i couldn’t believe my eyes when i saw this book in the pregnancy and birth section of my favourite book shop. there are always thousands of books about birth, and some of them might have a chapter on caesarians, but this is the first book i have seen that’s exclusively dedicated to discussing them.

contrary to what the title suggests, this book is not a one-sided tribute to the glory of the caesarian. it’s much more balanced than that, and quite broad ranging in it’s approach to discussing this type of birth.

de costa places the caesarian in historical context, and discusses the development of the different surgical techniques, what scientific developments gave rise to them, and their subsequent social, ethical, and political implications.

she goes on to discuss in more detail the different groups that have a stake in the provision and availability of caesarians, and outlines some of their motivations and arguments. she does this in a reasoned and balanced way, that i found to be very informative.

as an obstetrician, de costa was able to provide accurate and detailed information about the procedure itself, how it has changed over her decades in practice, as well as how it fits in the broader context of birth options in australia. she also gave a range of case studies and anecdotes from women who had experienced caesarians for a variety of reasons, and responded to them in very different ways.

de costa does not at any point come across as pro- or anti- caesarian, but she believes strongly that women should be well informed about all their options, because then we are able to take ownership of our birth experience, and feel like we have agency in the process. this feeling of ownership and agency has shown to be, in her experience, and in clinical studies, the difference between a woman’s subjective feeling of having had a positive or a negative birth, regardless of what type of birth it was.