As an information hoarder, I love to read and research new topics. Pregnancy was no different. I polled some friends, filled up my Amazon cart, and cracked the books. What to Expect When You're Expecting is incredibly popular, but I found it to be focused on unlikely negatives, and more scary than helpful.
What Pregnancy Books Actually Helped?
Quick note! These are generally aimed at unmedicated ("natural") childbirth. If you plan to have an epidural or pain management, or end up having a Cesarean, that's totally fine! Birth is unpredictable. It's good information to have, and they address those, as well. I don't have time to judge you, I have to go figure out what my toddler just ate off the floor. Peace. ✌🏻
My Favorite Books About Birth
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is hard to beat. Ina May Gaskin is largely credited with the resurgence of midwifery in the United States and runs a birth center at the Farm commune in Tennessee. Skeptical of a commune resident in prairie skirts telling you about a process that will most likely take place in a hospital? She has authored many papers about childbirth and even has a delivery maneuver named after her. The first half is birth stories which show the wide range of "normal" birth experiences. I found it really helpful to read about people who had unmedicated births. Important note: Gaskin has said some really problematic things about Black perinatal health statistics and also about trans folks at times, though not in this book. As a white cis-het woman, the book was fine for me, but I would like a more inclusive option than this when I find it.
- The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer was really helpful to me. The author starts out stating that she clearly has a bias, but her bias is based on the conclusions drawn from all the research she did. That's what she covers in the book. It's not about telling you what to do, but offers the studies and statistics that help you make an informed decision about your care.
- The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year isn't written by well-known parenting experts, but it's not far off from the book I would want to write. Two attachment parenting moms offer an easy-to-read guide that validates following your instincts and back it up with science. It's not perfect, but I found it helpful.
- Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England is the most "woo woo" of these, but I found it fascinating. There are also Birthing From Within childbirth prep classes available. She studies the circumstances which cause traumatic birth experiences and works backwards to help you prevent them by unpacking your fears around childbirth. I often suggest getting this from the library first in case it's too much.
- Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck was an interesting read. Though the author is a follower of the Weston A. Price Foundation ("the raw milk people") who insist no vegetarian diet (mine) can possibly be healthy, I enjoyed Planck's grounded view of eating well during pregnancy to nourish you and your baby. She advocates a whole food diet without being overbearing and adds in her own pregnancy experiences for dimension.
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International is the go-to recommendation for nursing moms. I have not yet read it, but breastfeeding isn't completely instinctive or easy. If you plan to nurse, more support is always better!
No time (or attention span) for books? Here are some websites that offer great information:
- Birth Without Fear posts a beautiful array of birth stories, and show that there isn't a right or a wrong way to meet your baby.
- Evidence Based Birth offers information related to popular questions about pregnancy and childbirth with studies and citations to back it up.
- KellyMom is an amazing breastfeeding resource which covers a number of topics and has plenty of outside links as well.
- Pregnant Chicken, in addition to being pee-your-pants hilarious, also gave me some of the best advice I read during my pregnancy.