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Reviews of Birth Day

(Click here for reviews in the Japanese press)

Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth Mark Sloan, M.D. Ballantine, $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-345-50286-5 (cloth); 978-0-345-51293-2 (e-book).

Birth Day nominated as a top 5 finalist Northern California Book Awards
in the Creative Nonfiction category.

Birth Day named one of fifty Notable Bay Area Books of 2009 by the SF Chronicle.

Birth Day named a Nonfiction Book of the Year (2009) ,
by syndicated book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer

BIRTH: Issues in Perinatal Care, 57:3
September, 2010

“Birth Day is an engaging book, chock full of valuable and new information. The writing is fresh and entertaining, the tone always respectful. Whether the reader is a parent-to-be or practitioner, each will be enchanted by the stories and educated by the science.”
[Read the complete review here]

California Watch, A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting
September 11, 2010
"Birth Day is "an unbiased source" for c-section information, and "a very readable overview of how people have evolved for birth and how the medical field has been shaped by history."

The Internation Journal of Childbirth Education
Dec. 2009

"...for the new doula or childbirth educator, this book is fantastic."
[Read the complete review here]

Fit Pregnancy Magazine
Aug-Sept 2009
Mark Sloan, M.D., packs plenty into Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History and the Wonder of Childbirth, including evolution's role in labor pain, an analysis of the benefits of doulas, the jaw-dropping history of C-sections, and the pros and cons of circumcision. He waxes reverential when detailing the workings of the placenta and describing the little-known ability of just-born babies to crawl up their mother's torso to nurse.

There's a lot here for history buffs, including the fact that the lithotomy birthing position (reclining with knees up) originated with Louis XIV. (The Sun King enjoyed watching his babies; births; this aided his view.)

Sloan's wisdom from three decades in delivery rooms comes across vividly, as does his love of parenting. He aims high--the book is at once anatomy textbook, historical survey and autobiography--but reaches his mark, raising our appreciation for birth's complexity and the astounding progress made over the ages to keep mom and newborn healthy.
-Erica Jorgensen

http://www.99nicu.org (For professionals in neonatal medicine)
"I recommend this book to pediatricians and neonatologists of all countries ."
-Dr. Selvan Rathinasamy, Lotus Hospital. Erode, India
[Read the complete review here ]

San Francisco Examiner
December 29, 2009
A father of two teenagers, Dr. Sloan offers a great model for how reflecting, sharing, and learning about birth and parenting can benefit all of us. Fueled by his passion for finding and sharing wonders, he arose at 4:30 each morning to write the various sections of what became his book “Birth Day.” Sparing himself no shame, he disclosed his own tribulations with the birthing process – including an instance of falling asleep while his wife gave birth to their first child! Dr. Sloan proves that honesty, humor and compassion unite parents and makes for an engaging read.
-Holly White-Wolfe
[Read the complete review here ]

The Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health
January 2010
"Birth Day is the artful product of an empathetic pediatrician. Every medical, midwifery, and nursing student should read Birth Day, as should practicing obstetricians, family physicians, midwives, and nurses who care for women during labor now, and every pregnant couple."
[Read the complete review here ]

The New England Journal of Medicine
June 18, 2009
This book is an entertaining combinationof a memoir, an explanation of the physiology and evolution of childbearing, a discussion of fetal and newborn physiology, and a history of the development of the medical care of women during labor and childbirth from ancient times to the present."..."The book is accurate and authoritative, and Sloan’s mix of history, science, and personal recollections makes it easily accessible to lay readers. Prospective parents and prospective obstetricians alike will be captivated and thoroughly informed by it, and it would make a marvelous introduction for medical students who are about to begin rotations in obstetrics or pediatrics. I learned much from this book, even after 38 years of practicing obstetrics. It will be especially useful to pregnant women because it provides a balanced discussion of many controversial subjects in pregnancy care and of the issues that can unexpectedly arise and require quick decisions.
-Phillip G. Stubblefield, M.D.Boston University School of Medicine

Library Journal

Verdict: An informative overview of the history and mechanics of childbirth, leavened by a conversational tone and plenty of humor. Highly recommended for public and consumer health library collections. Background: Sloan, a pediatrician, husband, and father, takes readers on a journey exploring the history of childbirth, the development of obstetrics, the anatomy and physiology of the fetus, and the physical and emotional aspects of the experience. Using anecdotes from his days as a medical student and stories about the birth of his own children and of his patients, he provides a comprehensive presentation of contemporary issues including the development of anesthesia, the rationale for Cesarean birth, and the circumcision debate.
-Barbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L. © 2009 Reed Business Information.

