Being pregnant

14 best pregnancy books that are worth buying

Just like no two moms-to-be are alike, neither are pregnancy books. Each has its own style and service. Find the one that speaks to you with this list.

14 best pregnancy books that are worth buying

Photo: iStockPhoto

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.

01If 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.)

Cover of the pregnancy book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth Photo:

02For 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.

Cover of pregnancy book Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy Photo:


03On 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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Strong As a Mother Photo:

04If 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.

Cover of pregnancy book C-section how to Avoid, Prepare For and Recover from Your Cesarean

05If 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.

Cover of the pregnancy book What to do when you're having two Photo:


06For 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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Waiting for Birdy Photo:

07For 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.

The cover of the pregnancy book a Natural Hospital Book Photo:

08If 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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Pregnancy, OMG Photo:


09For the daily challenges

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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Pregnancy Day by Day Photo:

10Funny but informative

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.

The cover of the pregnancy book The Girlfriend's guide to pregnancy Photo:

11For 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.

Cover of the pregnancy cover The Birth Partner Photo:


12For 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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies Photo:

13From 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.

A cover of the book Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother Photo:

14For an interactive laugh

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.

Cover of the pregnancy book Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People Photo:

Read more:
11 best baby registries Newborn checklist: Everything you need before baby arrives What to eat while pregnant: Food guide and cheat sheet

This article was originally published on May 28, 2018

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Holly is currently a staff writer at Happiest Baby in Culver City, California. She regularly creates health, nutrition, parenting, and family travel content for magazines, websites, content studios, and brands. Her work can also be found in publications like Reader's Digest (U.S.) and The Charlotte Observer.