What pregnancy books can I read that won’t make me crazy?

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My husband and I will begin baby making attempts in the next few months. I’ve never been into self-help and intend to approach pregnancy as just another stage in life, not some idealized baby obsessed utopia during which I need to document everything, take extreme precaution with safety and food, and transition my life into mommy perfection.

I’ve purchased the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, which is very straight-forward, medically accurate information. I’d like to find some book suggestions though that other Offbeat Mamas have found enjoyable and informative. — Theresa


Seriously: just look at all these posts. We also have a kick-ass collection of resources for parents that has all kinds of goodies and faves listed:

Any books we haven’t mentioned before that y’all think are awesome?

Comments on What pregnancy books can I read that won’t make me crazy?

    • I just bought this book! I love it! It gives information on a wide variety of topics (some I didn’t even know existed) in a nonbiased or judgemental way. Like the circumcision issue, information on different care facility/practitioner options, possible tests you can have done (and their risks), and much more.

      I also found it very helpful as it didn’t fearmonger like many pregnancy books for women (men’s books I found were often more helpful, but didn’t address the obvious fact…it’s written for the father-side). Like I had a friend who recently had a baby, but during her pregnancy she was TOO cautious with what she ate. She refused pizza because of the mozzerella, she wouldn’t step foot into a Japanese restaurant because they serve raw fish, and she didn’t get out a lot because she was afraid too much movement would harm the baby.

      This book shows you what you can eat at a sushi restaurant, different lifestyle approaches (The French Way), and the average exercise heartrate a woman should probably not go over, unless you’re an exercise crazy-person.

      • I thought this book was okay, but a bit negative in parts. Almost every single opinion quoted in the pain management section of the book seemed to be from people who had planned to go medication-free but ended up needing epidurals for various reasons. As someone who was planning a medication-free birth, I found the stories were a bit depressing. There were a few stories of medication-free births but they were very out-numbered.

        • The best birth stories I read were in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I actually re-read them in the early stages of labor, between contractions, to help keep me calm and grounded. Ina May rocks!

    • Agree completely – I’m in the same position as the author of the post, and I’m about halfway through the book and really finding it very informative. I particularly like that the book offers up a variety of experiences on each topic through little thought bubbles from “anonamom” and “anonadad.” Highly recommend.

    • Yes! Loved this book. Felt like it provided a variety of perspectives and gave me a lot of information, but not so much that I felt like I was drowning in details or things that didn’t apply to me.

    • I also loved From the Hips because I am just not a What to Expect kind of gal. It gives straight forward information without showing bias or being preachy. It doesn’t go TOO in depth as far as specific birthing methods but gives an overview of the birth process in general. For me, it gave just enough information to keep me informed but not TOO much to the point where I was obsessing and freaked out. I think it’s a great jumping off point and from there you can delve into different books regarding specific information.

  1. YES! Pregnancy Sucks it has a ton of good information, but isn’t the all glowy, pregnancy-is-the-most-fun thing ever. It gives a realistic/pessimistic view of your 9 months. Was definately a needed break and comic relief for me, as well as providing sound information.

    I actually only read The Expectant Father as my preggo book. My husb and I both read it, and it provided all the needed nitty-gritty stuff without the added gooey mother stuff that I didn’t care for in books like What to Expect (evil book).

    Those were my two favs, and all I used, but excited to hear about more!

  2. When I was reading to prepare for a med-free birth, I was really inspired by Ina May’s Guide and some other natural birth books, but I also really appreciated the way that Sarah McMoyler’s book The Best Birth talked about med-free hospital options in a way that didn’t feel as all-or-nothing as some of those other natural pregnancy books did.

      • Thanks for this suggestion!

        Yeah Dr. Luke is so freaking scary! She’s like, if you don’t do what I say, your babies will have NO CHANCE. NO CHANCE AT ALL! AND YOUR DOCTOR DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE/SHE IS TALKING ABOUT!!! I got so freaked out when I first started reading it I put it down for a month!