The Lancet
May 9, 2009

Birth Day begins in the Chicago hospital ward where Mark Sloan started his obstetrics rotation, as Tonya, “the first woman I had ever touched with medical intent”, labours to deliver her third child. As the baby's head appears and Sloan desperately wonders what to do next, his senior resident steps in, yanks the infant out “like a rabbit pulled from a magician's hat”, clamps and cuts the cord, and passes the “big, squalling, slippery boy” to his mother. Soaked in sweat, his socks and shoes bloodied, Sloan remembers, “I just sat on the stool with my mouth hanging open, dumbstruck.”
Sloan deftly traces the evolutionary, historical, political, and scientific forces that have made childbirth what it is today. A paediatrician, he has witnessed about 3000 births—including those of his two now-teenaged children. Sloan's spark and wit keep us entertained while allowing us to share in the fascination and awe he clearly still feels, three decades after the birth of Tonya's son.
His discussion of childbirth anaesthesia is the freshest and most agenda-free analysis of this topic I've seen. He provides an historical perspective, and takes a critical look at what midwife Judith Rooks has dubbed “the evolving epidural monoculture” in the USA. According to Sloan, too often American women awaiting labour seem to be faced with two choices: “the challenge of climbing a drug-free Mount Everest” or an epidural, with the goal of complete elimination of pain. Sloan advocates the concept of “good enough” labour pain relief where women are offered nitrous oxide and a host of non-pharmacological pain relief options.
At the close of the book, Sloan describes his most recent night on call. An obstetrician pages him to the when a fetus's heart rate becomes irregular, but by the time he arrives, the baby is doing fine “cradled in her mother's arms, her bewildered “what just happened here?” eyes slowly coming to focus on her mother's face”. Now anticipating retirement from his hospital duties, Sloan imagines that if this call night is his last, “I'll have gone out more or less the way I came in: a witness to a normal birth.” A quiet observer, still full of wonder.
-- Anne Harding

The Barnes & Noble Review - Spotlight
Birth Day was the featured nonfiction book for the week of April 27:

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Mother's Day, 5/10, feature article: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20090509/LIFESTYLE/905079871

The Washington Post
More Than Storks

"Birth Day" explores how babies are born.

You might expect a book about childbirth to be written by an obstetrician. But the author of "Birth Day," an exploration of the science and history of childbirth and early infancy, is a pediatrician. His decision to "throw in my lot with the babies" translates into a book focused more on the results of childbirth than on the act itself. Sloan, who practices in Northern California, is a graceful writer, and his narrative, like the works of Jerome Groopman, flows easily between memoir, anecdotal reporting and hard science.

In a chapter on the first five minutes of life, for example, he contrasts the stories of two babies -- one born vaginally but with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, the other in a more complicated emergency cesarean -- to illustrate how a newborn makes the precarious transition to breathing on its own.

Given the subject, "Birth Day" has a natural audience in curious, new and expectant parents. But anyone interested in the complex and, yes, miraculous way we all make it into this world will find lots to wonder over and ponder here, too.
-- Nora Krug

red starPublishers Weekly 2/9/09
California pediatrician Sloan has helped deliver more than 3,000 babies, and he marvelously captures the precarious nature of childbirth—both its joys and its anxieties—while treating readers to an informal and captivating history of the medical practices surrounding birth in America. Sloan shares his first bumbled attempts at delivering babies as an intern, which leads him to reflect on why doctors persist in having women lie down to give birth when standing or squatting are better physical postures for it. Sloan ranges surely and splendidly over epidurals, cesarean births, premature birth and neonatal nurseries, as well as the state of an infant's five senses at birth. For example, he points out that the fetus not only smells the foods its mother eats, it remembers them after birth and tends to like what it remembers. Sloan counsels that women cannot [fully] prepare for labor, because events change rapidly during the process. He advises women to surround themselves with the people they love: “unlike other labor pain relievers she may choose, their benefits will last the rest of her life.” (Apr.)

