By: Shelley S. Binkley, M.D.
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Publication Date: April 2008
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: March 2009
Do you ever wish you could bring an obstetrician home with you, so you can ask her questions throughout your or your spouse’s pregnancy? If an obstetrician was always sitting in your living room, then you could have someone to question about medical tests, pregnancy symptoms, or complications you may be experiencing. If you are eagerly nodding right now, then you might enjoy owning DIY Baby!, a pregnancy handbook written by Dr. Shelley S. Binkley, obstetrician and mother of two. As an antidote to the sugar-sweet, fuzzy, pregnancy books out there, this book takes a straightforward, medical-based, scientific approach to outlining the stages of pregnancy, childbirth and newborn life.
Binkley has a clear, concise writing style that mixes medical terminology with conversational tones and light humor. The book is well organized and visually pleasing with highlighted boxes for important information, special segments, and useful section headings. DIY Baby! covers key topics from the first day a woman discovers she is pregnant all the way to getting a newborn to sleep. Binkley includes a vast breadth of pregnancy issues, such as hormones at work during pregnancy, the issue of miscarriage, lab testing offered during pregnancy, preterm birth, birth plans, and delivery positions, to name but a few. Her aim in this book is to provide expectant parents with as much information as possible in order to empower them to make healthy choices. She writes, “Do It Yourself Baby! is not a missive for you to go out and have your baby in the back yard. It is intended to avail you of the tools to maximize your baby’s health through the factors you can control and make the best of those you cannot control.”
The author also offers this book as a resource for those contemplating home birth, which she presents as a possible option for certain low risk women provided they abide by a number of conditions. That said, Binkley seems somewhat conflicted about home births. Perhaps her scientific, double-blind study-embracing doctor self struggles internally with the woman-empowering mother side. For on one hand, she states, “While I respect your decision to choose a home birth, I recommend for your own and your baby’s safety, you deliver at a medical facility staffed by licensed nurses and obstetric providers, rather than take the route of home birth.” She follows this statement with a description of the hardest possible labor scenario that would make any reader shudder and cringe. On the other hand, Binkley devotes an entire chapter to home birth, which she describes as “the new paradigm.” She gives supportive statistics for the safety of home birth for certain women as well as detailing the factors involved in choosing home birth. In this chapter, she gives her conditional support, “Home birth is a safe option for low risk women if they are attended by a skilled birth attendant and done close enough to a hospital to deal with an emergency should one arise.”
Indeed DIY Baby! may be a good resource for those considering home birth, for it contains a long list of facts about delivery and birth complications that one may want to know before embarking on having your baby at home. This book educates readers about the biology of pregnancy as it utilizes an abundance of medical terms in explaining about female hormones, psychology, anatomy, embryology, medications used during pregnancy and delivery, pregnancy and fetal disorders, and medical machinery used in the delivery room. If medical jargon, statistics and knowledge of all possible eventualities of pregnancy makes you feel more confident as an expectant parent, then DIY Baby! may be the right book for you.
For these same reasons, this book may be more information than the typical pregnant woman wants to know. Even Binkley takes an opportunity to forewarn her readers in the beginning of a chapter on medical intervention, “Some women thrive on the gory details; others are nauseated. If it’s too much information for you, no sweat – skip to the next chapter. Otherwise…read on and learn. Knowledge is power.” Please be aware, there are a lot of difficult details in this book. With the cool tone of a medical doctor, Binkley lectures on a heady list of tough pregnancy matters, like medical consequences of preterm birth for newborns (such as intraventricular hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis, cerebral palsy, respiratory distress and brochopulmonary dysplasia), gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, labor dysfunction, fetal intolerance of labor, and more. The entire second chapter is devoted to miscarriage, an important topic to women; however perhaps not every expecting woman wants to hop right into the possibility of losing her baby soon after she cracks open the book. If you or your spouse are a nervous nelly, then you may not want to read this book cover to cover. Perhaps it would be best to just dip into relevant sections, or have your support person read it and show you sections that may be helpful.
Binkley’s advice feels most helpful when she is tapping into her mother voice rather than her doctor self. DIY Baby! contains useful, easy-to-hear guidance about colic, pacifiers, lactation, sex after delivery, and newborn sleep issues. For instance, if she had never had a colicky baby, she may have offered the very doctorly advice to let a newborn cry it out. Instead, she tells about her positive outcomes of the “family bed” approach. “Your ultimate goal is the have a secure, well-adjusted child,” the author reassures sleepy parents. “Whatever it takes to get there is the ‘right’ thing to do.”
Her advice to fathers is a highlight of this book. Throughout DIY Baby! there are short sections entitled “For Dads” that include humorous and incredibly handy gems of wisdom that every prospective father should know as well as an entire chapter called “The Leading Man – Knight in Shining Armor.” Binkley counsels expectant dads, “There’s a lot you can do to get show [sic.] your honey you care and it doesn’t involve buying flowers. Do the laundry. Vacuum the floors. Clean the bathrooms. These will make her feel loved and turn your woman on; and be more likely to elicit the desired response than flowers, chocolate, or possibly even diamonds.” However, it bears mentioning that the author does not acknowledge the fact that many pregnant women do not have husbands, by choice or circumstance, in which case this book may rub certain readers the wrong way since it is written with the distinct assumption that the pregnant woman is married to a man.
Binkley seems to have her heart in the right place as she continues to devote her professional life to making sure women successfully deliver healthy babies. This book is certainly a testament to her dedication. However given the strong weight placed on medical terminology and possible negative outcomes of pregnancy in parts of it, readers may want to balance this book with other mainstream pregnancy books and those written by home birthing midwives. However, the author seems eager to grow and change to meet the needs of her patients and readers, so after you read DIY Baby!, drop the good doctor a line to let her know how you felt about her book. As she writes, “DIY Baby! is your pregnancy book. The content arose from questions you’ve asked me over the past fifteen years. I desire and welcome your additional questions and constructive input for future editions. I plan to release and revise editions every one to two years as knowledge in the field advances and peoples interests change.”
Quill says: DIY Baby! may be a valuable resource to some prospective parents who want to know about every eventuality of pregnancy and childbirth.