Pregnancy Reading Material: Top Resources to Prepare for Pregnancy and Childbirth

I have a weird tendency to not do anything to prep for baby during pregnancy until 20 weeks. With Eli I think it was because I was sorta in denial about actually becoming a mom, and with this one, I think it's because it's just been so busy and well, second pregnancies are just more laid back. Now that we've had our ultrasound and have found out the gender (Sorry to keep you in suspense, I'll tell you all Monday!), it's like a light switch has flipped and I'm in full-on nesting mode. Nursery design, Eli's big boy room and actually focusing on prepping for this childbirth.

I recently pulled out my pregnancy and childbirthing books and finally put them on my nightstand in hopes that I'd have some motivation to peruse them when I have time. I didn't read a ton in preparing for Eli, but what I did read was fairly helpful, and I thought I'd share my recommendations here. 

Ina May's Guide To Childbirth - Okay, so this book is crazy crunchy. I don't necessarily identify myself as an "all natural momma," but I found this book incredibly helpful and dare I say it, "empowering." I walked away feeling like, "I AM WARRIOR WOMMAN. COME ON OUT BABY - HAVING YOU IS GOING TO BE EASY AS PIE." Ina May Gaskin is known as the mother of the Midwifery movement, and she'll have you feeling like your baby will just slide right out after a gentle sneeze if you just stay relaxed enough to keep those sphincters open. While we all know that's not the case (even Ina May would say that) the second half of her book provided great tips for preparing for labor and more than anything I read, helped me feel confident going into childbirth. 

One disclaimer: You'll notice I mentioned only the second half. The first half of the book is all birth stories and some very, very graphic photos that I still can't get out of my head a year and a half later. She talks about something called an "orgasmic birth" and suggests that women, in the right mindset, can have an orgasm at birth (can't believe I just typed that on the great www). Well, I don't care how powerful a birthing-warrior woman you are, you'd have to be on something to think you had an orgasm while pushing a semi out between your legs. An all-natural childbirth is painful. It's part of the curse. Epidurals are God's grace - orgasmic births are not. 

The Birth Partner - While I took a few flips through this book, it was my husband that actually found it the most helpful. And since it's all about how to support, sympathize and assist a laboring woman, I was all like, "You read that as much as you want Mike. Isn't it so good? Are you learning so much? Don't you understand me so much better? Don't you feel bad for what I have to go through?"  At first, Mike wasn't super interested in learning a lot about labor and delivery, but as we took some classes together, he got more interested, and they recommended this book for further reading. He gobbled it up, and pretty soon he knew more about the stages of labor, birthing positions and relaxation techniques than I did. It was great for getting him involved, especially because it's written specifically for partners (dads) in birth. 
What To Expect When You're Expecting - So people either love or hate this book. I've heard people on both sides, and all I have to say is, like with anything you read when it comes to pregnancy, labor, delivery and raising children, take it with a grain of salt. Just because the book says if you get a bloody nose during pregnancy it might be a sign of death - it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to die. Okay, so that was an extreme, non-existent example, but you get the idea. What To Expect When You're Expecting provides great weekly updates as well as a month-by-month synopsis of what's happening to you. I personally found it incredibly interesting - and it confirmed or explained a lot of what I was going through physically. The chronic stuffy nose? Reduced vision? Crazy pain on the sides of my abdomen? All these things I felt I was dreaming up or imagining, were confirmed by the book as something that could happen in pregnancy and for me, I found it very reassuring that I wasn't going crazy and it was normal. If you read this book, you just have to be able to separate what could happen vs. what is, and know to use logic and reason or you'll likely worry yourself to death.

Baby Center Pregnancy Email Updates - These have been a life saver in the second pregnancy. I can never remember how many weeks I am, so getting my Monday email with the week count has helped keep me on track and not sound like a totally checked-out mom-to-be. Much like the What To Expect When You're Expecting book, the emails list all the possible things that could be happening, so don't read too much into them, like assuming you need to begin incessantly drooling all the time to have a healthy pregnancy. Maybe you'll drool, maybe you won't. Hopefully you won't, right? Plus, these are the emails that provide the fruit comparison everyone talks about so you'll be able to join right in. And bonus, they're great for husbands, I know Mike liked reading these since they're short and sweet.  

