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

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Photo by msomustek, used under Creative Commons license.
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?

    • 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.

  3. Also – any books for someone expecting multiples? (Besides "So you're expecting twins, triplets, or quads")

      • 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 Our Bodies Ourselves. My midwife's office gives out a complimentary copy with your new patient paperwork. It is a very straightforward book, and I believe it's very sympathetic to the midwifery model of care.

      • I hated it, too. We aren't religious and I couldn't get through the first chapter because I felt like it talked more about faith in God than anything else. I mean, that's nice and all, just not what we were looking for or feel the need to read about.

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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..).

  6. 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.

  7. It's not a book, but I found that this website was a wonderful antidote to all of the scary parenting/pregnancy advise and information out there. I read it daily during my 1st trimester and laughed my ass off every time.

    • 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.)

  8. 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".

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • I totally second Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. I really like the visualization exercises and the activities for partners to do together. My husband read it too and found it super-helpful for preparing him to be helpful during the birth. It's also easy to read and I loved the hippy photos!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Magical beginings,enchanted lives by Deepak Chopra
    Wise woman herbal for thechildbearing year by Susun Weed
    Dad's pregnant too
    LaLeacheLeague Art of Breastfeeding is very sympathetic and useful aboutmuch more then breastfeeding. I cant titfeed worth a flip.

  19. Oh and you should know they can shoot numbing stuff around and in your vag without "drugs". No one tells anyone about that!

    • I loved this book! It was the only book that I could find (well, except the Bradley Method ones, but I didn't do the Bradley Method) that had useful advice for dealing with pain during labor. It even had exercises/practice to do beforehand. Very helpful!

    • Yes! This what I was going to recommend as well. I've read a bunch of books about pregnancy/childbirth/childcare, but if I could only have read one to prepare myself and understand my pregnant body, the best was Birthing from Within. It's very accessible and not scary or preachy, and also very practical in a way the Ina May books aren't always. But if you are going to read a second book, read Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery or Guide to Childbirth! Can't praise those books enough 🙂

  20. For twins, I really liked Mothering Multiples. For every twin book we've found, you have to skip some chapters. For instance, Having Twins, by Elizabeth Noble, we quite liked except where it talked about how drinking milk would poison the babies.

    I haven't noticed anyone mentioning either The Birth Partner by Simkin or my favorite Sheila Kitzinger's Complete book of pregnancy, which had great week-by-week charts.

  21. For breastfeeding, I recommend Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding (I believe it has a different book title in the US). A comprehensive guide, and lots of troubleshooting sections for later.

  22. This has been really helpful. I just found I'm pregnant a few days ago and still haven't gotten over the shock enough to buy books. However, I have sufficiently panicked enough to google everything I eat for the last three days to make sure we don't end up with a baby with three horns. I came across http://www.pregnantchicken.com. It is a compilation of things the author has found on the internet about what to avoid while pregnant. I have found it calming, informative, and best of all funny. She isn't a doctor but rather a synthesizes all the conflicting information out there and lets you draw your own conclusions.

    • I found pregnantchicken.com just last week and LOVE it! I'm only 10 weeks into my pregnancy, but it's written very well and I'm thankful I came across it.

  23. I really liked the info and approach in my Hypnobabies materials… it was the opposite of crazy-making and is all about developing positive expectations.

    The La Leche League breastfeeding book ("The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding") was overwhelming to me before I gave birth but SO useful from the hospital on… it literally addressed every concern and problem I faced, and did so in a very nonjudgmental way. I'd recommend browsing it before and keeping it with you afterward.

    For anyone who wants to be active during pregnancy, I HIGHLY recommend Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Dr. James Clapp. It talks about results of Clapp's scientific studies into exercising while pregnant… VERY inspiring and comforting!!

  24. I haven't read all of the other comments so I'm sorry if maybe someone suggested it already:

    I REALLY enjoyed reading "Do chocolate lovers have sweeter babies?" by Jena Pincott. It's not a guide but it scientifically explains many things about pregnancy and childbirth. A very informative read!

