Whether you are a first or last-time mum you will probably want to read up on your pregnancy. Our quest for answers as expectant mothers is insatiable and this need to arm ourselves with information can be an important part of preparation for childbirth and early motherhood. Cue – The Daily Mumtra’s list of the Best Pregnancy Books 2023.
When I discovered I was pregnant six years ago it was a rude awakening. I had spent so long deliberating on whether I could and indeed should get pregnant that I hadn’t allowed myself to dream of what being pregnant entailed. I was a (self-professed) ‘expert’ in all things fertility but when it came to decisions over pregnancy diet, screenings, and birthing choices my knowledge was thin.
Did I really need to give up hot baths, Sushi and Feta laced greek salads? What were my chances of having a baby with a lifelong disability? Can there be downsides to opting for pain relief in labour? Was natural birth an unrealistic goal? Was it a good idea to even write a Birth Plan? I had never even considered most of these things. And so I did what every other first time mum does…
I went out and bought ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’.
If ever there was a book to numb the joys of first time pregnancy and perspire mum guilt this is it. It will gleefully offer up every sacrifice to be made with little (scientifically backed) evidence and encourage you to pathologise your pregnancy with its normalisation of medical intervention.
To give credit, it did lay some of the facts bare and put key topics on my radar. But your pregnancy reading should not end there. Here are my must read, 7 best pregnancy books 2022.
To give full disclosure these are not pregnancy guides per se with week by week commentary on the stages of pregnancy illustrated with vegetable comparisons and the like but books that will aid and inspire you to make informed choice and take ownership of your pregnancy.
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Expecting Better (New Edition)– Emily Oster
Economist Emily Oster ruthlessly flies in the face of conventional pregnancy wisdom. With data driven evidence and latest research she contradicts mislaid expectations on pregnant women. If you have ever been berated by a partner or family member for undercooking your breakfast eggs, having an occasional glass of red or an extra shot of coffee in your morning latte – this is the book for you. Bookmark pages, keep in your handbag and be ready to disarm those well meaning naysayers!
Oster also delves into the real extent of risk for the mother over 35 and offers a balanced data-driven guide to the pros and cons of medical intervention and home birth vs natural hospital birth vs medicalised hospital birth. A reassuring and liberating read. Buy Expecting Better at Amazon
Spiritual Midwifery – Ina May Gaskin
An oldie but a goodie. If you can stomach the new age psychedelic vibe of this book, without doubt it will change your life. Hailed as the mother of modern midwifery Ina May Gaskin offers up her wealth of information from a lifetime of experience birthing babies on a San Francisco Commune in the 70s. Her book is a powerful celebration of natural birth and reinforces the often undermined innate ability of women to birth their babies.
Written in two distinct halves, the first half part memoir and a collection of positive birth stories. At once cringey and mind blowing, Gaskin explores a plethora of birthing eventualities and the tactics she used as a midwife to address them. The second half is largely an explicit manual for midwives but contains useful medical information for the control freaks among us. Essential reading for anyone who wants a natural or home birth. Buy Spiritual Midwifery at Amazon
Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage – Rachel Reed
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover! Despite appearances this book is a fiercely modern guide for the modern mother. Claiming to weave ancient wisdom with modern knowledge, author of this book, Rachel Reed delves into the history of childbirth. She reminds us that throughout Herstory ,childbirth was a ritual exclusively upheld and managed by women. She reveals how the patriarchy has sought to overrule this and how we have ended up in a society that accepts without question the medicalisation of birth.
There are lessons in this book for every woman pregnant or not. Consider yourself a feminist? Prepare to have your feminist compass unhinged. The thinking around reclaiming our female rites of passage – menstruation , childbirth and menopause is bold, refreshing and confronting. Her explanation of cyclical living is also a revelation. A great book of unprecedented value for women at all stages of life. Buy Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage at Amazon
Real Food for Pregnancy – Lily Nichols
As it turns out a lot of the conventional dietary information out there for a healthy pregnancy is outdated. Lily Nichols challenges the recommendations in place by referring to traditional cultures and their approach to nourishing a growing baby and repleting the postpartum mother. To summarise everything your granny told you was correct – full fat dairy products, animal fats, cooking with butter and salts are not only beneficial but crucial to the ante natal diet.
