Ever since I started learning more about birth during my first pregnancy, I have been addicted to reading and learning more. When I was preparing for my Birth Boot Camp training, there was a list of required reading, and I found that I'd already read several of the books! Whenever a friend tells me she's pregnant, the first thing I tell her (after squeals of congratulations!) is to ditch "What to Expect." It's almost a rite of passage to run out and buy that book immediately upon seeing those two lines, but unfortunately it's so full of outdated info and fear tactics that I really believe it's one of the last books a newly pregnant woman should read. So instead, go grab one or all of these books instead!
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn:
The Complete Guide
by Simkin, Bolding, Kepler, Durham, and Whalley
This is the number one book I recommend, and I'd love to see this become the replacement to "What to Expect." Covering all the same topics, but in a straightforward, evidence-based way. If you're looking for just one book to purchase about pregnancy, make this the one!
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
by Henci Goer
While this book is a tad outdated (unfortunately the author has a desire to update it, but her publisher doesn't, and she's bound in a contract with them), it's still the number two book I always recommend. Laid out in a really easy to read & easy to reference way, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth goes through a wide range of common interventions & lists the pros and cons of each one. While finding a truly neutral book on this topic is difficult, and Goer is obviously writing from the standpoint of a natural birth advocate, it is still a wonderful reference for any birthing woman. Don't blindly choose the interventions thrown at you, understand what they are and what their benefits & risks are.
The Healthy Pregnancy Book: Month by Month
Dr. William & Martha Sears
One of my favorite books when I was pregnant was broken down week by week. Sometimes when you're newly pregnant and excited, you'll sit down with a book & want to read the whole thing, but then you feel like maybe you should save some reading for later when those topics are more relevant to you. So while I wish this wasn't done by the month, I still think it's a wonderful book. In fact, I'm a proud owner of a signed copy! I'm a big fan of everything in the Sears Library. There are so many other books written by the Sears' covering a wide range of topics from The Birth Book, to The Attachment Parenting Book, to books written specifically for children about pregnancy and birth.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pitman
I'll admit to not liking this book much when I was pregnant, and enjoying "So That's What They're For!" much more. Thankfully, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding has gone through several revisions since then, and when I re-read it for my childbirth educator training I found it much easier and more enjoyable to read. So often we spend so much time preparing ourselves for labor & birth that we overlook everything that comes afterward. Breastfeeding can be a huge struggle for some women, so preparing yourself for it is really important! There's so much misinformation out there, even obstetricians and pediatricians give out some really bad breastfeeding advice sometimes. But La Leche League has been advocating for breastfeeding for decades, and has put together this really wonderful, comprehensive book. I'd also recommend you check out Birth Boot Camp's "Breastfeeding: The Ultimate MRE" video done by a wonderful IBCLC, Mellanie Sheppard.
by Jennifer Block
While this may not appeal to a wide demographic of pregnant women, I think it's an important read. I was actually in the middle of reading this when I went into labor with my second baby. The American way of birth is not how birth has always been, and isn't even necessarily the healthiest, best way to treat birth. Block goes back through our history to explain why our current birth culture exists the way it does, which is often very eye opening and sometimes disturbing. I recommend this book because I think it's important for all women to understand WHY the current birth culture exists, and to let that understanding form their decisions for what they think is important and necessary for their own pregnancy.
I hope you'll read & enjoy these books as much as I did! And ditch that copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting"!