As a Doula, one of the questions I get most asked frequently is "what books do you recommend I or my significant other read to prepare for labor?" I love this question, because it was one of the first ones I asked when pregnant with my first and quickly learned that there are thousands of books to select from and it can be so overwhelming to narrow it down to which might be the best or most beneficial. Now sometimes this list of recommendations changes based off of a clients birth history, birth wishes, and so forth, but there are a few that I think are good for any pregnant individual to read. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more confident you can be when making decisions for you and your baby(ies) during pregnancy, labor, and beyond.
Childbirth Without Fear (Dr. Grantly Dick-Read) - Birth is natural. And while most of us today focus on the physical preparation, we neglect the mental aspect of birth that is just as important. This book is an older resources (with multiple editions) but it is an excellent book that looks at the root cause of western woman's fear and anxiety in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Babies Are Not Pizzas: They're Born, Not Delivered (Dr. Rebecca Dekker) - Just published last in 2019, this book recounts Dekker's introduction into pregnancy, institutional care, and how things needed to change. Babies Are Not Pizza's details her journey to realizing that there is a lack of evidence based medical policies and procedures specifically surrounding pregnancy and birth in U.S. hospitals. A great read with the goal of improving maternal outcomes, and helping more families demand evidence based care.
The Birth Partner (Penny Simkin) - Now in it's 5th edition, this is a great book geared towards the support partner who wants to be helpful and hands-on during your labor and birth. It covers a span of topics from preparing for labor and knowing when its started, the stages of labor, epidurals & medications, natural techniques for reducing labor pain, doula support and the birth team, and much more!
Natural Hospital Birth (Cynthia Gabriel) - I always recommend this book for clients who have a desire for a low-intervention/natural birth that will be delivering in a hospital setting. Gabriel stressed and encourages different methods on how to increase the likelihood of achieving natural birth (i.e. allowing labor to begin on its own, staying home until labor is well established, asking for another hour when interventions are suggested, changing positions throughout labor, and pushing instinctively, etc.) This book can be a great confidence booster for a pregnant individual and help with the mental preparation needed for a natural birth.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (Le Leche League International) - Look for the 8th edition of this wonderful book! It covers a variety of topics from building your breastfeeding support system, stages of breastfeeding, health & benefits, nursing after C-sections, breastfeeding multiples, preemies and lots more!
The Fourth Trimester (Kimberly Ann Johnson) - Plan for postpartum just like you plan for your birth... it's so important and I can not stress that enough. This guide offers practical advice to support women through postpartum healing on the physical, emotional, relational level and provides women with a roadmap to this very important transition that can last from a few months to a few years. Topics vary from preparing your body for birth, how to prepare your household, healing after birth, sex, exercising safely postpartum, postpartum emotions and much, much more.
Being pregnant is a pretty awesome and sometimes nerve-wrecking things. It's filled with appointments, advice (solicited and unsolicited) and a vast amount of resources that can be so overwhelming that we shut down and choose "ignorance is bliss". But the more information you have, the better you are equipped to make decisions when it comes to your care, your birth and the care of your child(ren). There's never enough time to read it all, but the books list above will definitely give you and your partner a solid foundation and boost to birth confidently. Good luck and happy birthing!!
Have questions? Other books that you'd recommend (I'm always open to new resources)? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carrie Stephens is a Certified DONA Birth & Postpartum Doula serving the Grand Rapids and West Michigan area. She is the proud mom to three strong-willed kiddos (Malone, and twins - Beau & Jocie). She is an advocate for maternal mental health, evidence-based birth, and supporting individuals and their families during pregnancy, postpartum and to be confident and educated in birthing & parenting THEIR way.