Congrats on your pregnancy!
If you're anything like me, you're ready to immerse yourself in ALL THE RESEARCHING during this pregnancy. Whether it's your first (or 15th), you know that there is always something new you can learn (or re-learn) to make this birth experience your best so far.
But there is SOOOOO much freaking information out there...especially when it comes to preparing for labor, delivery and postpartum. It can be super overwhelming to know where to start. But I got you, mama. I've put together a list of books I've read (so far), along with a short summary and review so you can decide whether or not to put it on your list (and whether it belongs at the top or the bottom of said list).
This post is living - which means every time I read a new book worth sharing, I will add it here, along with my review: what I liked, what I thought was lacking (if anything), and who I think would benefit most from reading it.
Click the arrow next to the title below to see the book cover and read my review! :)
Birth Without Fear - The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum
Summary: This book will help you learn how to feel empowered and supported in your pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences. You will learn how to trust yourself and your instincts for what's best for you and your baby, while also learning about how to find a care provider who will fully support you. You will learn about medical freedom (your rights), birth options, and how to navigate it all from a place of empowerment rather than fear.
What I liked: Birth without Fear is truly non-judgmental. No one birth experience is treated as "better" than another. Rather, January encourages you to do your own research, know your rights, and make empowered choices, while also recognizing that birth is unpredictable. She helps you prepare for those times when birth takes a turn, so that an intervention or outcome is not something to be feared, but rather something that you know you can face if it shows up because you've done the work ahead of time.
What was lacking: For me, the book was very heavy on encouragement and "you go girl", but light on evidence-based data to help make decisions regarding your own birth plan. If you are wanting empirical evidence to help make decisions about interventions/risks/benefits, then you'll want to supplement.
You should read this if you're a first time mom and feeling anxious/unsure about your upcoming birth experience. I also recommend this book for anyone who has experienced trauma prior to this pregnancy - whether it was birth trauma, or otherwise. Often, unresolved trauma can impact our birth experience in big ways, and I think this book would be a great start to processing and moving through any fears that may be related to prior trauma.
Transformed by Birth - Cultivating Openness, Resilience & Strength for the Life-Changing Journey from Pregnancy to Parenthood
Summary: Britta Bushnell uses mythology as a framework for describing the journey into parenthood as a transformative experience. The book honors that birth is more than just a baby emerging from a mother - and that the mother, the relationship between the mother and partner, and the family as a whole will be transformed with each birth experience. This book is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the practical steps for preparing for your birth and postpartum experience (ie: finding the right provider, learning about your options to create a birth plan/birth preferences, gathering support for postpartum). But even more importantly, it helps you understand the significance of the transformation that takes place through the journey to parenthood, and how to honor that with understanding, grace and rituals.
What I liked: I loved how this book is unbiased and honors all different types of birth and birth experiences. I also love that it is more than just the A-B-C guide of how to prepare for a new baby. It truly takes a wholistic approach to help you set reasonable expectations for how difficult yet beautiful this journey will be.
What was lacking: While I feel like the purpose of this book was fully fulfilled, and there's nothing I would personally add, it is important to note that this book will not give you much information about the interventions that you may encounter during birth. It does go through how to emotionally handle a birth that doesn't go to plan, but if you're looking for specific information about interventions/risks/benefits and alternatives, you will want to supplement with additional information.
You should read this if you're pregnant. Period. This book is absolutely wonderful & comprehensive and I recommend it for all!
Pushed - The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care
Summary: This book is written in a more journalistic (rather than "self-help") style. Jennifer Block begins by going over the history of the childbirth industry in the United States, and how/why we moved from a culture where Midwives attended most births at home, to a culture now where most births are attended by OBGYN's at the hospital. Jennifer Block examines the existing data regarding birth outcomes at home and at hospitals - from maternal and infant mortality, to Cesarean rates, VBAC rates, and more.
What I liked: I like that this book starts with a history of how we got to where we are, and how cultural norms and attitudes towards birth have been shaped by political and financial agendas. I think it's important to have an understanding of how we got to where we are in order to question and re-think the way things are done simply because it's what's "normal" (since "normal" is subject to change)
What was lacking: The first thing to know about this book is that it was published a relatively long time ago - 2009. Therefore, since it is a data heavy book, much of the data is out of date. However, she mentions many organizations and programs that will have updated data accessible on their website (as in the Listening to Mothers Survey and ACOG). The book does take an obvious bias against the medicalized nature of birth, so if that's a turn off for you, then you may just want to skip it.
You should read this if you are brand new to birth and want to learn more about how birth and maternity care has evolved in the US. This book will not give you practical, actionable things to do in order to prepare for birth, however it will give you some things to think about and foundation to do more research on the things that matter to you.