Childbirth Collective Parent Topic Nights - And while this isn't necessarily "reading material," more than any book, I found these classes the best thing I (and Mike) did in preparation for labor and delivery. If you're local here in the Twin Cities, I definitely recommend these classes. Most childbirthing classes are around $300, but these classes are 100 percent FREE, so save your mulah and go get your new baby that stroller you've been wanting instead. The classes are led by a group of doulas, so they'd be coming from a more medical/intervention free aka "granola" perspective, but I do believe they provide a very fair and balanced viewpoint on your options, and they don't look down on anyone who chooses elective interventions. 

Okay, that's my list! Any you all would add? 


  1. Oooh, I haven't really read much at all because I think I've secretly felt if I started reading baby books I would jinx this pregnancy (crazy, I know). And I haven't really even thought about buying anything yet, either. But I did download What to Expect on the Kindle (it's a free rental on Kindle!) and really liked it. It didn't make me more fearful something was wrong, but like you said it helped to confirm that things I was experiencing were normal and healthy. And thanks for the free baby class tip. We'll have to check that out!

  2. Yes. Please, please, please, look into Hypnobabies. I was completely afraid of giving birth at the beginning of my first pregnancy, yet I was dead set on having a natural birth. So I was desperate for coping mechanisms. I'm a very practical, realist person, so hypnosis sounded totally wackadoo to me. But I was desperate. And now I am it's biggest champion. I suggest every pregnant woman look into it. Especially you, since your first birth was traumatic.

    Hypnobabies is different from Hypnobirthing. Hypnobabies is an at-home study course with a set of CDs that you listen to and it's accompanied by a booklet about hypnosis and healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

    Regardless of how the actual birth turns out, Hypnobabies makes the pregnancy so much more enjoyable! You need to practice and listen to a track every day (different ones depending on where you're at) and that became my relaxation time. I listened to them before bed and I slept soooo soundly. I can count on one hand the number of times I stayed awake for a whole track and yet the program was very effective for me when birthing time came.

    You really have nothing to lose by doing Hypnobabies. There are no adverse effects. Since I'm such a skeptic, my birth wasn't completely pain-free, but it was completely manageable, peaceful and relaxed. I never felt like I had a semi truck coming out between my legs, even though my son was 9 pounds. I remember my doctor instructing me to hold the push after the contraction was over and I thought, "What's the rush?" I had no idea I had been pushing for nearly an hour and a half. (He was big!) It really did not feel that long. And since the hypno track was playing on the speakers in the room, everyone was chilled out and calm. My doctor was pregnant at the time and when I went to see her later, after she had given birth, she said she wished she had been as calm as me.

    I know I sound like a spokesperson. I'm not. I'm passionate about it because it made such a difference for me. Please give it a try. It's a way for you to change the way you think about childbirth and address any fears you have about this time around, so that when the time comes you can do it with confidence, peace and no fear. At the very least, you'll get some good nights' sleep out of it. :)

  3. I LOVE Great Expectations! They go week by week instead of month by month and it's been my pregnancy Bible for years. They also have an amazing book for Baby's First Year that's just as good. :)

  4. Thanks for the recommendations! I think we are going to order that Birth Partner book - I've been trying to find a good way to engage my husband. He does the best he can, but I don't think he completely understands everything going on! :)

  5. I agree - I love the week by week action. I'll have to check out the first year book - sounds great!

  6. It's a good one. It's written especially for the "other person" - aka dads. I think he'll like it!

  7. I love this! I love people who are passionate about something and want to share! So thank you! I can't believe how awesome it sounds like a birth you had - I think i was anything but relaxed. I know I started out so, but as things kept going for the worse, I think I really struggled to continue to stay relaxed, you know? You are amazing! We ended up getting a doula, so I'll talk with her about it. I'll definitely look into it - and really, thanks for saying something. I love hearing about what other's do.

  8. That's awesome it's a free rental on Kindle! It's a good one. :) Definitely check out the baby class. Just be sure to wear Patagonia and smart wool and drink tea. :) The first night I came in rocking Uggs and jeggings and a big old malt in my right hand. I felt super out of place. :) But the info is awesome, it's super informative and definitely a non-judgmental place. I'll tell you more about it next time I see you in person. Maybe we can go to a class or two together. I think Mike and i were going to do at least one as a refresher!

  9. I haven't read Ina May's book, but have heard good things. I definitely agree that women, especially those who have natural births are warriors! It's our battle cry! Seriously, once you've had a baby you feel like you can do anything!

  10. So true, I was trying to think of the hardest thing I had ever done the other day and a few things passed through my mind, then suddenly I was like - "I GAVE BIRTH!" Duh!! Hands down hardest (and best) thing I've ever done and after that, I do feel like I can do anything!