Booklist: Book Reviews from the American Library Association
What boosts Sloan’s book above other pediatrician memoirs is his Captain Kangaroo–like humor and compassion. Indeed, his decision to become a pediatrician sprang from one of his med-student obstetrics experiences. After failing to recognize a breach birth and misidentifying the baby’s bottom as its head, he was advised, “If you can’t tell a baby’s head from its ass, maybe you’re in the wrong business.” After attending roughly 3,000 births, however, and tending the medical needs of countless other children and their moms, he seems outstandingly suited to his specialty. The topics he discusses were born, if you will, out of his own experience, professional and personal, so in talking about them, he combines anecdotes and overviews of the various aspects of fetal development and birthing. Hence, we learn that Queen Victoria is the patron mother of anesthetic medication for the pain of childbirth and that Aristotle advocated plunging newborns into a cold stream to “harden” them. With its crisp and upbeat tone, Sloan’s book is good company for parents experienced and prospective alike.

S.F. Chronicle Nonfiction Review
by Olivia Boler
[ Read the complete review ]

“With science, history, and his own personal experience as a father and a doctor, Mark Sloan has given us a truly enlightening look at childbirth. Birth Day is an absolutely fascinating read about the most important journey any of us ever makes.”
—Sara Ellington, co-author of The Must-Have Mom Manual

"In Birth Day, Dr. Mark Sloan delivers a rare and compelling blend of humor, compassion, insight, and scholarship- all swaddled in a remarkably engaging literary style. As illiuminating as it is fun, this book shines a gentle light into all the nooks and crannies of what must be the most universally familiar of all great mysteries: the act of being born. I heartily recommend the book to everyone who has ever played a role in that act, birthers and birthees alike! You'll learn a lot- I did- and it won't hurt a bit."
—David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP Director, Prevention Research Center
Yale University School of Medicine

“Over three thousand births later, Dr. Mark Sloan has lived to tell—and tell beautifully. At once decoding the mystery of childbirth while preserving its wonder, Birth Day is saturated with scholarship, humor, and heart.”
—Linda Phillips, author of Sweet Remedy

"With the skill of a practitioner, the learning of a historian, the knowledge of a scientist, and the voice of a storyteller, Dr. Mark Sloan has illuminated the most ordinary, and the most miraculous, of human experiences — childbirth. BIRTH DAY is a gift of love for mothers and fathers — and their children."
— Robert Asahina, author of Just Americans

“No one has described the intricate timing and sequence of a baby’s miracle transition from inside its mother to breathing on its own more clearly or beautifully than Dr. Mark Sloan.”
––Judith P. Rooks, CNM, MPH, author of Midwifery & Childbirth in America

“I have given birth twice, but until this book never grasped the true wonder of what happens to mother and child during childbirth. An amazing, tender, funny book about our bigheaded species.”
––Adair Lara, author of Hold Me Close, Let me Go

“An informative, yet amusing, story. Birth Day is a 'must' for new parents and for professionals.”
--Donald Caton, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Anesthesia, University of Florida, and author of What a Blessing She Had Chloroform

“In Birth Day, Sloan skillfully blends personal anecdote, hard science, and bizarre historical detail to deliver a fertile and amusing account of the womb-to-world journey that every one of us has made. Without a doubt, this book will educate, entertain, and prompt you to call your mother in gratitude.”
––Katrina Firlik, MD, author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside

Click here to watch
Dr. Sloan's interview
April 16, 2009

TV screen


Click here to hear Dr. Sloan's
interview on KRCB's
"A Novel Idea"
May 13, 2009


Dr. Mark Sloan
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Birth Day jacket

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