    • I read a book called Juggling Twins that I can give a mixed review for. On the one hand, it had really helpful info. on how to create and maintain feeding/sleeping schedules, some practical tips, and was optimistic about preemies. On the other hand, the book basically tells you that you’re doomed unless you are able to hire (or beg for) an army of around-the-clock volunteers, which is freaking me out a lot because (a) I don’t live in the same city as most of my friends and family, and (b) I don’t have the money to hire a night nurse the way the author suggests.

    • if you are looking for information on how and why – there´s a national geographic dvd on twins and multiples which i am halfway through and i learned A LOT. but it does explore the risks as well, so if you are easily worried don´t watch it in the first 12 weeks or so. amazing pictures though!

    • I second this! Pregnancy, Childbirth & the Newborn was so comprehensive. I did a ton of reading while I was pregnant, and came across this one in my third trimester. It had all the information in it that I had read (from several other books), and even more.

    • I third this recommendation! A truly excellent, informative book; unbiased and evidence-based. Gives you advice for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery.

  3. For my second pregnancy, I got a wonderful postpartum book called Sitting Moon: A Guide to Rejuvenation after Pregnancy. It’s definitely in the “won’t make you crazy” category. Lots of non-judgemental, really supportive language – plus a bonus meal plan series based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s the book I wish I had had the first time around :). I think it’s even useful to read during pregnancy so you can do make ahead meals and envision being a mother if you haven’t already.

  4. I absolutely recommend Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. This book is chock full of useful information not only for conceiving but also just for understanding your body better. I plan to use the information I learned long after I am done with the pregnancy stage of life. The tone is friendly without being condescending (a problem I find in the What to Expect series..).

  5. I LOATHED The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and can’t say enough things to warn you away from it.

    So You’re Going To Be a Dad and Caveman’s Guide to Pregnancy were both books my husband and I thought were hilarious (c’mon – in “So You’re Going to be a Father”, the guy refers to his diaper bag as The Tardis…), and even though they were technically aimed towards the male/partner side of things, I enjoyed them and got stuff out of them.

    I third (fourth? fifth?) the Ina May Gaskin recommendations, too.

    But seriously, stay away from The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. It thinks it’s cute and funny and it’s just not.

    • I’m curious why you didn’t like the girlfriends guide? I loved them all! I thought they were a nice change from the typical pregnancy books.

      • I flipped through the Girlfriend’s Guide, and skipped it because it felt like it was tailored to a very specific type of person / experience. It was full of “You’ll seeeeee” statements (e.g. insisting absolutely everyone wants an epidural in the end, so don’t even bother going without).

        I think if you identify with the author and her crowd you’ll find it entertaining, but for anyone who’s going through things a little differently it may be too alienating.

        • I’ve always been bothered by the interpretation that it pushed the epidurals. I read the book twice and never felt like it said, “You’re going to get an epidural,” just that I shouldn’t feel like I did childbirth wrong if I wanted one.

          I can see how the book would be offputting — it did have the “you’ll see”‘s something fierce & I didn’t like the materialism to it that invades all aspects of pregnancy. But as a surprise-pregnant woman in her early-20s, I loved that it didn’t take the whole pregnancy gig too seriously. It made it less exhaustingly terrifying. It gave me the tools to understand what I was going through and to discuss my pregnancy with my husband.

          It’s definitely a YMMV, but I wouldn’t say it should be universally avoided.

    • I also liked this book! It’s also pretty positive about plus-size pregnancy, which is a refreshing change!

      Also, just in case there are any plus-size pregnant women who don’t know about it, there’s a really great blog that critically analyzes a lot of the terrifying things you’ll read about in pregnancy books and articles (like the most recent “if you’re big you’ll give your baby autism” news). http://wellroundedmama.blogspot.ca/

    • I second this! Her books are less “doom and gloom,” she’s a bit funny, and I like that the content actually addresses pregnancy and babies in the Canadian context (mat/parental leave, public health care, etc.)

  6. For me, telling myself frequently to take it all with a grain of salt and to not take one book/person’s point of view as the pregnancy/childbirth gospel was the best cure for the “all this pregnancy info is driving me crazy”.

  7. I bought From the Hips, as well as Show Mom How. My husband bought Show Dad How and So You’re Going to be a Dad, and I’m extremely happy with our choices.

