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Best Pregnancy Books

The Best Pregnancy Guidebooks

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Love your column, kids, etc – and congrats on the newest addition!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesSo, yesterday two sticks revealed a plus sign. After only a few months of trying, it looks like we’re pregnant and maybe six weeks in? Maybe five? If at all? Doctor’s appointment forthcoming.

I alternate between excited and well, damn terrified. OMG I have to get through pregnancy, labor and finally there is going to be a BABY. For the rest of my life. Yay! But a little bit WTF as well. It will be okay, right?

So, my question is about pregnancy resources, specifically books. That I can read in bed (lying on my back? Not lying on my back? Gah!) I went to look up the standby “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” but then read some reviews that said it contained a lot of fearful information and wasn’t that helpful. But then I went to look up pregnancy books and…. mind overload. There are so many! Are they all the same? Are some terrible? Some amazing? Am I jumping the gun too early? Should I go to the doctor first and not jinx it by getting a book? (Will of course go to the doctor asap.) I’ve been reading the zero to forty column, but would love a handy reference or two I can keep by the side of the bed. And maybe one for hubby too? Any suggestions from you and your readers would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
Pregnant Canuck

I’m hesitant to approach this question as anything other than a straight-up crowdsourcing exercise, because the last time I read a pregnancy book — like really, really read one for my own enrichment and education — was during my first pregnancy, over five years ago. And I’m guessing that’s not THAT uncommon, but still: over five years ago. New pregnancy books hit the market every five minutes, and older versions release new-and-improved editions constantly, so the book I read back then might not really resemble the current edition on the shelf today.

I did, however, page through a LOT of pregnancy books while writing Zero to Forty. A LOT. Several giant boxes worth. Basically imagine typing “pregnancy book” into Amazon and then having almost everything in the search results show up at your house. That’s what my office looked like, for awhile. Some of them were pretty good. Some of them were annoying. Or incomplete, or overly-clinical, or gimmicky, or alarmist, or just plain dumb. But I imagine there’s a devoted audience for most of these titles, because everybody wants something different from their pregnancy guide.

PERSONALLY, I liked anything written in the handy week-by-week format, and not just while researching for my own week-by-week pregnancy calendar. Sticking to a single chapter each week saved me from that crazy overwhelmed feeling you get after reading some other books cover-to-cover and are left with a terrible sense of JUST HOW MANY THINGS CAN GO WRONG and JUST HOW MANY THINGS YOU NEED TO REMEMBER. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is usually held up as the prime example of this, and indeed, the copy I bought back in 2004 (when I thought I was pregnant but wasn’t, so…yeah, wait until you see a doctor, okay?) scared the crap out of me. A symptom could be completely normal…except in one case out of every several thousand where it totally wasn’t! That book — along with many others — tended to rule a little too closely on the side of ABSOLUTE CAUTION, with dangers of foods/ingredients being drastically overstated. (While other books laid out a more balanced view, but then still ended with “but check with your doctor” cover-your-ass backtracking.)

I have heard, however, that the newer editions of WTEWYE have dialed back on many of the things women complained about. In the interest of being “thorough and comprehensive,” the book had unintentionally evolved, edition by later edition, into an encyclopedia of rare worst-case scenarios and ridiculous diet expectations that drowned out the fact that it really did contain a TON of good, useful information. I have not personally read the later updates, but I know that the publishers and authors really did make a solid effort to bring the book back to what it was originally intended to be. (Amazon reviewers might be referencing older versions, they might not. Anybody read this book recently and care to give an opinion?)

My two personal favorites during my own pregnancy were Your Pregnancy Week by Week and the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I found them both to be close to my ideal nightstand book — easy to read and quick to get to the point. If neither of these books covered a topic, chances are 1) it really wasn’t that important, and 2) I could find it on the Internet anyway.

Speaking of the Internet — during Zero to Forty I probably referenced BabyCenter’s pregnancy guide more than any other title, but have a hard time recommending that anyone go out and buy that behemoth book, because it’s all available for free at the website. Seriously. All of it. The most useful chapters are the week-by-week guide (which you can sign up for in email newsletter form) and the “Is It Safe?” sections — which are also available online, where they are kept up-to-date and probably even more comprehensive.

I tried to get my husband to read a bunch of the father-to-be titles, but in the end he preferred The Mayo Clinic Guide as well, and occasionally I just read aloud to him from that week’s chapter to keep him informed of the baby’s development. It’s just how his brain is wired. He likes instruction manuals and checklists, not novels. He protested that he didn’t NEED a book to teach him how to not be an insensitive jackass, he needed 1) me to talk to him about how I was feeling, and 2) a couple chapters on labor and childbirth. Then he too, preferred to supplement his knowledge with the Internet, where he Googled “husband labor coaching” and packed his own little bag for the hospital, including a tennis ball to rub my back with. Your Husband May Vary, but just…don’t go all Katherine Heigl on him if he isn’t all that interested in The Expectant Father or something.

