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The Women’s Doc

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Funny and poignant stories from the labour ward and from the frontline of campaigns for women's reproductive rights, from Australia's best known obstetrician. 'We never train women in Sydney,' Caroline de Costa was told in 1974 when she applied to become a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. She and her husband packed their bags and their children, and headed fo Funny and poignant stories from the labour ward and from the frontline of campaigns for women's reproductive rights, from Australia's best known obstetrician. 'We never train women in Sydney,' Caroline de Costa was told in 1974 when she applied to become a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. She and her husband packed their bags and their children, and headed for Dublin. 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. 'An enthralling and at times eye-popping ride through her brilliant career as an obstetrician and fierce advocate for women's reproductive freedom.' - Anne Summers 'Caroline de Costa has lived an exciting and unusual life, is a brilliant doctor, a fierce and trailblazing feminist and now reveals herself as a gripping and evocative writer!' - Jane Caro


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Funny and poignant stories from the labour ward and from the frontline of campaigns for women's reproductive rights, from Australia's best known obstetrician. 'We never train women in Sydney,' Caroline de Costa was told in 1974 when she applied to become a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. She and her husband packed their bags and their children, and headed fo Funny and poignant stories from the labour ward and from the frontline of campaigns for women's reproductive rights, from Australia's best known obstetrician. 'We never train women in Sydney,' Caroline de Costa was told in 1974 when she applied to become a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. She and her husband packed their bags and their children, and headed for Dublin. 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. 'An enthralling and at times eye-popping ride through her brilliant career as an obstetrician and fierce advocate for women's reproductive freedom.' - Anne Summers 'Caroline de Costa has lived an exciting and unusual life, is a brilliant doctor, a fierce and trailblazing feminist and now reveals herself as a gripping and evocative writer!' - Jane Caro

30 review for The Women’s Doc

  1. 4 out of 5

    Veronica ⭐️

    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 t 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. *I received my copy from the publisher

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zahra

    An eye opening read about women's reproductive health over the last century across Ireland, Papau New Guinea and Australia and the challenges faced by female Doctors. Caroline is an inspiration. An eye opening read about women's reproductive health over the last century across Ireland, Papau New Guinea and Australia and the challenges faced by female Doctors. Caroline is an inspiration.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Cook

    This book is about the experience of a female obstetrician and how she became qualified, her experiences and a trainee obstetrician, he activism for women's rights and her experience working in Australia and with disadvantaged countries. What I liked about this book: - I LOVED this book (maybe because I am a health professional but I found it so interesting) - Stories of Caroline and the challenges she faced becoming an obstetrician - The mentors that helped her along the way - The hospital stories This book is about the experience of a female obstetrician and how she became qualified, her experiences and a trainee obstetrician, he activism for women's rights and her experience working in Australia and with disadvantaged countries. What I liked about this book: - I LOVED this book (maybe because I am a health professional but I found it so interesting) - Stories of Caroline and the challenges she faced becoming an obstetrician - The mentors that helped her along the way - The hospital stories (that would never happen today - borrowing an ambulance to pick up your kids etc.) - Stories in PNG, rural Australia and refuge camps - Challenges of being a female doctor in a male dominant industry - Advocating for women's rights - abortion etc. - Extremely interesting and humbling stories - really makes you think What I didn't like: - A bit jumpy and some may call it a bit too clinical but I loved this book - Would have liked more about Caroline's family and husband - but I understand her choice not to do so I have recommended this book to many people! I hope you enjoy it as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Good for people interested in birth and women’s health, but a little dry and clinical. The author told us some facts about lots of interesting and important events, but avoided telling us how it FELT to actually be there and experience it. I bought this book hoping to understand what it felt like to be the first female professor of obstetrics/gynaecology in Australia, or what it felt like to be a young unmarried mother studying medicine in Ireland. She has such a unique and interesting life stor Good for people interested in birth and women’s health, but a little dry and clinical. The author told us some facts about lots of interesting and important events, but avoided telling us how it FELT to actually be there and experience it. I bought this book hoping to understand what it felt like to be the first female professor of obstetrics/gynaecology in Australia, or what it felt like to be a young unmarried mother studying medicine in Ireland. She has such a unique and interesting life story and I feel like this book missed the mark - no one else knows what it felt like to live through all the things she lived through! Thats the really valuable part of her story that no one else could have written. That’s what I wanted from this book, and I didn’t get it, but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    3.5 stars. I would have give it a solid 4 had it ended 2/3rds of the way through. I enjoyed reading about her career in a variety of places as well as the prejudice etc that was faced. I very much enjoyed the patient stories. I though the end was too much on the political side of what she has been doing the last 30ish years. I agree that the points needed to be made but too much time was spent on them. I also found it a little clunky in places