  25. I'm really enjoying 'Up the duff' by Kaz Cooke. She's an Australian, so not everything would necessarily be relevant (she talks about our health system etc), but it is freaking hilarious, completely non-judgemental and at times quite reassuring. It's written as a week-by-week guide. Highly recommend.

  26. The best book I was given was "How to Have your 2nd Child First"! It is great and it has really helped cut down on buying crap I didn't need and things were you can take short cuts so you can enjoy your baby more and spend less time worrying about the little things.

  27. The absolute best advice i can give you is to GO TO THE LIBRARY!

    They have almost every book about pregnancy, they also have books on pregnancy that are medical rather than anecdotal (like for med students).

    Tips for using the library effectively:
    1. Be open minded – if your library has a large book-limit, bring a LOT of stuff home. Browse through over a few days and also try to use them to "look-up" spontaneous questions to judge their reference value.

    2. Pregnancy books are in a different part of the library from Parenting books and naming books are completely separate from both.

    In my forays to the library for books I have found a few gems that I will share with you:

    1. Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds – The best of both worlds:
    This book was amazing. I started reading it and could not put it down. Cynthia Gabriel has her PhD in anthropology and is also a Doula and mother of 3 so her perspective is broad and educated. This book details hospital birth completely (twice, a succinct chapter-length description and a several chapter in-depth analysis)also gives VERY detailed advice on writing a three-part birth plan that is top-notch. Another bonus is that this book was published in 2011 so it is very up-to-date. It has a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon with 51 reviews. Cannot praise this book enough!

    2. The Pregnant Body Book – This book is by DK publishing, who make pretty awesome science books for kids. This book details pregnancy from a medical perspective but uses accessible language and amazing images. Yes it is $40. I bet your library has it in their "over sized" or "coffee-table books" section. Beautiful and detailed, gender free language that is appropriate for all kinds of expecting families.

    I also have From the Hips, which is the first comment's recommendation. I like that it covers more than JUST pregnancy. It also has birth as a separate section as well as an After-Birth for mom section and a section about the care of your infant. Nice to have one book with so much information. I LOVED their section on feeding your newborn and their breakdown of pros and cons of formula and breast feeding.

  28. Hated What to Expect, so full of scary nonsense and misinformation.

    Love Ina May Gaskin, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies, Our Babies Ourselves, and although I don't remember the title, there is one written by a woman who is the head of integrative medicine at Yale, it was the perfect antidote to What to Expect.

    Stay off baby center and similar sights again lots of scary stuff with little scientific backup. Eat what you want, exercise the way you always have (ACOG rescinded the 140 beats per minute thing 3 years ago, the no lying n your back thing or you'll get dizzy only applies to 10% of women)

    Check anything the doc tells you that sounds more like folk lore than common sense, and don't forget that your body was designed for pregnancy.

  29. I liked Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide by Laura Riley. I received it free from doing a hospital tour (I highly recommend even just touring all the hospitals in your area because they often give away freebies, like a pregnancy massage, books, etc). It was the one I turned to the most.

    I also like The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. And DK has one that I can't remember the title of, but all their books have great pictures.

  30. Birthing From Within ended up being the best book I read. Highly recommend it and take the class if you can, too.

  31. I know this post is oldish but my husband and I are in the same boat as OP and I love all these suggestions! My doctor suggested I read "What to Expect Before You're Expecting" and I found it to be super condescending, generally obnoxious, and not really my style, so I've been looking for other suggestions. Thanks Offbeat friends!

    Also – I recently read "Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag" (http://www.amazon.com/Pregnant-Butch-Nine-Months-Spent/dp/1593765401) which, while not necessarily a pregnancy book, was a fantastic read which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in gender identity issues, LGBT issues, pregnancy, feminism, suspenders, or just generally being a person in a complicated world.

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