Ah, books. Remember them? They’re so quaint and old-fashioned. Well, not so fast. Sure, there are about a billion and a half websites (ahem) and apps dedicated to pregnancy, but there’s something comforting about having an honest-to-goodness stack of physical pregnancy books to dog-ear, flip through and reread during your nine-month adventure. We sat among the stacks, read them and got a few well-earned paper cuts to emerge with a list of the very best pregnancy books out there for all types of parents-to-be. While you might not agree with all of the advice in these books, they are all full of nuggets of wisdom that will guide you through the next three trimesters.
1. Best pregnancy book if you’re nervous about giving birth: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Don’t let the new-age vibe (yes, orgasmic births are mentioned) scare you away from this classic birthing book by Ina May (a.k.a. the mother of modern midwifery). While the book definitely has a point of view (they think natural birth is best, while we think you deserve a medal no matter how you deliver your baby), it’s also full of positive, life-affirming birth stories for the benefit of all moms-to-be. A plethora of birth stories makes up the first half of the book, while the latter half is all about empowering women with information on the birth process, the mind-body connection and real talk about what birth feels like. Hot tip: Some moms suggest reading the second half first. In the end, the rah-rah, you-can-do-it tone leaves you feeling far less scared and way more capable. (Note: The e-book edition is more up to date than the 2003 paperback.)
2. Best pregnancy book for first-time moms: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: From Doctors Who Are Parents, Too! by the pregnancy experts at Mayo Clinic
If you’re looking for a cut-to-the-chase rundown of pregnancy symptoms, your changing body and your baby’s development, look no further. The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy is a matter-of-fact, easy-to-flip-through-and-refer-back-to resource that isn’t bogged down with extraneous details or unnecessary what-if worries. Want to know what to expect at each prenatal visit? Check. What to look for in a pediatrician? Check. The ins and out of labor progression? Check. And, because the doctors behind the book are also parents, you know you’re getting an authoritative, accurate and realistic take on pregnancy, birth and newborns. We love that this guide doesn’t shy away from the mom-to-be’s emotional changes and is peppered with decision-making guides on important matters, like whether or not to breastfeed.
3. Best book about the emotional side of pregnancy: Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood by Kate Rope
While a lot of pregnancy books touch on the roller coaster of emotions that pregnancy can bring, that’s all they do: touch on it. Meanwhile, Kate Rope’s Strong as a Mother is all about your emotional well-being as a pregnant woman and a new mom. The book is sectioned off into three parts, and the first part is all about pregnancy and parsed by trimester. Here, you’ll get a healthy and friendly dose of non-judgemental advice from medical and psychological experts and moms on subjects like early-pregnancy anxiety, feelings of guilt and body-change struggles. And, because Strong as a Mother fully recognizes that emotional upheaval goes well beyond pregnancy, the book carries the reader into birth and new parenthood as well. Whether you’re predisposed to postpartum depression or anxiety or simply a mom-to-be who recognizes the importance of your emotional health, this book is a must-read.
4. Best pregnancy book if you’re having a C-section: C-Section: How to Avoid, Prepare for and Recover from your Cesarean by Dr. Mark Zakowski
Lots of moms-to-be bite their nails with worry over the possibility of having a Caesarean section, while others know that a C-section might very well be in their future. For either, this MD-scribed book is a great resource. It’s not pro or con C-section; it simply acknowledges that it may be the best option—and the only one—for many women. In this book, readers learn what, if anything, they can do to help reduce their chances of having a C-section, what to expect from a Caesarean procedure, how to prepare for one and insights into the recovery process. In the end, the book’s goal is to leave you feeling prepared—and less nervous—for whatever could happen.
5. Best pregnancy book if you’re having twins: What to Do When You’re Having Two: The Twins Survival Guide from Pregnancy Through the First Year by Natalie Diaz
What to Do When You’re Having Two offers a great two-for-one balance of honest-to-goodness helpful advice and from-the-trenches personal stories. The book is geared toward first-time moms and covers just about everything, from breastfeeding and childbirth to budgeting and gear. Just so you know, this book does, in fact, include the good, the bad and the overwhelming but covers it all with humor, sarcasm and a sweet, you’re-going-to-be-fine vibe. We love how the book’s advice spills over into your first year of motherhood, too, and that it’s written by a fellow mom of twins.
6. Best pregnancy book for your second baby: Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Improbable Grace and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman
If you’re expecting baby number two, this book is for you. Waiting for Birdy isn’t exactly a how-to-prep-for-your-second-born kinda book but rather a moms-like-us support group nestled between the pages. In short, this memoir by Catherine Newman is about being pregnant while chasing after a toddler and then transitioning into being an exhausted, new mom-of-two. It’s honest, heartwarming and very, very funny. Through toddler wrangling and gestating, Newman explores many common worries, anxieties and hopes brought on by this stage of life. Pick up a copy and feel reassured and less alone about doubling your brood—plus, laugh your butt off while doing it.