As for all the “down-to-earth” and “funny” titles out there, well. They’re fun, I guess. I read The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy after everybody I know raved about it, but found it pretty outdated compared to the hilarious pregnancy blogs I was following at the time. (Her advice for maternity clothes involved borrowing your husband’s button-down shirts and wearing them with stirrup pants. STIRRUP PANTS!) Pregnancy Sucks is another popular one that I thought was just all right (admittedly I had issues with it stemming with how much I’d struggled to get pregnant in the first place), and Jenny McCarthy’s terribly misinformed anti-vaccination crusade means her Belly Laughs book is more than dead to me.

So before the comment section floods in with a zillion contradicting recommendations and this whole thing becomes about as useful as Amazon: AFTER you see the doctor, buy one general reference book by a reputable medical establishment (Mayo Clinic, Children’s Hospital, etc.), then one more “condensed” week-by-week book that seems to jibe with your general view of pregnancy (a focus on diet or on being “natural”? the opposite of that? something with a good fat index of symptoms? lots of pictures?) or just sign up for a weekly newsletter online. Add any other titles that look interesting, like cookbooks or exercise routines or humorous titles, to an online wish list until you can get to a bookstore to look at them in person to see if they’re worth the money. (And of course, keep reading Zero to Forty!) (Oh, and if you know of a maternity/kids’ clothing consignment store in your area? They often have a small selection of used pregnancy guides for sale, and usually always have the “big” popular titles.)

The fact is, while yes, there are 4,500 different pregnancy books out there, they are mostly ALL PRETTY MUCH THE SAME INFORMATION, just laid out and presented in 4,500 different ways.

********


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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Hannah
Guest

Because OP is Canadian, I’d like to recommend Ann Douglas’ “The Mother of all Pregnancy Books” – because it’s written for Canadian mothers. An awful lot of the books on the market are written by Americans for Americans, and our health care & maternity benefits systems are so completely different that I found a lot of the practical stuff I needed to know just wasn’t available in most of the well-known pregnancy book titles. It’s also well-written, very comprehensive without being scary, and has a clear index that makes it easy to find things when pregnancy brain has you in… Read more »

Bridget
Guest

We also like “pregnancy week by week” and “Expectant Father”. But for real practical use, I strongly recommend getting “Baby Bargains” for a solid guide on the best products out there and “Baby 411” for after the baby’s born. Good Luck with your pregnancy!

suzanne
Guest
suzanne

Baby 411 rocks. You should also check out Expecting 411, by the same authors. Same style. Same level of info. Really great book.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

I think you should get a book that focuses on childbirth and labor. I really love Erica Lyon. She wrote “The Big Book of Birth”:

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book-Birth-Erica-Lyon/dp/0452287685/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294421812&sr=8-1

Christine
Guest
Christine

I have about…. 15 pregnancy books sitting here in my office and in various rooms around my house.  Everyone I know gave me one when we announced we were expecting (due in 12 days), even though I’m a MD and learned a bunch of this stuff in med school.  And THEN I went to my first OB appointment and they gave me yet another book! My favorite books: http://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Pregnant-Woman-Happy/dp/0811841049  How to make a pregnant woman happy:  Mostly geared toward your partner, it addresses little issues that come up and that tend to make us grumpy pregnant ladies (like morning sickness,… Read more »

Jeannie
Guest
Jeannie

I was also going to recommend Ann Douglas but I see someone beat me to it! Helpful for Canadians. She also has a few other titles for babies if you like that one.

Sara M
Guest
Sara M

Second the baby bargains book. It was very helpful in figuring out we should get and what could wait. For each of my pregnancies, I got the most updated version of this book.

Heather
Guest
Heather

I would suggest checking out your local library first before buying anything. I checekd out several books for both me and the hubby and then only bought the one or two that we really liked/would actually use. Babycenter dot com is pretty awesome too!

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Go to the library. I checked out half a dozen books and thumbed thru them and then kept two to read thru. One of them was Your Pregnancy Week by Week and the other was something for overweight mothers (because I am).

After you sample a few books, then you can buy one without worrying you’ll waste money.

