Ina May Gaskin: The Mother of Modern Midwifery

Natural birth encompasses a wide range of birthing methods, positions and philosophies. One of these is the Gaskin Manoever, a position designed to make natural birth even safer and one that is widely encouraged by midwives and doulas. In this article, you can learn more about the Gaskin Manoever and the woman behind the revolutionary position – Ina May Gaskin.

Who is Ina May Gaskin?

Ina May Gaskin is considered the mother of authentic and modern midwifery. If you’re looking into midwifery and why it’s a great option, you are bound to come across this name. She has decades of experience and has compiled that experience into midwifery methods, books, documentaries, and even a self-sustaining community called The Farm. She’s been working as a nurturer and midwife since 1971 and communicates her expertise via multiple sold-out conferences and seminars. She firmly believes in and encourages women to consider natural birth, with good reason.

Natural childbirth vs. hospital childbirth

Childbirth is a natural journey and there is no reason you shouldn’t consider having a home birth with a midwife or midwife-led center birth. In recent decades, medicalized birth has been normalized, and there has been a general acceptance that upon the onset of labor, you’ll immediately drive to the nearest hospital. But homebirth or midwife-led center birth is safe and more comfortable than a hospital birth and it allows for a much more intimate experience.

Women who give birth at home with a midwife have reported feeling empowered and in control of the birth. During Ina May’s own labor with her first child, the doctor used forceps to deliver the baby. She reported that this removed all the joy from the labor and she wanted to do something to prevent others from having the same experience. This moment put the wheels in motion for her to create the Farm, a self-sustaining commune that would change the face of midwifery forever.

The Farm Midwifery Center

Ina May founded one of the first birthing centers (not inside a hospital) called The Farm Midwifery Center. It was here that she started pursuing midwifery in earnest and worked to return childbirth to a more natural, comfortable, and supportive state. The Farm Midwifery Center continues to to new and expecting mothers, who come to her from across the world, both before and during labor.

These women and their families travel to the tranquil Farm in Tennessee and enjoy a more intimate and personal experience, which allows them to focus on their growing child and how to connect with each other physically and spiritually. She provides personalized care and counseling to help women feel confident in their ability to give birth. Through her years of learning and caregiving she has written numerous books, many of which have had lasting impacts in midwifery. One of her most important contributions is that of the Gaskin Maneuver.

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The Gaskin Maneuver

The Gaskin Maneuver (a.k.a. all fours) is a tried and true method that Ina May has worked to perfect. During labor, some children can experience shoulder dystocia and the Gaskin Maneuver has been proven to limit, if not eliminate, this occurrence. Essentially, shoulder dystocia is when a child’s shoulder gets caught on the pelvic bone of the mother. It happens after delivery of the head and can be fatal if not remedied quickly. This method changes the position of the pelvis to allow for a wider berth by being on one’s hands and knees. It allows for the child to pass through without getting a shoulder stuck on the pelvic bone; however, it can also be used during the period of time a child is stuck.

Depending on your birthing center and the various labor environments they provide, such as water births (a popular option at the Farm), this can be both a safe and more comfortable position. The Gaskin Maneuver and her writings have earned her various awards, commendations, and titles.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation lauded her book, Birth Matters: A midwife’s Manifesta, as one of the Top 6 Books on childbirth. For six years, she was the president of the Midwives Alliance of North America and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.

Ina May Gaskin has dedicated her life to helping women and honing the craft of midwifery on both a physical and spiritual level. She revolutionized midwifery and her legacy will not soon be forgotten. Because of her, many women have learned to love their bodies and bring their children into an empowering, nurturing environment surrounded by people who love them. If you would like to learn more about the Gaskin Manoever, you can speak to your caregiver or learn more about birth on our website.

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