Summer is a great time to catch up on books from your must-read list. If you're pregnant this summer, your must-read list probably includes a collection of books about pregnancy, birth, parenting, and breastfeeding. Thankfully and unfortunately, there's no shortage of books in this reading genre, which means that choosing just a few good books can be overwhelming.
Below is a compiled list of the best-of-the-best pregnancy and birth books -- what's hot, what's "classic" and the reviews that accompany them.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide
By Penny Simkin and others
"Unlike pregnancy guides that can overwhelm and alarm by telling you up front all the things that can possibly go wrong, this book first describes normal, healthy processes, their typical variations, and the usual care practices for monitoring them. Only then does it cover possible complications and the care practices and procedures for resolving them. Throughout, the presentation is crystal-clear, the tone is reassuring, and the voice is empowering. And the language is inclusive, reflecting today's various family configurations such as single-parent families, blended families formed by second marriages, families with gay and lesbian parents, and families formed by open adoption or surrogacy. From sensible nutrition advice to realistic birth plans, from birth doulas when desired to cesareans when needed, from reducing stress during pregnancy to caring for yourself as well as your baby after birth, this pregnancy guide speaks to today's parents-to-be like no other."
Another review, from Mara's World:
"Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn does an exceptional job of presenting all options in their true light. It covers the benefits, challenges, and risks of choices. It also includes advice beyond the informational material that will help you make decisions, such as long term considerations, comparison charts, and reflection prompts. The section on labor pain and management options is particularly well done with detailed explanations that will give you a true sense of many ways to handle labor pain."
Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition
By Lily Nichols
"Prenatal nutrition can be confusing. A lot of the advice you have been given about what to eat (or what not to eat) is well-meaning, but frankly, outdated or not evidenced-based. In Real Food for Pregnancy, you will get clear answers on what to eat and why, with research to back up every recommendation. Author and specialist in prenatal nutrition, Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, has taken a long and hard look at the science and discovered a wide gap between current prenatal nutrition recommendations and what foods are required for optimal health in pregnancy and for your baby's development. There has never been a more comprehensive and well-referenced resource on prenatal nutrition."
Another review, from Birth Eat Love:
"[The author] lays out exactly what you need to know to grow a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy. She breaks down the myths about what you should and shouldn’t eat with meticulously researched footnotes. No searching all over the place and piecing it all together like I had to do. Lily has done the hard work for pregnant mamas! Everything you would ever want to know about pregnancy diet is included in this book. Seriously. The best part is that she does it in plain language. You feel like you’re having a conversation over tea with a girlfriend, rather than reading a dense medical textbook. If you have been feeling confused about what to eat? This book is a must read book for you."
Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood - and Trusting Yourself and Your Body
By Erica Chidi Cohen
"Nurture is the only all-in-one pregnancy and birthing book for modern mothers-to-be and their partners who want a more integrative approach. Author Erica Chidi Cohen has assisted countless births and helped hundreds of families ease into their new roles through her work as a doula. This beautiful, comprehensive and judgement-free pregnancy companion covers everything from the beginning months of pregnancy to the baby's first weeks. Including supportive self-care and mindfulness exercises, trimester-specific holistic remedies, nourishing foods and recipes for every month of pregnancy along with more than 40 charming and helpful illustrations, and expert tips for every birth environment, it's got everything modern mother would want to know: fetal development, making choices for a hospital, home or birth center birth, the basics of breastfeeding, tips on what to expect postpartum and more."
Another review, from Babe Skills:
"I opted to read Nurture instead of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” because it felt a bit more holistic and updated. It’s a great guide to your pregnancy as it breaks down what you and your baby are experiencing each trimester. I also LOVED the special focus on diet, clean beauty, wellness and meditation."
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong--and What You Really Need to Know
By Emily Oster
"When award-winning economist Emily Oster was a mom-to-be herself, she evaluated the data behind the accepted rules of pregnancy, and discovered that most are often misguided and some are just flat-out wrong. Debunking myths and explaining everything from the real effects of caffeine to the surprising dangers of gardening, Expecting Better is the book for every pregnant woman who wants to enjoy a healthy and relaxed pregnancy—and the occasional glass of wine."
Another review, from Babylist:
"This book is a Babylist parent favorite! (It’s even featured on our CEO’s sample registry). It reviews pregnancy health studies and evaluates the quality of their methodology, with the goal of giving the reader objective information to make informed decisions about pregnancy risks like what food should you avoid. One mom told us, “I liked Expecting Better, because it was so data driven rather than fear driven.”
The author Emily Oster shares evidence that very light drinking is fine during pregnancy, even if heavy drinking is extremely dangerous. In general, she wants women to look at evidence and make their own decisions rather than follow black-and-white rules. Needless to say, it has therefore been very polarizing."
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth
By Rachel Pepper
"The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians covers everything you need to make the thrilling and challenging journey to motherhood: from choosing a donor to tracking fertility to signing the right papers on the dotted lines. Rachel Pepper's lively, easy-to-read guide is the first place to go for up-to-date information and sage advice on everything from sex in the sixth month to negotiating family roles. Why a second edition? When the acclaimed first edition appeared, the author's daughter was only a few months old. This new edition takes into account the parenting know-how Pepper has developed over the intervening six years, as well as the evolving legal status of lesbian parents, and the increasing importance of the Internet for information on fertility, sperm banks, and donors. The resource section is greatly expanded, as are the sections on each trimester of pregnancy, on childbirth, and on life with a newborn. And Pepper provides more insight into preconception planning for both single lesbians and couples. An indispensable resource, The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians is now bigger and better."
Another review, from Autostraddle:
"Neither of us identifies as a lesbian, but this at least falls a little closer to how we identify our relationship (very gay). This is the lesbian version of the quintessential guide to all things getting knocked up. It has a lot of practical info about fertility treatments, the process of pregnancy and labor, and lots of other really useful, practical info. It includes info on intersex children, personal stories of lesbian pregnancy, and practical advice for non-gestational carriers. It’s a little outdated in that it was last updated before same-gender marriage was recognized across the U.S., so some of the legal and partner stuff isn’t true anymore. The author, Rachel Pepper, also takes a very specific opinion on circumcision (no), natural childbirth (yes), and breastfeeding (hell yes), which may be helpful to you or not depending on your own beliefs."
Giving Birth With Confidence (Official Lamaze Guide, 3rd Edition)
By Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries
"For a Safe and Healthy Birth… Your Way! Giving Birth with Confidence will help take the mystery out of having a baby and help you better understand how your body works during pregnancy and childbirth, giving you the confidence to make decisions that best ensure the safety and health of you and your baby. Giving Birth with Confidence is the first and only pregnancy and childbirth guide written by Lamaze International, the leading childbirth education organization in North America."
Another review, from Connecting the Dots:
"While I really appreciated the section on choosing a provider and birth location that directly addressed many myths about pregnancy and birth safety, I found the entire book to succinctly identify and call out misconceptions about common or popular procedures, tests, and practices that pregnant people will face. Reinforced by the latest research and excellent resources - Lothian and DeVries calmly and confidently share what is known about the safety of the typical protocols offered and suggested to expecting people. Having this information will help families to start conversations with their providers about best practice."