"The day when Janet Balaskas introduced the phrase 'active birth' was possibly the most important one in the history of childbirth in Europe, since the day when the French doctor Mauriceau took control of childbirth as he placed the labouring woman on her back."
Janet Balaskas is internationally renowned for pioneering the concept of ‘active birth’ in the late 1970s. The central principle of an active birth, is for the woman to be free to move spontaneously and be led by her body, adopting upright positions during labour and birth. This practice is universal and cross cultural and makes birth easier, safer, more efficient and less painful.
Today active birth is increasingly at the centre of maternity practice all over the world, as we understand more about birth physiology and the needs of women during labour. It’s principles can be applied in almost all circumstances to make birth safer and minimise risk.
Active birth does far more than suggest comfortable positions. It challenges the whole obstetric view of birth in Western Society and turns women from passive patients to active birthgivers. It gives them control of their own bodies during childbirth. This places them in the centre of their own pregnancy and labour process
With the publication of her historic ‘Active Birth Manifesto’ Janet Balaskas named and inspired the Active Birth Movement in 1981 to campaign for women's’ right to adopt upright positions during labour and birth. Today this describes the global movement towards a 'woman centred' approach designed to facilitate normal birth physiology.
She initiated and organised several groundbreaking events and conferences in the UK. They include the ' Birth Rights Rally' in 1982 - attended by 6000 people on London's Hampstead Heath, the 'International Active Birth Conferences' in 1982 and 1983, the 'International Home Birth Conference' in 1987, and the 'International Water Birth Conference' in 1995. These events stimulated the historic changes that have taken place in the UK in recent decades and continue to revolutionise maternity services today.
Janet Balaskas’s voice has been heard around the world. She is a leading international speaker at conferences and teaches midwives and health professionals in many countries. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1946, she graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand and emigrated to England in the 1960's. She is the mother of four children all of who were born 'actively' - the first in a small hospital in Johannesburg and the others at home in London.
In the 1970's, while expecting her second child, she began a career in birth
Director of the Active Birth Centre
Janet Balaskas's groundbreaking books and resources have been translated into many languages and empower many thousands of women to discover and trust their innate ability to give birth. More information on these titles is available from www.activebirthcentre.com.
New Life (Sidgwick and Jackson 1979)
New Active Birth (Thorsons 1991, first published by Unwin Paperbacks 1983 as 'Active Birth')
The Active Birth Partners Handbook (Sidgwick and Jackson 1984, reprint 1987,1989)
The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth (Little Brown. Co--author Dr Yehudi Gordon.
New Natural Pregnancy (Gaia/Octopus)
Preparing for Birth with Yoga (Element/Thorsons). First published 1994 by Element Books, 2003 published by Harper Collins.
Easy Exercises for Pregnancy (Francis Lincoln 1997)
Natural Baby (Gaia/Octopus 2001)
The Water Birth Book (Thorsons 2004)
Active Birth - Video (Active Birth Centre publication)
Water & Birth - DVD and Video (Active Birth Centre publication)
Yoga for Pregnancy - Audio cassette and CD, with wall chart and booklet (Active Birth Centre publication)
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