    From the Hips – nonbiased and nonjudgemental. Gives information on a wide variety of topics, mixing personal writing with medical. The only thing it didn’t have was anything about the placenta.

    Show Mom How/Show Dad How – really great! Kind of like a how-to guide, but with short simple diagrams. It has everything from before pregnancy to toddler years. Not a EVERYTHING kind of book, but definitely worth it.

    So You’re Going to be a Dad – This was my husband’s choice. It’s written by a father. So it has a very approachable writing style, without dumping on the facts. However, sometimes his personal opinions seep in every once and a while.

    Books I would avoid:

    Girlfriend’s Guide – I was about to buy this, then I started reading a bit of it, and about the author. The author is an ex-playmate, who advocates never exercising, c-sections and blasts on midwives and non-medical births. It also puts emphasis on looking your best so your husband/partner won’t hate you, but you’ll be fat and ugly anyways. I thought the first bit was cute, but then it just got really judgemental and ill-informed.

    Let’s Panic About Babies – I’m probably alone in this camp. But I found the book really annoying. My husband and I were considering buying it because we heard good reviews elsewhere. But when we opened it and were reading it, it was just page after page of “HOLY CRAP LOOKOUT! THIS THING WILL KILL YOU! AND YOUR BABY!” Seriously, there was about 2 pages on how a cat will kill you and your baby. I know it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek…but I couldn’t get past two pages without it making me angry.

  8. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Better Birth by Henci Goer is phenomenal. It’s very evidence based with pages of studies and footnotes. It helped me convince my mom, an OR nurse, to accept my anti-medical intervention birth choices.

    I would also recommend Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way, even if you’re not going the natural route or even if you won’t use the Bradley method. In particular, there’s a section in this birth that details 10-15 possible labor scenarios that I think will really help me when my labor begins to understand and interpret my body’s signals.

    For breastfeeding, The Nursing Mother’s Companion is great. For parenting (because I like to plan ahead!) I highly recommend Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp and any of the Love and Logic books.

  9. Oh man… I’m kind of feeling like a slacker because I didn’t read ANY books about pregnancy. I started reading one or two that someone gave me, but I got bored. It somehow felt redundant… So I read Disc World novels. haha! It was way more fun, and a nice distraction.

  10. I had tried to get my hubby to read some of the pregnancy books I had but he hated it because they were all so scary! I hadn’t realized it until then and just kinda stopped reading them after that (except for Ina May).

    That said, the pregnancy is such a short part of the experience! The books I did read pretty much said exactly what you’ll find on any website about pregnancy (and you can read that for free). Spend some time reading books on how to care for that child once it arrive. Those were the most useful ones I read during my pregnancy.

  11. I started What to Expect, then Origins, and was so anxious about both of them that I finally picked up Jenny McCarthy’s Belly Laughs just to ease the tension. I felt much better. Yeah, it’s Jenny McCarthy and she’s kind of annoying and crude, but it was such a nice change from all the technical stuff that I really appreciated it at the time.

    I never did go back and read a whole pregnancy book, and now I’m in my 7th month and probably won’t, although I have also heard raves about Ina May.

  12. This might be a tad mainstream for y’all, but I enjoyed the Dr Sears book on pregnancy. It’s co-authored by the Sears, and I found the language helpful, progressive (particularly given that it was primarily written by a dude), and not at all alarmist. I think it’s just called The Pregnancy Book. Their website it also very helpful.

  13. This isn’t a pregnancy book, but I’ve really enjoyed Heading Home With Your Newborn. It was given to me by a friend who found it helpful with her baby.

  14. I didn’t read a single pregnancy book that didn’t make me crazy! Not a pregnancy book, but I highly recommend Baby-led Weaning by Gill Rapley. It’s less about weaning in the sense of getting your baby off of breastmilk/formula and more about how and when to start solid foods. Even if you don’t end up wanting to do it, it’ s still a very interesting read.

  15. You know what, I take it back. I did buy the Dr. Sears book AFTER I had my baby (go figure) and really liked it. It does lean toward the attachment parenting approach, but it absolutely does not make you feel guilty about any decision you make.

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