7. Best pregnancy book if you’re planning an unmedicated, vaginal birth: Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel
Wanting to have a drug-free, intervention-free birth is not always synonymous with wanting to have (or having access to) a home birth. Enter Natural Hospital Birth. This refreshing take on natural birth is decidedly not anti-obstetrician, and it doesn’t stoke hospital-birth fears either. Instead, this positive and constructive book helps expectant parents ask the right questions—and handle various hospital situations—so they can hopefully have the natural birth experience they want. There’s also lots of solid laboring advice, where the author delves deep into every stage, including the most helpful labor positions and relaxation exercises and real-world birth stories.
8. Best pregnancy book if you want all the details: Pregnancy, O.M.G.! The First-Ever Photographic Guide for Modern Mamas-to-Be by Nancy Redd
Warning: This is not a rose-colored, sunshiny and idealized look at your nine-month journey. Instead, it’s a realistic view of the numerous changes that many women’s bodies and minds go through during pregnancy. It’s a visual reference guide to skin, hair and breast changes during this time—and by realistic, we mean realistic. All shapes and sizes of moms-to-be are featured, along with their nipples and vulvas. It’s also a guide to changes you can’t see, like shifts in your sense of smell and mood. However, all of this raw reality comes with a side of practical tips and techniques to help quell even the wonkiest of problems while dispelling worry and shame with humor and truth.
9. Best day-by-day pregnancy book: Pregnancy Day by Day by DK and Maggie Blott
With more pregnancy blogs, sites and apps than you can shake a baby rattle at, does one really need a day-by-day pregnancy book? Not really. But it’s really nice to have. Keeping this big ol’ book on your coffee table invites both you and your partner to share in the daily changes happening to you and your baby-to-be. There’s a countdown, fetal-growth photos, a bump watch, a bunch of tips peppering each page and more. And we love that the book doesn’t drop you once your due date arrives. Instead, you’ll get schooled on labor, birth and life with a newborn, too.
10. Best funny but informative pregnancy book: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy or Everything Your Doctor Won’t Tell You by Vicki Iovine
The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy is a great adjunct to the nitty-gritty (and dry) pregnancy books that are likely already stacked high on your nightstand. It’s fun, lighthearted and direct, and it still has a good amount of must-know information sans the scare factor. Think of it like this: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy is the difference between getting a lecture from your OB about how your diet and growing baby are affecting your digestion and hearing your BFF spill about how she finally tamped down her latest bout of embarrassing pregnancy farts. While we don’t love the looking-fat references, we appreciate the author’s candor on the emotional insecurities surrounding pregnancy.
11. Best pregnancy book for partners: The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas and All Other Labor Companions, Fourth Edition by Penny Simkin
So many you’re-going-to-be-a-dad books are light and silly and poke fun at the soon-to-be bumbling papa. While those books can be great for a laugh, partners need more from a book than a giggle. And, of course, not all partners are dads-to-be. The Birth Partner, now in its recently updated fourth edition, is just what the doctor (or midwife) ordered. Its sole purpose is to mold your partner into an excellent, empathetic birth coach by running through all the standard need-to-knows, like how to prepare for labor and knowing when it starts, what an epidural is and when a Caesarean birth may be required. But it’s also packed with direct, actionable techniques and spot-on advice. We’re especially grateful for the section that explains why partners might not want to ask so many mid-labor questions and why the birthing mama may lash out.
12. Best pregnancy book for the curious parent: Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? The Surprising Science of Pregnancy by Jena Pincott
This science-focused book is a fab break from the usual pregnancy reads. Here, instead of boning up on birthing tips and comparing fetal growth to supermarket finds (congrats, you’re having a kumquat!), writer Jena Pincott delves into the biology, psychology, social science, neuroscience and reproductive genetics of pregnancy. Sounds snoozy? It’s not. It’s utterly fascinating to discover why many dads-to-be put on baby weight, too, what exactly happens when your fave food suddenly makes you gag, why pregnancy dreams morph into wackiness and much more. It’s truly a fun, informative and engaging read for all expectant parents.
13. Best pregnancy book from a mom who’s been there: Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly
Great With Child is a unique and heartfelt collection of daily letters between a new mom and her friend who is pregnant for the first time. It’s poetic (the author is a poet, in fact), realistic and full of writerly insights into the everyday life of not only a pregnant woman but also a new mom. It’s a beautiful cheerleader of a book, encouraging you through your pregnancy journey. As a heads-up, the author discusses a miscarriage she experienced. If this subject hits too close to home, you may not want to read this book.
14. Best cheeky pregnancy book: The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People by Jordan Reid and Erin Williams
If a sentimental pregnancy book isn’t quite your thing, this activity book just might be. It’s chock-full of irreverent journal-entry ideas, pictures to color, silly pregnancy-themed Mad Libs and mazes, baby knowledge quizzes and more. It’s a hilarious, crass and really silly way to entertain your pregnant self while reflecting on this life-altering experience. Plus, it’s a fab way to kill some time when you’re stuck on bed rest or simply too tired to do anything but cuddle on the couch and giggle with your partner.