One of the things I'm asked most often as a doula is what books I recommend reading during pregnancy. For most women, What To Expect When You're Expecting just isn't cutting it anymore! While I absolutely love reading and do think it's a valuable tool to gain knowledge about birth matters, it's important to keep a few things in mind.
1. No one book is going to be the end all, be all, complete guide to childbearing for every single woman. If you find a book you love but it has a couple ideas that don't really jive with you- that's fine. Take what you want and leave the rest.
2. Beware information overload! If you're tired of conflicting information, feeling overwhelmed, etc. just take a break or call it quits. Seek information as long as it feels right and is providing value to your experience.
3. Don't underestimate your own intuition and the knowledge you can gain from other women. In many cases, experts are experts for a reason, namely because they are knowledgeable and passionate about their field. Having said that, they don't know you, your baby, or what's happening in your life. Real world experience is the best teacher and you are the expert on what you need.
NOW, here are a few of my favorite books for the childbearing year!
First up is Common Sense Pregnancy. This book is one of the simplest, most straightforward sources of pregnancy information that you will find. It acknowledges a wide range of birthing choices, and presents evidence based information in an easy to read manner. It's concise and well organized which makes it a great choice to consult if you want to know more about a certain test or screening right before your appointment. Bonus: There is a podcast to go along with the book which covers topics including reproductive health, birth matters, parenting, and much more.
Next, Ancient Map for Modern Birth is a treasure of knowledge provided to guide you on your journey through pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. Timeless wisdom and current research are presented and emphasis is given to the fact that each woman is striving to complete both spiritual awareness and practical preparation tasks during childbearing. The activities in the book will encourage you to examine what you believe and what you want in your motherhood experience. My favorite thing about this book is that for many women it reaffirms things that they already knew on their most basic human level. Serving as guidance to the unknown realm of birth, this one is a game changer.
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding doesn't seem to be quite as popular her other works or as well known as some other breastfeeding books, but it is a book that I wish I had found during my own pregnancy. It is real, practical information for breastfeeding women in everyday life. The benefits of breastfeeding, preparing for nursing, solutions to common challenges, and advice for unique situations is all there. The plain language and individual women's stories also make it really enjoyable to read. Check out her guide to childbirth while you're at it!
Natural Health after Birth is a complete guide to postpartum health and is one book that I would love to have all of my doula clients read. So many new mothers don't recognize the importance of taking time to rest and care for themselves after birth. This book highlights the fourth trimester (or approximately 12 weeks after birth) and offers suggestions to maximize your comfort, speed your healing, bond with baby, and begin a gradual return to your new normal life. Recipes that promote wellness, exercise tips, and herbal remedies are all included as well as advice on how to create the supportive network that you will need. The description of how different cultures care for and honor the new mother is eye opening for many women in modern Western society. This is also a great book for partners and family members to read!
Look for future posts detailing additional resources for the childbearing year and until then, happy reading!
Whitney Marsillett is a birth doula, postpartum doula, and certified lactation counselor in Knoxville, TN.