Are you pregnant and have no idea what to expect? Your first appointment with a doctor may be months away, but luckily there are lots of options at your local library (or even on that Hoopla app). This may be my third pregnancy, but I recognize I am no expert and there is still so much out there to learn. I chose one book a month to prepare for the birth of our final baby. Here’s my list so you can choose which books you might enjoy, too!
The Better Baby Book by Lana Asprey, M.D. and Dave Asprey
I read this book years ago when I first found out I was pregnant with Cambri. It was definitely worth the re-read in preparation for our third arrival. The book is written by Lana Asprey, a doctor from Sweden and her husband Dave, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee. You will learn a lot about diet, supplements, vitamins, chemicals and hormones as you prepare your body to give birth. Their system, referred to as The Better Baby Diet, uses a lot of scientific based research. During the pregnancy of their two boys, the Asprey’s implemented a very strict regiment of not just diet, but exercise and life, too. The book offers great suggestions, although you don’t need to take them all, when preparing for baby. Definitely recommend this scientific approach!
Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
Scientifically written, but I love learning about how our psychology and personality come to play in our lives. While all the off-the-wall analogies didn’t help me to understand the science better, the key points at the end of every chapter helped a lot. This book covers everything from pregnancy all the way to sleeping through the night tips, a good read for any parent interested in how a child’s brain is wired.
The Mama Natural Week-by-week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland
This book was given to me by my very best friend and mom of two, Sammy. I love how it breaks topics down into a weekly format, so you only read a small section for each week of pregnancy. That being said, I am still pregnant and therefore have not technically finished this book. Each week starts with a brief overview of what is changing with baby and with your body, then looks into a different topic (say: prenatal testing, doulas, sex, nutrition, etc.). As mentioned in the title, this is a book from Mama Natural herself, so lots of the advice tends to lean on the holistic side of things. Overall, I love this book. It is full of great recipes and ideas and tackles every single topic you can think of. I especially love that I only need to read a couple of pages each week, and look forward to reading those pages!
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
I absolutely loved this book. Emily brings to our attention common pregnancy advice but actually explains the evidence. In any decision, a party should be given facts for both sides for making decisions, but with a typical American pregnancy, women are suggested to make decisions solely based on hear say or it worked for me. Both Emily and I agree that this just doesn’t work for our families. With an education in detailing studies to find their actual reliability, Emily presents both sides of common advice. While she says each person should be able to make their own decision, she offers what she thinks is the best option supported by the evidence and then what she chose for her birth plan. Overall, I would consider this a must read for people planning to be pregnant or who are pregnant. I loved the evidence-based research offered in an unbiased approach.
The Mindful Mom-to-be by Lori Bregman
Oh, Wow! This book was a GAME CHANGER for me and definitely a must read. I listened to it on audio and regret that I didn’t buy a physical copy because it is full of SO many great recipes from body butters to blood-building juices. I wrote them all down as I went, don’t worry. It talked about essential oils in the delivery room, nutrition and helps you to create a birth plan. What sets this book apart from the others is it really dives DEEP into your soul. Lori asks you to look back at your birth to assess any traumas that might occur, but also look into the future and create a dream birth plan….can be anywhere with anyone, even dead relatives. These exercises really forced me to dig deep and figure out exactly what I want for my birth. In my dream plan, my Grandma Viv is there scratching my belly so I don’t get sick. In real life, this revealed to me just how important it is to have someone maternal at the birth to take care of me and make sure my needs are met. This book also enlightened me on mindfulness, which I before may have referred to as just meditation or hypnosis. In a time of pregnancy when anxiety was running high, I was able to turn to Mindfulness Meditations on youtube to really calm my fears and give me a good nights sleep. I will definitely be using those videos at childbirth, and will even turn my audio book back on to the chapter about childbirth…where Lori gives so much advice about position changes and birthing tips that I couldn’t even write them all down.
