Rhea Dempsey
Birthing Wisdom

Reviews of Birth with Confidence

Kelly Winder, Belly Belly – recommended in Best Birth Books

As one of Rhea Dempsey’s students many years ago, I am ecstatic that Rhea has finally gotten around to writing a book. Her work is AMAZING – make this one of your staples for your pregnancy – no matter where you live in the world. Get your hands on it!read more


Rachel Reed, Midwife Thinking

Just finished reading Birth With Confidence by Rhea Dempsey. Fantastic book! It really encourages women to explore and reflect on what they want and provides guidance about how to navigate the ‘maternity system’ and the birthing process. This is the information mothers need… holistic and woman-centred rather than the usual manuals on the ‘stages’ of labour and how to be a good girl in hospital. If you are looking for a present for a pregnant woman…


Review for ‘Bookseller & Publisher Magazine’, Kabita Dhara (Publisher @ Brass Monkey Books)

Rhea Dempsey is a childbirth educator and one of Australia’s foremost thinkers on the topic of childbirth. In Birth with Confidence, Dempsey looks at what she calls the ‘labour-bypass era’, the present birth system in which caesareans and epidurals are favoured over normal physiological birth. She aims to prepare women who want a normal physiological birth by educating them about what they are up against in the current hospital system and helping them become what she calls ‘savvy willing women’ who can avoid the ‘trance of acquiescence’ that often characterises hospital births. Dempsey identifies four distinct pain attitudes in the pregnant woman: the ‘pain-avoiding’ attitude; the ‘status-quo’ attitude; the ‘wait and see’ attitude; and the ‘aspirational but naïve’ attitude – and explains how each one affects the possibility of the woman having a normal physiological birth. Birth with Confidence lacks instruction on practical birth skills to cope with pain (and as such would need to be read in conjunction with something like Juju Sundin’s ‘Birth Skills’), but is a fantastic reference for anyone starting on the journey towards motherhood who wants a normal physiological birth but is confused by the options available to her or intimidated by the thought of pain in childbirth.


Erin Horsley, Review in ‘Birth Matters’ – Journal of Maternity Coalition

Many women who have attended Rhea Dempsey’s birth workshops will whoop with delight knowing that a book full of her birthing wisdom is now available. Now ‘willing women’ (Dempsey’s term for women wanting to achieve a physiological birth), and interested birth workers will be able to share in the authors approach to normal, natural childbirth. It is a warm yet direct resource for current and future generations of birthing women.

In Birth with Confidence: savvy choices for normal birth Dempsey intertwines her experiences of working with women as a birth attendant and childbirth educator, along with stories from birthing women. The book sets out to explore the external and internal challenges and obstacles to birthing well in Australia today. This book examines ‘what motivates the willing woman in the labour bypass era;’ and suggests ways we can arm ourselves with a ‘circle of support’ to get the birth we want and deserve.

What makes this book so interesting is her focus on the internal, or mental, challenges for women wanting a natural, physiological birth, within our specific Australian birth culture. She highlights the self-work that women and their partners need to explore in order to approach birth with confidence. For as Dempsey passionately explains simply wanting a normal physiological birth is not enough to ensure you’ll have one … to my great sadness and anger – our present birth system is not set up to support normal physiological birth.

As I read the book, I can identify that I was an ‘aspirational but naïve’ first time mother, with a ‘wait and see’ partner. In regards to achieving and receiving support for a normal birth; this really was a train wreck combination. While I personally navigated emotional suffering in the aftermath of my disturbing first birth, I found Rhea’s workshops immensely helpful. For others seeking answers to their experiences of birth, Dempsey’s book offers insight, and may help others like myself with the experience of the intense longing for a ‘lost physiological birth.’ The book then positively paves a way forward to create the best space for the next birth.


