My Favorite Pregnancy and Birthing Books

There are relatively few pregnancy and birthing books that actually give me any valuable information that I feel personally complies with my beliefs and interests. However, there are a handful of authors that I return to again and again because I know that I can rely on them for down to earth, practical, and compassionate information that meshes well with the practices I hold. For instance, I prefer authors that encourage natural nutrition, herbal remedies, and most importantly, a less medical view of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. At the end of this post I will also include a list of my most detested least liked books in this category. Ones that over-medicalize, over-stress, and over-do the advice related to their field.
Oh and yes, I've actually read all of these books. I'm sure there are many more great ones that I'm not mentioning, but I've chosen to only cover those books that I've actually read myself.

Best Pregnancy and Birthing Books:

Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Ina May is a world renowned midwife who originated from the Farm community in the 1970s. She provides a natural, alternative view of childbirth. Although hospital birthing is also discussed throughout the book, I find that this excellent source is especially geared towards those considering home or birthing center births. However, her advice and techniques for labouring without much/any medical intervention and without fear are unlike anything else out there and are so incredibly empowering. This book will help you take the birthing process back into your own hands. Above all, she stresses that birth is a natural process and not a medical one. Women have been doing this for millenia!

The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm

I absolutely adore Aviva Jill Romm's books. There are so many great ones but this was the first one that I've read. It's so refreshing to get health advice from a book that covers natural options. Advice and remedies for anything from anemia to hemorrhoids are included in this book and the suggestions Romm makes are extremely valuable to all pregnant women looking for prevention or relief from common pregnancy symptoms. Romm also gives excellent advice on nutrition, maintaining a healthy phychological state, and physical exercise. There is even partner-directed advice that you can slip to your mate!

Wise Woman's Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Renowned herbalist Susun Weed wrote Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year as a more direct herbal advice book than Romm's. Weed focuses more on herbal remedies than on general pregnancy advice. If you are really interested in herbal medicine and natural remedies, this is the source for you. I love this book because it provides so many great alternatives to mainstream medicine and puts the power back into your hands as a woman, to care for and nourish yourself without potentially harmful chemicals and side effects.

Birth Your Way by Sheila Kitzinger
Sheila Kitzinger has written many books on pregnancy and birth. I like Birth Your Way as a great introduction for those who are perhaps questioning the mainstream way of birthing (in a hospital). She presents arguments for different types of births including home birth, and birthing centers. Kitzinger is great at bringing to the fore many topics and debates that are certainly overlooked in traditional pregnancy and birthing books (you know, the ones that assume everyone wants to give birth in a hospital and question nothing). Kitzinger also has a fantastic book on Homebirth.

Labour Pain by Nicky Wesson
This bluntly titles book is actually a fantastic resource for women looking to control their pain in labour naturally. There are so many great suggestions and remedies provided in this book. Many options are available to lesson the pain of labour and Wesson does a great job in providing easily accesible and simple measures to aid in labour pain. She covers aromatherapy, herbals, visualisations, homeopathics, music and more.

One more book I will mention that is less of a pregnancy and birthing book and more of a post-partum book is
Natural Health After Birth by Aviva Jill Romm
I am currently still reading this book, but it is another fantastic resource for natural health. The post-partum period is so ofter overlooked in literature but it is also so very important. Proper post-partum care is very significant in reducing post-partum depression, medical issues, and bonding. Romm thoroughly discusses modern and past practices of the post-partum care within other cultures as well as our own. She argues that not enough is currently done to help women during this time and that the focus is always on the baby, leaving the mother to struggle on her own. Romm also provides herbal remedies and practical natural health advice that is expected of her books. This is an excellent and rare resource that I strongly encourage all pregnant women to read.

Books that I Cannot Stand
I apologize in advance if this offends anyone, but these views are entirely personal. I admit I adamately read some of these books during my first pregnancy and even glanced at them during my second. This time, I really cannot stand to look at them. The advice is so mainstream, force-fed, and over medicalized that I just do not relate to it at all. Here is my short list.
What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
If you feel at all confident, at ease, or peaceful about your pregnancy and health, just read this book to change all that in about 2 seconds flat. You will now worry about so many different medical problems that you apparently cannot do anything about save go on antibiotics or some other medication, or, better yet, do nothing about! The nutrition information is terrible and will make you feel like a bite of ice cream now and again will make you a horrible fetus-poisoning monster who will forever have stretch marks and extra fat. This is the classic fear-mongering pregnancy resource. Please avoid the hype and avoid this book!
The Mother of All Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas
Pretty much the same as above!
The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vickie Iovine
Wow. This one is bad. Iovine is so centered on body image it's crazy. She even goes so far as to discourage exercise! Mainly because you will feel bad that you look fat in your workout clothes! Really!? This book is very negative and dose not discuss any options but instead assumes everyone has a traditional hospital birth and questions nothing (in other words, doesn't think for themselves). Not only that, buy Iovine actually discourages the use of midwives and encourages the use of c-sections and epidurals handed out by request of the mother (with no medical reason)! It isn't too hard to see why this is by far, the worst pregnancy book you could read...ever....!
In short, I feel that it is so very important to educate yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on but make sure to think for yourself and keep an open mind to alternatives. There is nothing worse than following the mainstream out of fear. Trust me. You will run into critics, including family members, but the power and confidence you will get out of taking charge of your own education, health, and mind-body wellness is very much worth the cost.