Media Reviews – Issue 135

Midwifery Today, Issue 135, Autumn 2020.
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Book cover Goat Midwifery: A Guide to Successful Kidding

Goat Midwifery: A Guide to Successful Kidding, by Cheryl K. Smith. 2020. (Cheshire, Oregon: karmadillo Press, $15.00, 80 pages, spiralbound.)

Midwifing any species requires skill, particularly so with small ruminants like goats, a species that generally delivers more than one offspring per birth and unless fed properly prior to kidding is prone to scary birthing complications like pregnancy toxemia and milk fever. Therefore, it’s important to prepare for kidding season well in advance and to hone midwifing skills before they’re needed. Enter Goat Midwifery by Cheryl K. Smith.

Goat Midwifery covers it all, beginning with breeding a doe and caring for her before she gives birth, right through labor, delivery, and caring for her little family afterward.

How to feed does to prevent metabolic illnesses like ketosis and milk fever? What might cause a doe’s spontaneous abortion? Why do they sometimes present with false pregnancies? How to steal a cud? Make and use a buck rag? Should you let the doe eat her placenta? What to do to warm a chilled kid? This and much, much more is expertly explained in Goat Midwifery.

Even experienced midwives can get rattled in an emergency; that’s when the clear illustrations and explanations in Goat Midwifery can save the day. Every birthing kit should have a copy close at hand.

The bottom line: if you breed goats, you need this book. And as a person who keeps both goats and sheep, I can say in truth, much of the material in Goat Midwifery applies to lambing, too. Shepherds, take note!

Sue Weaver has written numerous books about sheep and goats, including her latest effort, The Goat: A Natural and Cultural History, published by Princeton University Press in 2020. Visit her website at

Book cover - Midwifery from Tudors to the Twenty-First Century: History, Politics and Safe Practice in England

Midwifery from Tudors to the Twenty-First Century: History, Politics and Safe Practice in England, by Julia Allison. (London: Routledge, $44.95, 222 pages, paperback)

Does this book, as its title suggests, based on English midwifery have value and interest to an international audience?

My answer was within the first few pages, when the book highlighted the fact that even back in the sixteenth century the overwhelming majority of women, left to nature, with caring support and encouragement and without intervention, would experience a life-enhancing and fulfilling birth. Such experience is inevitably lost with inappropriate interference.

Allison continues with a review through parish registers attempting to tease out stillbirth and neonatal deaths during the Tudor times, a huge task to elicit the rates of death.

It was recognised early on that poverty, poor housing/sanitation, industry, and unhealthy lifestyles had a huge impact on mothers and babies. Throughout the early chapters Allison has used an amazing opportunity to delve into the politics and culture of midwifery.

As the book unfolds, it explains the continuing issues between the power base of maternity care in England—between medical men (obstetricians) and midwives. Through the years of legislation, education, and registration, control of the ways of maintaining autonomous practice has been problematic. Despite the work of women’s advocacy groups e.g,. AIMS, NCT, and Birthrights, to name but a few, we are still continuing with this challenge. Women’s control over their choices has been eroded with hospital birth benefits being claimed to outweigh homebirths—to a point now where very few women have the choice to experience homebirth.

The book highlights some amazing colleagues, including Peter Huntingford, an obstetrician I had the opportunity to work with after I qualified in 1983 at Maidstone Kent, UK. Allison writes about “teams” of midwives working together, and the Changing Childbirth 1993 and Better Births 2016 reports, which aimed to provide continuity of carer and improve outcomes for mother and baby but are piecemeal in many English trusts. Sadly, the1993 Changing Childbirth work was underfunded (as are many of the new 2020 teams), which led to a high burnout amongst dedicated midwives.

As we work through this pandemic, the book provides a sobering history of where English midwifery has come from, the challenges it has experienced, and challenges for our future. Strong leadership is required at all levels, with women’s voices heard and midwives re-establishing their skills. All skills are essential, not just in high tech care, but in physiological labour and birth and providing socio-psychological care for our future mothers and children.

I would recommend this book to any midwife as a basis to review our history, lessons we can learn, and the amazing midwives who have gone before.

Dianne Garland, FRCM, SRN, RM, ADM, PGCEA, MSc, is a freelance UK midwife.

Titles of Note

The Family Birth, by Anna Las-Opolska. 2020. (Self-published, $11.97, 45 pages, paperback and Kindle.)

The Family Birth is a lovely book that will help children understand pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period in a positive way. Beautifully illustrated by Pamela Wieslawska, the book describes in words and pictures what to expect from a homebirth and how it is a family event to be celebrated. I highly recommend The Family Birth for the children of expecting parents.

Open a Midwifery Center: A manual for launching and operating midwifery centers in global settings, by Cristina Alonso. 2019. (Goodbirth Network, $9.50, 283 pages, Kindle.)

This manual gives step-by-step instructions on how to plan and create a midwifery center. It came out of the author’s 15 years serving in Mexico and focuses on providing quality and respectful care for women. It covers many essential aspects of opening a midwifery center, from starting a nongovernmental organization to clinical standards to obstetrical emergencies. If you have a dream to start a midwifery center somewhere in the world that needs one, start here.

About Author: Cheryl K. Smith

Cheryl K. Smith has been managing editor for Midwifery Today since 2017 and from 2005–2009. She edited several books published by Motherbaby Press, including Placenta: The Gift of Life (2007), Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse (2008), and The Power of Women (2009). She has raised miniature dairy goats since 1998 and is the author of Goat Health Care (karmadillo Press, 2009 and 2019), Raising Goats for Dummies (Wiley, 2010 and 2021), and Goat Midwifery (karmadillo Press, 2020), as well as many articles in various magazines.

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