Melinda Eales  (Midwife/Childbirth Educator), Review in ‘Interaction’ – Journal of the Childbirth and Parenting Educator’s of Australia (CAPEA)

For those of you who know Rhea, have heard her speak or know of her, you probably know that we have been waiting for her to write about her experiences, working with pain and normal physiological birth for about ten years now. Well here it is!

The book was launched in May this year and covers many issues that the average woman usually doesn’t even contemplate until she is already pregnant and “in the system” or even aware that she actually has options.

The book is written in Rhea’s own unique style and some people I have spoken to have even commented that is sounds just like listening to her talk. Including her use of expletives in her narrative: the first of which at least waits till page four.

The book begins with Rhea’s own story and how she first became involved in the birthing industry. The rest of the book is divided into six chapters, together with further reading, resources and acknowledgements at the end.

Rhea discusses many issues and highlights these throughout with the use of women’s stories. She also concludes each chapter with some points for personal reflection.

The first chapter looks at those things that motivate the ‘willing woman’ as well as those things that the woman can make choices about, such as place of birth, care-giver and philosophical match.

In the second chapter she takes a look at what may now be considered to be “normal” with regards to birth outcomes, supported by a variety of statistics. The aspects of birth culture, intervention rates, social expectations and pain pathways are covered.

The next chapter looks at what many of us know Rhea for – her advocacy role of reframing pain, understanding the normal physiological pain of labour and working with it. Together with the power of hormones this is valuable information for everyone – health professionals and the general public.

The fourth chapter helps women to identify their own pain philosophy and their pain type, and how this can influence their labour and birth.  In addition identifying the support circle that needs to put in place, which includes the attending midwife’s pain attitude. All this can greatly influence the labour process. Leaving it to chance on the day can have a predictable outcome and not necessarily what one is hoping for.

Rhea’s well-known “crisis of confidence” is discussed at length in chapter five and highlighted with many women’s personal stories.  Potential causes of it, support in it, “wild cards” and consequences are all covered.

In the last chapter, the focus is on the support required to help you get through a normal physiological labour. This chapter looks at the need for building appropriate environments, selecting experienced known care-givers, understanding the normality of functional pain and bringing that support circle together.

Throughout Rhea has provided us with her wisdom and the experience gain from supporting over a thousand women during birth. It is not an anatomy and physiology book but uses some of these principles to discuss the often neglected, physical and emotional issues that contribute to birthing outcomes today.

Congratulations Rhea. We look forward to your next book.

Jacinta Cross




Sophie (Midwife)
It’s a reality …… I’m so excited! Now we have something to actually hand to our women who have goals and dreams for their births. For them, after reading it, that will be their reality – I hope.


Maia (Midwife)
Just wanted to thank you again for your wonderful book. It arrived safely this week. I’m finding it very hard to put down!! It’s a real page-turner for me and all I can say so far is that I’m going to tell all the women I work with (pregnant and midwives) that they need to get a copy for themselves.


Narelle (Midwife)
Thanks for writing this much needed, realistic and helpful book, it will now be my number one recommended book for pregnant women to read!


Nicky (Student Midwife)
I think your words will absolutely make a difference! I think they are sooo important and so wonderful that you have been able to put them on paper in a way that will help women understand their feelings about pain and how, with understanding they can change their birth journeys for the better. These concepts about fear and our culture and the support around us are ones I keep trying to guide women towards but I get lost in words … So this is a much needed and valued book! I think it will help so many women, their partners and unborn babies and birth workers!


Samantha (Chiropractor)
Best birth/pregnancy book I have encountered!


Bianca (Chiropractor)
This is a fabulous book – a must read for pregnant mums – even if it’s not your first Bub. I know this will be in demand in your practice!


Sophie (Pregnant woman)
I’m half way through your book ‘Birth with Confidence’ and already feel so blessed that I have got to read this before I go into labour. Your honesty and frankness is fantastic and exactly what I would love to have present at my own baby’s birth.


Catherine (Pregnant woman)
I’ve finished your book and it has inspired me to try to have a good, familiar network around me.