According to Carol Lorente (1995), the work of Gaskin and the midwives might not have had the impact it did, if it hadn't been for the publication of her book Spiritual Midwifery (1977):
"Considered a seminal work, it presented pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding from a fresh, natural and spiritual perspective, rather than the standard clinical viewpoint. In homebirth and midwifery circles, it made her a household name, and a widely respected teacher and writer."
Gaskin, a longtime critic of American maternity care, is perhaps the most prominent figure in the crusade to expand access to, and to legalize, midwife-assisted homebirth. Although she practices without a medical license, she is invited to speak at major teaching hospitals and conferences around the world and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Thames Valley University in England. She is the only midwife to have an obstetric procedure named for her. The Gaskin Maneuver is used for shoulder dystocia, when a baby’s head is born but her shoulders are stuck in the birth canal.
Currently about one-third of all American babies are delivered surgically. Most U.S. hospitals require labor to be artificially induced if a woman goes one to two weeks past her due date. There are also often deadlines for the length of time a woman may be in labor before surgery is required, and many doctors will not perform a vaginal delivery after a previous Caesarean.
Gaskin says the American approach to birth is not serving women and babies. The United States spends more on health care than any other country and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care but is ranked 50th in maternal mortality and 41st in neonatal mortality. To draw attention to America’s poor maternal outcomes, Gaskin travels with a quilt; each square represents an American woman who died in childbirth.
Gaskin and many of her fellow midwives have no formal medical training, and the fact that they have good outcomes even with births that obstetricians consider high-risk — breeches, big babies and vaginal births after C-section or VBACs — is evidence, she says, that for most women less interventionist care is better.
In Gaskin’s experience, many women do not follow the labor curve that hospitals generally require of dilating approximately one centimeter per hour, and some women’s pregnancies go to 43 weeks without consequence. “Some women are stuck at two or five or seven centimeters for hours, then quickly they move several centimeters,” she said. She has found that upright positions, dim lights, eating and drinking and fewer vaginal exams speed women’s labor — none of which tend to be encouraged in a hospital.
Now in its fourth edition, “Spiritual Midwifery” is a heady dispatch from the Farm’s midwifery practice around 1975. It tells of how Gaskin and other women discovered that birth could be a euphoric experience, a way of accessing a uniquely female power. In first-person anecdotes of births — “I began to rush and everything got psychedelic” is a typical description — the book shows vaginal, unmedicated birth to be an unparalleled opportunity for transcendence and communion.
It has been translated into six languages and sold well over half a million copies.
Since the 1970s, Gaskin and the other midwives at the Farm have attended an estimated 3,000 births of women who live on the property, are from the local Amish community or have come to the Farm to give birth because they have read Gaskin’s books. Approximately 2 percent of them have ended up with C-sections, and none have labored under epidural anesthesia save for one “princess,”.
Unmedicated home birth is being chosen by a growing minority of women. Between 2004 and 2009, giving birth at home increased 29 percent. Most of this rise is among white women. Recent pregnancy documentaries like “Pregnant in America,” “Orgasmic Birth” and “The Business of Being Born” — all of which feature Gaskin — present hospital birth as profoundly disempowering to women.
It is vast the material you can find about the work of this professional, please have a look to her books and videos to learn more about her interesting and important work.