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The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: An All-Canadian Guide to Conception, Birth & Everything in Between

Ann Douglas
(Macmillan Canada, 2000)

There's no shortage of pregnancy books available on the market today. However, most of them aren't really helpful – guilting moms-to-be into shunning junk food for nine months isn't for everyone! Neither is having a fictional "girlfriend" humour you through your pregnancy. Just the facts, please!

Well, luckily, there's this book. The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, based on interviews with more than 100 Canadian parents and parents-to-be, is written in a conversational style, and is probably the most thorough of all pregnancy books out there today. It provides a frank discussion of what it's really like to have a baby, including the emotional and physical challenges of pregnancy, the career and financial costs of starting a family, and other important issues that most pregnancy books don't touch upon.

Listening to Mothers II: Report of the Second National US Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences
Eugene R. Declercq, Carol Sakala, Maureen P. Corry, and Sandra Applebaum
(Childbirth Connection, 2006)

Whether you are a health care professional or an expectant mother, Childbirth Connection's survey report of women's childbearing experiences is a must read. This report examines what 1,600 mothers across the United States said about planning for pregnancy, labour and birth, being home with a new baby, physical and emotional health after birth, and opinions about choice, control, knowledge and decision-making in childbirth. Find out what today's women and families want in terms of maternity care, their birth experience, decision-making power and much more.

While there are differences between the Canadian and American health care systems, the experiences and desires expressed in this report are universal. Listening to Mothers II goes beyond pregnancy and monitors the latest trends and concerns of childbearing families like workplace issues, paediatric care and partner relationships.

Look Closer!

Think youth today are inactive and apathetic? Think again! All across Canada, girls and young women are changing the world, little by little, with their ideas, their creativity and their action. The POWER Camp National/Filles d’Action team has created an original comic book, Look Closer! that features stories based on real-life girls who took action on the inequalities in their lives. These projects and stories were part of the National Day of Action, an event organized by POWER Camp National/Filles d’Action. 

Look Closer! celebrates girls and young women who are changing the world.
Available online at:

Telling Tales: Living the Effects of Public Policy
Sheila Neysmith, Kate Bezanson, Anne O’Connell
(Fernwood Publishing, 2005)

In Ontario in the 1990s, social policy was being restructured in ways that supported the already privileged sectors of society, all under the rubric of “The Common Sense Revolution.” How did these shifts and changes affect the average Ontarian’s quality of life?

While the government applauded its own actions, the authors tell a very different version of what was really happening in the province. They spoke with and tracked the experiences of 40 households across Ontario during this period of widespread and contentious policy changes.

Key themes that emerged from these narratives were the scope and speed with which economic and social policy changes affect people’s lives; the surveillance, violence and policing that mark the lives of many; the multidimensional effects of income insecurity; the harm resulting from dominant expectations of a work career; the mechanisms that maintain social exclusion; how the myths of family and community deny access to social services; and how social policies affect people’s subjectivity, critical capacities and ultimately their identities.

The end result of these policy changes, restructurings and retooling, was that the boundaries of the social map of Ontario were redrawn, excluding those who were most vulnerable, while others teetered on its borders.

A Guide to Survivorship for Women with Ovarian Cancer
F.J. Montz and Robert E. Bristow, with assistance from Paula J. Anastasia
(The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005)

Ovarian cancer affects about 1 in 70 Canadian women. Although the number of cases of this cancer is relatively low, its effect is enormous. Because ovarian cancer is usually detected only in its later stages, ovarian cancer is a particularly deadly disease.

For those women with the disease, this guide can offer them a wealth of information to ease the physical, emotional and psychic suffering. The authors put particular emphasis on the concept of "survivorship," or living life well in the face of daunting uncertainties. They stress the importance of self-determination: the right of each patient to be informed, involved and in control of her care, as well as quality of life, self-determination and living life to the fullest.

This book presents clear information on diagnosis and treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, pain management and alternative therapies. Because the authors all have years of clinical experience, they seem to understand what women worry about and care about, and they address these issues throughout the book.

Dancing With Fear: Tips & Wisdom from Breast Cancer Survivors
Leila Peltosaari
(Tikka Books, 2005)

In the wake of a breast cancer diagnosis we can find ourselves unable to comprehend or even process the events, let alone make decisions about our care. While there are many websites and books out there on breast cancer, most of them lack the practical information you need at the time of diagnosis or treatment.

The author, a breast cancer survivor, has pulled together personal stories by women from North America and beyond, to present us with a road map to breast cancer, following the journey cancer patients go through. The book reveals the maze of real-life experiences of finding the tumour, surgeries, lymphedema, chemotherapy, radiation, tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, complementary and alternative treatments, fear of recurrence, optimism and pessimism, support, reclaiming life, spirituality, facing death and humour.

We learn that other women share our concerns – worrying about treatment decisions, enduring side effects, losing time from work, potentially passing on the disease to daughters, engaging in sexual relationships, fearing recurrence. Shared experiences can be validating and normalizing, especially at a time when we can feel so profoundly isolated; this is a support group that you can carry around with you at all times.

