolutely delighted at how Ruth describes Oxytocin as the ‘hormone of love’. She goes on to explain how the hormone works during labour and how the natural hormone differs from its synthetic counterpart. One of my favourite quotes from the book says:

The baby, when he or she is ready to be born, will send a message that tells the   mother’s body that it is ready.The mother’s body can then begin labour by slowly     releasing oxytocin, the hormone of love.The mother and baby work together to bring the baby into the world.”

We are also told about the importance of surrounding a pregnant woman with positivity. From medical professionals, to family and other support systems, everyone around a pregnant woman should be mindful of their effect on her mind and wellbeing. One of the many interesting things the book brings up is how pregnant woman should not worry herself with the numerous logistical things surrounding her labour, and should be allowed to switch off her ‘thinking brain’. The reasoning here is based on how adrenalin and oxytocin play off each other. This makes so much sense if you think about it. Labour is an intense experience that involves both the mind and the body in equal measures.

The book draws to a close with a discussion on ‘modern day rituals’ which often involve keeping the mother and newborn apart for several hours, when traditionally the baby was always given to the mother for that oh-so-important first contact. These rituals take away the intimacy of the moment, where a newborn ‘finds’ its mother. And a mother ‘becomes’ a mother.

So much of what is shared in the book resonated strongly with me, and I suspect it will with most readers. An emotional and beautiful read, this is one book I will be recommending to every expecting woman!

 Editor's Note:
 Every woman needs to be educated about having an empowered and positive birth. It is absolutely necessary that women are surrounded only about positive thoughts especially during labour and should not be made to worry about other less significant things. For this, women need to be prepared about their birth choices and preferences. Bangalore Birth Network, for the last ten years, have been doing exceptional work in ensuring safe, respectful birth for all women. If you would like to know more about us and our campaign, click here.


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