Lora
Guest
Lora

The only book my husband read was “My Boys Can Swim! The Official Guys Guide to Pregnancy.” Nice and short, funny pictures and advice.

robin
Guest
robin

Though neither of these are pregnancy books per-say, I couldn’t live with out Baby Bargains and I found Childproofing Your Marriage to be really helpful in terms of mentally preparing for the transition from life as a two-some to life as a three-some. I have often gone back to both books this first year of mommy-hood.

Megan
Guest
Megan

I bought a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting after finding out I was pregnant 2 1/2 years ago or so, and later discovered that it was, in fact, the new revised one. I didn’t read all the negative comments about the older versions until after I bought it, and I haven’t read any of those either so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I liked this book. I didn’t find it scary or overly comprehensive in the freak-you-out-over-something-extremely-rare department. I found it to be very comprehensive, and arranged in a format I liked (week… Read more »

Jay
Guest
Jay

As soon as I told one or two close friends that I was pregnant, they sent me all the books they had used. And then I found out I was having twins, which entailed a whole new set of books. (Regular pregnancy books on twins = typically 2-3 pages of “there’s lots more risks! good luck with that!”) In other words, don’t spend a lot of money on books because you’ll get a lot for free from friends, and you may end up needing a whole different type of library.
Congratulations, btw!

EW
Guest
EW

My husband didn’t really get interested in the dad’s pregnancy books, but loved some of the early dad books.  His favorite was Be Prepared: a practical handbook for new dads.  That does have a little on labor and a fair bit on postpartum.  

The Maiden Metallurgist
Guest

To be honest, I lstill ike Zero to Forty best. I read the whohle thing when I first found out I was pg, and the first thing I do every Friday morning (the start of a new wekk for me) is read that week again. I also signed up for one of those weekly pregnancy updates they email to you (any baby website has them), any follow up questions could easily be googled (but be careful with that). Of course I ran out and bought WTEWYE as soon as I got a BFP, but I haven’t cracked it in ages-… Read more »

Sara
Guest
Sara

By far my favorite pregnancy book was From the Hips (http://www.amazon.com/Hips-Comprehensive-Open-Minded-Uncensored-Pregnancy/dp/0307237087/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294430738&sr=8-1). It has lots of quotes from moms that really illustrated for me the huge range of “normal” that exists.

And I second (third?) the recommendation to get your pregnancy books at the library first – a lot of what I bought I probably would not have ended up getting had I looked them over more closely at first.

Becky
Guest
Becky

From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris – it’s informative and presents lots of options and ideas from fair points of view, but is also funny and honest. Very down to earth, I felt like it was written by a girlfriend I trust, rather than someone that was trying to just scare the shizz out of me 🙂

Ms. K
Guest
Ms. K

I highly recommend Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, with the caveats:

1. You have to be into the idea of (or at least curious about) natural birth, and 
2. You need a reasonable tolerance for 1970s photography and hippie nomenclature.

That said, it’s a really lovely book with some great birth stories. The 4th edition is a little more diverse, with fewer hippie-stories and some from the local Amish community, etc. The second half of the book has advice for midwives, pregnant women and obstetricians. I found it generally reassuring and down to earth.

laura
Guest
laura

yay for Belly Laughs being dead to you! and yay for your reason! I love your posts, keep up the great work 🙂

maresi
Guest

I read pretty much every published pregnancy book in the English language during my two pregnancies. The only 2 I would recommend are Your Best Birth and Your Pregnancy Week By Week.

JCF
Guest
JCF

I know this isn’t exactly what you were asking, but I really like “The Big Book of Birth” by Erica Lyon, and “Pushed” by Jennifer Block. I recommend reading both early in pregnancy, because they both have a LOT of information to digest, and I think that developing a healthy attitude toward labor and birth in general takes much longer than just the last trimester, which is when a lot of people really start preparing for birth. They’re both extremely informative, interesting, and easy reads.

Congratulations!!!

MommaFergie
Guest
MommaFergie

I recently read the newest version of WTEWYE and thought it was very informative and it didn’t scare me in the least. I’m guessing a lot of the scare has been removed from the most current version. I liked the week by week layout and the sections were nicely laid out. However, most of the information in the book could be found online just as easily as typing “__ weeks pregnant”. Still sometimes it’s nice to have something to read before bed.

Lindsay
Guest

I also enjoyed the BABYCENTER book – but the CANADIAN version

(thanks for letting me know about Ann Douglas)

Emily
Guest
Emily
Jennifer
Guest

My library I couldn’t live without:
Your Pregnancy Week by Week
Birthing from Within
The Nursing Mothers Companion

I considered it my ‘Before, During and After’ birth library. Incredibly helpful, although I chose to skip the sections that scared me. Despite authors’ desire to write every little iota of information about genetic disorders and scary pregnancy conditions, no one says we have to read those parts!

