Book Review: Golden Month, by Jenny Allison

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_golden_monthGolden Month is a little yellow hardcover book with beautiful endcover art. It promises a satisfying reading experience while simply holding the book in your hands. The book is written by Jenny Allison, an acupuncturist who believes women in the ‘western’ world should follow the traditional practices of some cultural groups worldwide in respecting the forty days after birth with special health practices.

Jenny’s background is in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and there is quite a lot of detail about TCM concepts of health.There are a few recipes included that, from a TCM or ‘paleo’ diet approach, are considered healthy. My favourites though were the recipes of food considered healthy after birth from around the world. Having worked at a hospital in the past, I’ve observed post-birth foods from deli platters and sushi, to KFC. New Zealand recipes were not included.

For me the book highlighted just how difficult it is to provide a culturally appropriate service to women in New Zealand who are pregnant and give birth. Our funding system does not allow for the lengthier postnatal stays in hospitals/ birthing units that are familiar to other cultures. We are lucky to receive midwife visits in the home, but support with meals and housework are not available under normal circumstances. Women in New Zealand are encouraged to write their own birth plans, but I’ve never seen a ‘template’ for one that starts off with ‘What is birth like in your family?’ ‘What treatment do you need during and after birth to feel as though your health is restored and strengthened?’ ‘What foods would you need provided to you if you birth in a hospital/ birthing unit?’

In some sense the book is too short. I wanted a lot more detail about the cultures mentioned rather than a few short narrative accounts of the experience of some women. I felt perhaps that there was an oversimplification that women in the groups discussed were healthier than ‘western’ women by virtue of their traditional practices. Some comparisons of relevant health indicators might have been useful.

However, narrative-based approaches are familiar in women’s health and I hope that it will encourage further work on ‘golden months.’ I think it is a text that is useful to prompt discussions among people with an interest in birth and culture, as well as health professionals involved in pregnancy and birth. It definitely made me reflect on cultural concepts of health and well-being.

Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming

Golden Month
by Jenny Allison
Published by Beatnik Publishing
ISBN 9780992264840