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    The author has had a most remarkable career (I remember her prominence over RU486) and she presents a wide range of easy to read short stories to illustrate her own career and the changes over 50 years in the profession of OG. A lot of times I had questions at the end of the chapters, and wanted more. She's definitely a fan of caesareans and not concerned about rates, just healthy babies and mothers. I agree with other reviewers that the structure is unclear and hard to follow. Not everything has The author has had a most remarkable career (I remember her prominence over RU486) and she presents a wide range of easy to read short stories to illustrate her own career and the changes over 50 years in the profession of OG. A lot of times I had questions at the end of the chapters, and wanted more. She's definitely a fan of caesareans and not concerned about rates, just healthy babies and mothers. I agree with other reviewers that the structure is unclear and hard to follow. Not everything has to be exactly chronological, but there were places where stories did need to be better linked. Being a young single mother while studying medicine and then also having so many children through her career must have been very difficult, but we don't hear much about that. The dedication page makes it clear that her first born son died at age 17, but we don't get to hear about the loss of her own child in the book - possibly it was too traumatic. Googling revealed more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Bartley

    I absolutely loved this book and as a woman of similar age to Caroline could relate to the changing face of women's issues and attitudes over the decades. I always admire a woman who has embraced both a professional life and that of child rearing. Caroline also adds activism to her list of achievements. I learned more about the birthing process and am happy I had a trouble free natural birth using the Lamaze technique and was not afraid as so many young women are these days, opting for sometimes I absolutely loved this book and as a woman of similar age to Caroline could relate to the changing face of women's issues and attitudes over the decades. I always admire a woman who has embraced both a professional life and that of child rearing. Caroline also adds activism to her list of achievements. I learned more about the birthing process and am happy I had a trouble free natural birth using the Lamaze technique and was not afraid as so many young women are these days, opting for sometimes un-necessary Cesarean births or epidurals. Caroline's vast experience in so many arenas of obstetrics and gynecology was fascinating to me. Many women owe their reproductive lives to her and I feel privileged to have read her story. In this media frenzy of female victim-hood it was wonderful to hear from a woman with the balls to go out and forge her own path. Thanks you Caroline.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bec

    Finally got this book back from the library to read - Was a quick read. Caroline's life is a fascinating read being at the forefront of women in medicine and women's health not just in Australia. And the fact that she did it while also having and raising her large family and often while being paid half of what her equally qualified husband was. While Emotional Female left me feeling like there wasn't much hope for females in medicine this book left me feeling a lot more optimistic. Finally got this book back from the library to read - Was a quick read. Caroline's life is a fascinating read being at the forefront of women in medicine and women's health not just in Australia. And the fact that she did it while also having and raising her large family and often while being paid half of what her equally qualified husband was. While Emotional Female left me feeling like there wasn't much hope for females in medicine this book left me feeling a lot more optimistic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy Hore

    Very interesting, anxiety inducing, heart warming, fist pumping, emotive and cheerful! As you can see Caroline certainly takes us on a journey through her life as an activist, feminist, traveller, student, mother, teacher and obstetrician. Easy to read, short chapters / stories compiled as history into current times. Thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot from it. I tagged many pages and highlighted interesting or even just surprising unknown facts that I will be sharing with my friends. Would reco Very interesting, anxiety inducing, heart warming, fist pumping, emotive and cheerful! As you can see Caroline certainly takes us on a journey through her life as an activist, feminist, traveller, student, mother, teacher and obstetrician. Easy to read, short chapters / stories compiled as history into current times. Thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot from it. I tagged many pages and highlighted interesting or even just surprising unknown facts that I will be sharing with my friends. Would recommend to anyone who is interested in the progress of women's rights particularly in regard to sexual health and child bearing years.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” - Margaret Sanger. In this day and age we are still fighting for the right for safe and knowledgeable medical procedures for women. We are still being ignored. We are still being treated as second class citizens. This is a remarkable story that shows we still have a long way to go with women’s health and women doctors being “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” - Margaret Sanger. In this day and age we are still fighting for the right for safe and knowledgeable medical procedures for women. We are still being ignored. We are still being treated as second class citizens. This is a remarkable story that shows we still have a long way to go with women’s health and women doctors being treated equally.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Poole

    A very interesting look at women's health and women in the health system. Caroline De Costa another quiet achiever who has done so much for so many women for many years, thank you. You realize how lucky you have been having great medical facilities and doctors there for you when needed, never mind a home and country that wants you as its citizen. The medical stories were all interesting and informative, and well done to all those ladies and families whose baby stories were shared with us. A very interesting look at women's health and women in the health system. Caroline De Costa another quiet achiever who has done so much for so many women for many years, thank you. You realize how lucky you have been having great medical facilities and doctors there for you when needed, never mind a home and country that wants you as its citizen. The medical stories were all interesting and informative, and well done to all those ladies and families whose baby stories were shared with us.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trish Zied

    Beautifully written, this book follows the very interesting life experience of Dr. Caroline de Costa. Highlighting the difficulty of becoming a doctor and gynecologist as a woman in the late 60s and early 70s. Expressing her views through stories on the importance for women to be empowered with knowledge and supported to make choices about their own bodies.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Similar to other reviews, I agree that this author’s “voice” is a little dry. However, the short stories that Caroline de Costa shares are fascinating and from a world that many of us would never experience. From the actual birth deliveries, historical and political elements, it is an amazing book. She is a remarkable doctor and mother too, and really has done it all. Recommend for those with an interest in birth, feminism or activism.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Genevieve