Congrats & happy reading!

cagey
Guest

I used Pregnancy Week by Week for both of my pregnancies. LOVE. It was very informative and didn’t miss a beat on all the bad things and good things that can happen during a pregnancy. What made this book awesome is that it was upfront about the bad things, but nearly always followed up quickly with a “this doesn’t occur normallyl” or “this doesn’t usually happen” or “this probably won’t happen”. I felt reassured having the information and knowing what to look for, but also knowing that in all likelihood that it would not happen to me. Pregnancy is SO… Read more »

Kate F
Guest
Kate F

An easier place to start w Ina May Gaskin is “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It starts with fantastic chapters explaining what happens during birth, and the second half is wonderful birth stories. If you get really into natural birth or don’t mind the hippie stuff, you can move on to “Spiritual Midwifery” from there.

I hated From the Hips and liked the Mayo guide. Zero to Forty was my favorite! I also read a lot of midwife memoirs (I got kind of obsessed); most were interesting but badly written, but “Babycatcher” by Peggy Vincent is terrific.

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

And, for those expecting multiples — I think this is the definitive book (1000% better than the dozen+ other twins books I read)

When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads 3rd Edition: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy by Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein

An absolute must-read!

Emoly
Guest

For pregnancy, I think the weekly emails and Zero to Forty are all you need.  Labor is much more important to read about–and no need to wait to start on that.  I recommend starting with Your Best Birth and then reading Ina Mae’s Guide to Childbirth.  To learn about breastfeeding,  www.kellymom.com is an excellent resource which is evidence based and moderated by Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants.  

Astrid
Guest

I’ll third or fourth “From the Hips.” I’ve also really liked everything I’ve read from Penny Simkin and Sheila Kitzinger. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and it was super informative, especially since I’m interested in midwifery and natural childbirth, but some of it was way out there.

Of course, take everything I say with a grain of salt because I’m only 13 weeks pregnant, so something may yet come up that makes me question everything I’ve said here.

Eamon's Mom
Guest

Here’s how I got my husband to read the pregnancy books: I convinced him that while the unborn baby heard my voice every day, he should read aloud to the baby sometimes at night so the baby would hear his voice uninterrupted. I gave him a copy of a pregnancy book (we went back and forth between Your Pregnany Week-by-Week and the Mayo Guide), and I told him it was his job to read it aloud and EDIT OUT THE SCARY BITS. That way, he learned, the baby heard his voice more, and I didn’t hear any of the scary… Read more »

cassie
Guest
cassie

I can’t really add anything new to the conversations but… – yes,definitely try books at the library first and then buy if you think it’s going to be a keeper. So many we thought would be good turned out to be crap. – I could not get enough of Amalah’s Zero to Forty because it had the facts AND the humor AND the reality or real life omg! (which is missing in some books, I’ve found. We cannot all be perfect, calm, organized, paranoid-free earth mothers. We can’t.) – I… actually liked WTEWYE? No clue if I had an early,… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

My first pregnancy I went a little overboard with books.
I can recommend:
Your pregnancy week by week
Ask a Midwife
And I think most importantly
What to expect the first year. Even if you don’t get past the newborn section, you should know at least that much right?
Also please if you plan on breast feeding, read up on it. I find most breast feeding books similar, and can’t recommend any specific titles, but it doesn’t always come so naturally, and its nice to have a reference if you aren’t sure about something.Happy reading!

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

I enjoyed reading “The Working Woman’s Pregnancy” for practical issues about working while pregnant and returning to work postpartum; written by an excellent OB/GYN, Marjorie Greenfield, MD. But I cannot say enough good things about “The Birth Partner” by Penny Simkin in preparing me and my partner for labor. It presents many non-medicated labor options but allows for a range of choice depending on the woman — and without shaming those interested in more medicated options for labor. My partner read the chapters about supporting me during labor and he was phenomenal.

Laura B.
Guest
Laura B.

I second the Mayo Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I was in much the same frantic overwhelmed state as Pregnant Canuck (I’m Canadian, too!) so I dispatched my over-analytical friend to Chapters to do the research for me, and she came up with the Mayo Guide. It was easy to read and navigate and I referenced it for months after my baby was born.

I laughed out loud at The Girlfriend’s Guide, so if you can find it at the library or in a second-hand shop, go for it.

kris
Guest
kris

My husband LOVES Dad’s Pregnant Too – and I’m finding the Mayo Clinic book endlessly useful without being tedious.

