Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth book review

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank by Randi Hutter Epstein

I felt compelled to review Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank by Randi Hutter Epstein today, on the heels of the news that The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is revising the guidelines that have made physicians, midwives, and hospitals effectively ban VBACs. Or at least make them much more difficult for women to have the option. These guidelines were also very effective in scaring women into not requesting to at least have a TOLAC.

The new guidelines now state,

“Attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including for some women who have had two previous cesareans…”


The College says that restrictive VBAC policies should not be used to force women to undergo a repeat cesarean delivery against their will if, for example, a woman in labor presents for care and declines a repeat cesarean delivery at a center that does not support TOLAC. On the other hand, if, during prenatal care, a physician is uncomfortable with a patient’s desire to undergo VBAC, it is appropriate to refer her to another physician or center.”



This fits in perfectly with the book that I have been reading, slowly, the last few weeks. Thank goodness the library has allowed me to renew!

The superstition, mystery, and speculation that has surrounded childbirth since the 1600s is the basis of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank by Randi Hutter Epstein. She writes a compelling overview of the history of western childbirth. From the often humorous views on conception to the horrifying experiments done in the name of science to the change from women assisted birth to male physicians to the continually evolving view of the ideal birth experience, this book covers it all.

Did you know…

..that a woman was burned at the stake in 1591 for asking for pain relief during the birth of her twins?

..that early women’s health texts were written by monks?

..that constipation was believed to suffocate a fetus?

..that forceps were a profitable Chamberlen “family secret” for 200 years?

..that Alabama slaves endured horrific experiments that led to a cure of life-altering fistulas? ..that gynecology was considered a “messy and unscientific” field unsuitable for educated men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

..that male doctors were not actually allowed to watch childbirth, either to learn or during patients’ births?

..that the prevention of spreading germs by simply washing hands between patients was considered nonsense even into the 20th century?

..that feminists fought both for the idea that drugs were better for childbirth and later that no drugs was better?

..that women were blamed for the pain they felt during labor and delivery?

..that DES (Diethylstilbestrol) was marketed to women nearly two decades after it was shown to be ineffective and after studies began to show the horrible side effects to the children of mothers who took DES?

..elective cesareans in the 1970s were considered a feminist idea?

Epstein explores all of this and a lot more too.

The bottom line is that views and research on pregnancy, labor and delivery have come a long way, but not far enough. Get Me Out doesn’t go far enough for me in terms of in depth research or interesting anecdotes and isn’t as well-written as I had expected from a medical journalist, but it is worth reading. I enjoyed each chapter, but was often left wanting more… however, it is a great place to start questioning what you think you know about conception, pregnancy, and birth.

Have you read Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank? What were your thoughts?

What should I read now?

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Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth book review — 1 Comment

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