Pathways to Gender Justice: Took Kit for People Working in the Immigrant and Refugee Serving Sector in Canada

(Canadian Council for Refugees, 2006)

Gender has been an area of focus by the government in immigration and refugee policies for a while now. Unfortunately there has been little reflection of this focus in the settlement and integration sectors. While the difference in the experiences of men and women during migration has direct implication on their settlement experience, there are few tools available for services providers and settlement workers to add gender-based analysis to their already overwhelming workload.

This tool kit provides key definitions, case studies, role playing and important questions to keep in mind when applying a gender-based analysis to various steps in the settlement process. It is intended for people working in or accessing services in the immigrant and refugee serving sector in Canada, including front-line workers, service users, students, volunteers, managers, executive directors, board members, umbrella associations and municipal, provincial and federal government departments and employees.

It is available online at

From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public (2nd Edition)

Bernice Buresh, Suzanne Gordon
(Cornell University Press, 2006)

In these days of health care cost cutting and restructuring, the integrity of nursing practice, education and research is threatened. There exists a lack of public understanding about what nurses actually do and the contributions they make to health care systems. If patients are to get the care they deserve and need, nurses need to tell their stories and explain their work to the public by using mass media in credible, effective ways.

The authors of this work offer a practical guide for nurses to learn how to get their stories, their insights, their research and their expert opinions on the radio and television, in print, and even on the Internet.

Canadian CD Raises Money for HIV/AIDS Work in Africa
All proceeds from Not Alone donated to Doctors Without Borders

A new 5 CD set of alternative music has already raised more than $25,000 for HIV/AIDS work for Doctors Without Borders.  Not Alone is the brainchild of Canadian Mark Logan, founder of Busted Flat Records and Jnana Records, who, along with David Tibet of Current 93 fame, invited more than 85 musicians from around the globe to donate their tracks to help raise money for this important cause.

Artists include Canadian indie acts such as Sarah Hallman, Lynn Jackson and Mary 5E, and a wide range of well established alternative musicians, such as Isobel Campbell, Vashti Bunyan and Baby Dee.

For more information, and to hear tracks from the CD set, Not Alone, visit:

Period: The End of Menstruation?
A documentary film directed by Giovanna Chesler (g6pictures)

Laura Wershler is the Executive Director of Sexual Health Access Alberta, formerly Planned Parenthood Alberta. SHAA has presented several screenings of Period: End of Menstruation? and found that women of all ages have much to say against menstrual suppression.

Featured review
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause
Since 1970, when the first newsprint edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves became available, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective has spoken out on behalf of -- and to -- the women of North America. Key to its influence is the “collective.” The voices of Our Bodies, Ourselves reflect the diverse interests of its contributing members, covering a wide spectrum in 1970...and a spectrum that has widened even more in the intervening, nearly 40, years.

Now the power of the collective has come to focus on menopause, and the result is a book to respond to the need for information of almost every woman who reads it. Here is help for women who experience menopause unusually early, who enter menopause through surgery or other medical intervention or who wish to experience a natural transition. Here is information that accommodates African-American and Latina cultural norms. Here is information for gay and straight, bisexual and transgendered women.

There are six sections to the book, each illustrated with photographs and with first-person accounts relevant to the text. The sections are: Approaching Menopause; Transition and Its Challenges; Changing Selves, Changing Relationships; Taking Care of Ourselves; Health Concerns; and Knowledge is Power. The section on Health Concerns covers such common worries as uterine and bladder health, memory and mood, bone health, heart health, cancers, migraines, vulvar itch, diabetes and much more -- a reminder that menopause, aging and all the concomitant problems are inevitably linked.

OBOS: Menopause has the advantage of being written after the definitive findings of both the Women’s Health Initiative (which examined the benefits and health risks associated with hormone therapy), and the more recent study by Parker et al. establishing that healthy ovaries should not be removed during hysterectomy. These two studies have changed the landscape for women in menopause, although the change in practice has, unfortunately,  been delayed due to some entrenched and unproven beliefs. OBOS: Menopause also rightly protests the excessive influence of pharmaceutical companies on the clinical guidelines followed by gynecologists. 

For the Canadian reader, OBOS: Menopause provides information about access to US-based medical insurance, and specifies medications that may or may not be approved for use in this country. It may be wise to double check generic or brand names using the CPS (Compendium of Pharmaceutical Specialties) available at every well-stocked pharmacy.

In every other respect, however, this compendium of information about menopause – medical, social, emotional, psychological – will be an invaluable resource. The concluding section situates this normal life transition inside the politics of women’s health and is a reminder to all of us to never relax in the struggle for social policies that support women’s health needs.

Janine O’Leary Cobb is a board member of Breast Cancer Action Montréal, an advocacy group that has long toiled to increase awareness of the probable causes of breast cancer, including chemicals in our air, water, food and cosmetics. She is the author of Understanding Menopause (Key Porter, 2005).