Julie
Guest
Julie

I definitely agree with all the recommendations to check out a bunch of books from the library, and then only buy the one or two that you would find useful to have on the shelf as a refrence. I had WTEWYE as my reference book – it was the new edition (the one that was new in 2008/2009 at any rate, since that’s when I had my kid – if there’s a newer one since then I haven;’t seen it.) I liked it – it was pretty comprehensive. It did go into a bit too much detail/worst case/rare scenario stuff… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

If you want books about labour and delivery and are at all interested in low intervention childbirth, I second and third the recommendations for the Ina May books, “Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth,” and “Birthing from Within”. And give yourself some time to change your priorities and reading material – 9 mos is a long time:) I liked the Mayo Clinic guide at first when I was mostly interested in whether the baby had grown any new parts that week and whether my (totally innocuous) symptoms were cause for concern. Later I started to think about baby exit… Read more »

Heather Ben
Guest
Heather Ben

I read mayo book (insurance actually gave it to me) and liked it. Also read WTEWE, about three years ago whatever newest Ed that is. While I didn’t feel a sense of the “everything bad that can happen” every symptom that required ” call your doc the next day, don’t wait, etc” was meet by a answer of “totally normal” by my doc. Now, could be my doc is just really laid back but I get the feeling the books err on the side CYA a bit more. Someone gave me a copy of girlfriends guide – don’t bother unless… Read more »

Heather Ben
Guest
Heather Ben

Just skimming the comments and the breast book is nursing mothers companion.

I was also referring to an old version of the la leche book, but pretty sure their attitude hasn’t changed.

Ms. K
Guest
Ms. K

@Heather Ben
Actually, La Leche League’s newest book tones the rhetoric Way Down. A good choice on everyone’s behalf. I recommend it (just took it out of the library.)

Liz
Guest
Liz

There are so many books! I went a little overboard, being a reader, so I have a large library of books now. I never really found a pregnancy book I liked and usually referenced reliable websites. But for my husband, he loved Dad’s Pregnant Too, which he read cover to cover in just a few days. This motivated him to read The Birth Partner (by Simkin), which had a huge influence on his general level of interest in the pregnancy (from casual observer to full-time participant) and turned him into the best birth partner I could have asked for. My… Read more »

Mad Merlot Mama
Guest

I bought ONE book, written by the American OB/GYN Society…Figuring they MUST know what they’re talking about. Yeah, also read like a, “Feel a headache? Get to your doctor NOW, you could be DYING.”

So, um, yeah. Pretty much stuck to 0-40, Babycenter, and the rest I Googled. For me, the pregnancy/labor/kid business was expensive enough so if I could get the information for free…Well…Made sense for me

liz
Guest
liz

My hubby and I enjoyed reading the Mayo book together and get this – We received a copy FREE! along with two other books on childhood development from a “healthy pregnancy” program through my employer.  Check your insurance plan and/or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for similar programs.

My personal pick for “fun read”  is Sleep is for the weak, balance is a crock:  An indispensable guide to surviving working motherhood by Amy Eschliman and Leigh Oshirak

Don’t be scared off by the title – these ladies are hilarious, honest, and current, plus at $6 it’s a steal of a deal.  
see: http://www.amazon.com/Balance-Crock-Sleep-Weak-Indispensable/dp/1583333703

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

I have read hardly any books. A friend gave me a new version of WTEWYE and I’ve referenced it a few times. I also read Zero to Forty from Amalah, which is really my favorite source of info. I found the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy extremely irritating and couldn’t get very far into at all. My doctor’s office gives me good handouts and I ask questions when I need to know things, but I wouldn’t bother investing in too many books.

KG
Guest
KG

If you’re pregnant with multiples, a must read is Dr Barbara Luke’s book, “When you’re expecting twins, triplets, or quads”

http://www.drbarbaraluke.com/books/Expecting.aspx

Invaluable advice, particularly regarding diet.

Caitlyn
Guest

I don’t think anyone has mentioned The Pregnancy Journal by A. Christine Harris: http://www.amazon.com/Pregnancy-Journal-Day—Day-Healthy/dp/081186989X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1295890328&sr=8-2 I LOVED this book.  The journal part was pretty meh, but she goes through and tells you what your baby is up to each day – today were the first brain waves!  The face muscles already make it look like you!  it has TOES!!!  SO perfect, especially for the first few months when it seemed like nothing much was happening.  Towards the end it mostly keeps saying that the baby is putting on weight, but by that point she was kicking and it wasn’t a big… Read more »

Michelle B.
Guest
Michelle B.

I had one person give me this book and another who was going to get it for me, but I already got it from the first person called Baby 411. I haven’t finished it yet but it seems to have some good info.