    Wonderful stories and a very full and interesting life to share! A great display of how far we have come with women's health and rights of the last fifty years. Wonderful stories and a very full and interesting life to share! A great display of how far we have come with women's health and rights of the last fifty years.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michella Mcintosh

    Loved this book - just thought it became a little too political for me in the end.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Burke

    Feminism through the lens of medicine!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amie

    Excellent book. Doesn't exclude the reader with medical jargon, explains things simply. Highlights the important issues regarding obstetrics and childbirth in countries like Australia vs PNG. Excellent book. Doesn't exclude the reader with medical jargon, explains things simply. Highlights the important issues regarding obstetrics and childbirth in countries like Australia vs PNG.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Jones

    As expected, interesting parts to this good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peta

    Wow, wow, wow. What an absolute legend and trailblazer Dr Caroline de Costa is... I had no idea about the amazing influential work she has done for Australia and PNG. Inspiring.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gemma Williamson

    I am currently studying midwifery and this was hands down way better than any textbook!! Amazing!

  21. 5 out of 5

    quilton18

    Very interesting sorry and fascinating journey of Dr. However each chapter is written as an individual snippet with little flow which is unfortunate. Best to be read as individual short stories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Macushla

    By all accounts I am the target demographic for this book. I am an aspiring Obstetrician/Gynaecologist in Australia. I have encountered workplace sexism and have worked in health for the past few years now. I feel like the stars should have aligned for me to really connect with this book but I found myself constantly coming up against a brick wall when I tried to become invested. I think my main complaint was the major structural issues that plagued the text. For some reason (a distrust of our a By all accounts I am the target demographic for this book. I am an aspiring Obstetrician/Gynaecologist in Australia. I have encountered workplace sexism and have worked in health for the past few years now. I feel like the stars should have aligned for me to really connect with this book but I found myself constantly coming up against a brick wall when I tried to become invested. I think my main complaint was the major structural issues that plagued the text. For some reason (a distrust of our attention spans?), the book is broken up into tens of 3-4 page chapters. Now this would be fine if the book were actually delivering the anthology of interesting career stories that the front cover promises, however these chapter breaks will often occur midway through a thought. The section containing the stories and info-dumps about the author's fight to legalise abortion is broken up into more than 4 chapters, and yet it only covers a relatively scant number of pages. This constant need to introduce and conclude each tiny chapter really slows the pace of the book and renders the structure meandering and disparate. The loose association with timeline is also deeply on show during the abortion chapters. Whilst I understand an artistic choice to centre progression around theme rather than chronology, when it comes to a truly sequential process like the progression of abortion rights the scrambling of a timeline can feel extremely confusing. For example: the section begins with De Costa attending a mid-2005 conference in the US in which she learns of the new abortion pill (which is currently outlawed in Australia). It then leaps by the end of the 4 page chapter to 2019 when abortion was fully decriminalised. In the next chapter it leaps back to late 2005 when she and her colleagues get special licenses to distribute the abortion pill. The next chapter takes place in 2009 when a couple is criminally charged for having an abortion at home. Then briefly to 2012 when a new drug is licensed, then immediately (within the paragraph), back to 2010 with the same court case. Then up to 2016 when she discusses a civil case with a 12 year old girl needing an abortion. Then back between 2015-2018 when a law is proposed and slowly discussed. As a person without a strong sense of direction I was constantly scrambling to align these micro events with the macro national politics, which somewhat undermined the messaging. The other structural problem is the fact that often very boring stories are brought in to illustrate a very basic point. The author wants to discuss caesarean statistics (which are consistently given hard numbers but never referenced to where/how this information was gathered) and so she briefly brings up a woman who wanted to have a natural birth but then her baby fails to progress and so she must have an emergency caesarean. After building up the interesting idea of consent and responsibility she just rapidly caps the chapter off with 'we will catch up with her later'. As anyone would be, I was excited for the exploration of this woman's story but then 4 chapters (12 pages) later she is picked back up with 'birth went well, next birth happened much the same'. Turns out the cliff we were hanging on was about 2m tall. I think my frustration is merely for want of a good editor. A career as storied and important as De Costa's almost certainly has a great book inside it somewhere. It does pick up significantly in the second half which feels generally tighter and less like an introduction to O&G on a thursday afternoon. Trimming the fat and whatever statistics will be already out of date by the time it lands on shelves could lead to a truly stellar look into the trials and tribulations of an extremely emotive profession. As it stands I probably wouldn't recommend it to someone either inside or outside of the field.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Grace Judith

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Smith

  25. 4 out of 5

    Helena Rann

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ciara Quan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Dodge

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachael Brain

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Warwick

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amelia-jayne Day

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