Green Mama-to-be by Manda Aufochs Gillespie
Our first two pregnancies with Cambri and Porter were not planned. And while both ended in healthy babies, when we decided on a third, I was more determined than ever to give it optimal health and set it up for a lifetime of success. If that isn’t evident by the books I’ve already read, as we approached the month of “conception” I’m interested more and more in what is going on with my body and how to have the easiest possible pregnancy. Manda breaks this stage of life up into pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, and even explores the postpartum period. Again, she recommends dietary changes months in advance of conception. She isn’t as scientifically spoken as some of the other books I’ve read, but she has done her research and conveys it in normal terms. She is Canadian, so a lot of the stats reflect that of her country, but were still very insightful for my neighboring land. What I really appreciated about the book was besides just giving researches-based advice, she also provides recipes for many all-natural alternatives for every need of pregnancy. Not only are we discussing nutrition, but chemical household cleaners, water and air quality, herbal remedies, essential oils, drugs during labor, plastic exposure, and toxins in the rest of our environment. Even though I consider myself a naturalist, I learned so much from this book and was truly inspired to make more changes in my lifestyle reducing the possible impacts of harsh chemicals in my pregnancy.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
This book was referenced in a lot of other literature, and for good reason, even referred to this as “the Bible” of childbirth. The first part of book shares many, many, many birth stories. I appreciated the value of these stories as they came from a wide variety of women, who tried different approaches and what did/didn’t work, and so gave some helpful tips for overcoming pain. However, I felt at one point I needed to stop reading them. You see, Ina May runs a birthing community if you will called “The Farm.” What a beautiful experience is must be and a truly brilliant idea to give birth on the Farm, however, that is not where I will be delivering my child. The stories really highlighted all the perks of this “facility” and painted a lot of the hospital births in a negative manner. Since hospital birth is what I am choosing, I do not need any more fear or doubt spoke into my mind about the likelihood of my natural birth plan not playing out in the medical setting. I guess it’s good to hear the real side of things, it’s just that I know a natural hospital birth is possible and I am already hearing horror stories from family and friends so the last thing I want to do is read more. Overall, though, there are lots of stories that inspire and empower a pregnant mama that yes, your body CAN do this.
The second half of the book really looks into the knowledge of Ina May, which is really why I am reading this book. It gave a lot of insight parallel to what I’ve read in the previous books listed. Since Ina May prefers the natural birth, she offered lots of statistics that supported this. However, a lot of the research she refers to is from a period of time a while back. She also mentions several times how great the ceserean rate at the Farm is (practically no c-sections were performed) and how hospitals in the same time frame had rather high c-sections rates. She paints it to seem, again, that the Farm is the only place you should give birth, and looks over other possible theories for the c-section difference…ie most women who give birth at the farm probably go there because they want a natural birth, are having healthy pregnancies, and eat the natural food they grow there. I think Ina May is brilliant, and I do not want to discredit her role in the evolution of midwifery here in the United States. However, the book seemed more as marketing material for “The Farm.” If you can get past the plugs, there is lots of good information listed. She shares her best tips for labor and pain management, and the scientific reasons why they work.
Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel
Considering I plan on having a natural birth in a military learning hospital, this book seemed to be written for me. It helped me to feel that, yes, a natural birth in a hospital can happen. It went over all the different medical procedures that could happen, and suggested ways for you to move past them while respecting the medical professionals. One of my favorite tips is when staff ask something of you, like insisting that you get an epidural, you can simply say “Can we wait an hour?” And you can simply keep repeating that phrase every hour if you want. I also appreciated the advice in this book regarding how to write a birth plan. Cynthia mentions that medical staff see a lengthy birth plan as a list of things they can’t do, and then they put up walls with you. Rather she suggests that your birth team (partner, doula, etc.) know your birth plan and you keep the medical birth plan more simple and respectful of staff’s opinions. Remember, you want these people on your team so they can help you achieve the natural birth you are hoping for.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League International
This a great book to save for your final month of pregnancy, or even for your first month post partum. If you are on the fence with breastfeeding, this book will give you lots of insight as to how you can manage a breastfeeding relationship, why it is good for both you and baby, and many, many resources to make it happen. The writers are very realistic, even giving statistics on how simply breastfeeding for only two weeks is better than nothing at all. There are lots of tips and tricks shared from a plethora of women involved in the La Leche League. Even having breast fed two babies myself, there was so much more to learn! While I am sure the intent of the book is to increase La Leche group memberships, I am certainly excited to give birth and join this club of mamas!