Sunday 6 June 2021

Book Review: The Women's Doc by Caroline De Costa

 The Women's Doc
Caroline De Costa

True stories from five decades delivering babies and making history
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 4th May 2021
Genre: Non Fiction / Memoir
Pages: 320
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: courtesy of the publisher
About the book
When Caroline first started in medicine, being an unmarried mother was frowned on, cane toads were used for pregnancy tests, and giving birth was much riskier than it is today. Her funny and poignant stories of bringing babies into the world show that, while much has changed, women still work hard and it remains a bloody business. A birth plan is no guarantee of a normal birth (whatever that is).

Men have always wanted to control women's bodies, and Caroline has been instrumental in giving Australian women of all backgrounds the opportunity to resist, and to choose when and how they have babies. Her behind-the-scenes stories reveal it's often the little things that win a campaign. 
My review
The Women's Doc consists of seventy-three short stories centred around the changing world of medicine and childbirth as experienced by Caroline De Costa.  
Caroline De Costa is a trailblazer in the area of women's health and giving women more rights over their own body. She has had a colourful and outstanding life studying in Dublin at an early age, becoming an unmarried mother in the late 1960's (a time when this was deeply frowned upon), running contraceptive pills over the border from England to Ireland, opening the first family planning clinic in Ireland and working in villages in PNG. Caroline De Costa has been an advocate for women worldwide.
Many life changing changes for women came about during Dr De Costa's early medical years with many of these changes pioneered by Dr De Costa herself.
I am not a big non fiction reader but I do enjoy short story compilations. The Women's Doc was a book I could pick up whenever I had a few spare minutes reading two or three short stories at a time.
The stories aren't in chronological order, jumping back and forward in time, and I found this a bit off putting.
The historical element of the book was very interesting with content on the introduction of anesthesia, the revelation of the need to sterilise equipment, the development of forceps for difficult births and pregnancy testing with toads.

I did find it quite dry and would have liked a bit more humour throughout the book. Most of the birth stories are quite graphic, some even alarming. I did find the historical elements of the book relating to how dangerous childbirth was for women to be fascinating and can appreciate how far we have come both knowledge and procedure wise since then.

The Women's Doc is a no holds barred look at women's health; the highs, the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies.
3 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐
About the author
Caroline De Costa is the first women to become a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology in Australia, and she has been a major contributor to Australian women getting the repoductive health services they need. She is a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, author of 15 books and mother of seven children.  

Challenges entered:  Australian Women Writers Challenge #AWW2021

                                 Aussie Author Challenge #AussieAuthor21
                                 Non Fiction Reader Challenge #2021ReadNonFic 


  1. Good review, for a subject like this, you'd definitely need some humour interspersed.