This book is quite an overwhelming read and is brimming with essential information. Nichols covers a lot of ground, exploring the true extent of nutrients needed for baby’s growth and baby’s development. There is practical information on how to avoid and manage Gestational diabetes, exercise, everyday toxins to avoid and helpful ways to manage adverse pregnancy symptoms and morning sickness. There is also a dedicated chapter to the fourth trimester and a wide selection of recipes.
Although there is some overlap with Oster’s Expecting Better, the tone of this book is distinctly different. Nichols makes no attempt to sugar coat the potential outcomes of a deficient pregnancy diet. If you were hoping your prenatal vitamin had you covered this book could potentially throw you into a panic. Much more than a nutrition guide, this book is a great resource and vital read at any stage of pregnancy. Buy Real Food for Pregnancy at Amazon
Origins: How the nine months before birth shape our lives – Annie Murphy Paul
When I was pregnant with my firstborn my husband would insist on playing traditional highland music, bagpipes and the like, to my bump. A loyal patriot, he was desperate for our London unborn child to feel connected to its Scottish heritage and was convinced that this could be started in utero. Sounds like madness but what he was referencing was actually an emerging field of research known as ‘Foetal Origins’.
This new science seeks to discover how much influence we as expectant parents have on our child’s future health, happiness, temperament and potential in the months before birth. Annie Paul’s Origins is a fascinating read uncovering this age old debate of nurture over nature, combining new diverse scientific research with her own personal experience of motherhood. Non preachy and easy to read, I devoured this book in all of two hours. Mind blowing. Buy Origins: How the nine months before birth shape our lives at Amazon.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – Ina May Gaskin
Another Ina may classic. Needless to say if you liked Spiritual Midwifery you will appreciate this second manifesto by natural birth crusader Ina May Gaskin. I’m often asked how the two books differ. I would suggest this book is aimed slightly more towards the birthing mother whereas Spiritual Midwifery talks more generally to everyone in the business of birth keeping. Drawing on her years of experience, I love Ina’s message that we needn’t be fearful of natural birth, that it can be joyous, euphoric and even orgasmic!
Expect more uplifting birth stories from the hippie commune, photos of bearded dads tweaking their partners nipples and further damnation of modern medical intervention. If you are already sold on natural childbirth and mindful birthing this practical guide will put fire in your belly and prepare you for success. Buy Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth at Amazon
Give Birth Like a Feminist – Milli Hill
If there is just one book you choose to read during your Pregnancy let it be Milli Hill’s outstanding ‘Give Birth Like a Feminist’. Yes the title feels like click bait, but the book is transformative…I finished this book and immediately started to reread with a highlighter in hand.
Both compelling and convincing Hill makes the case for why Childbirth is a feminist issue. Her writing is sensitive and non judgemental – this is not a book that champions one type of birth over another and seeks to further polarise women. Moreover Hill celebrates births of all kind on the premise that women are informed, fully consensual and respected. She examines how as a society we have come to normalise birth as fearful and traumatic denying women the right to what should be a triumphant and empowering rite of passage. Hill delves into the commonplace medical interventions that are skewing our perception of what birth looks like and undermining women’s confidence in their own abilities to give birth unaided.
Shocking, depressing and galvanising all at once this book feels like armour. Read, reread, learn to take control of your birth experience, have confidence in your own choices and ultimately be the boss in the birth room. Buy Give Birth Like A Feminist at Amazon
What No-One tells you – Alexandra Sacks, MD and Catherine Birndorf, MD
An important book which, unlike any other book on this list, deals exclusively with how we feel from the start of pregnancy through to the birth of your child and the first year motherhood. Doctors and pregnancy experts Alexandra Sacks and Catherine Berndorf deconstruct the unrealistic expectations of women entering motherhood. They criticise the rose tinted narrative promoted by society and more recently social media as being only half the story and therefore a danger to women’s mental health.
In this comprehensive guide, they reveal how motherhood is in fact bittersweet and offer reassurance to new parents with feelings and questions that they may be ashamed to voice. The authors advise on so many topics within Matrescence (the physical, emotional and social transition to becoming a mother). How to break your pregnancy to an infertile friend, not feeling an immediate bond with your new baby and how to deal with unsolicited advice are just a few scenarios that are unpacked candidly with compassion and practical advice.
There is also detailed information on the postpartum experience – what the triggers are for declining mental health, what to look out for and when to get help. A very thorough, accessible and reassuring read – a particularly excellent resource for first-time mums. Buy What No-One Tells You at Amazon