Which Pregnancy Books to Read (and Which Ones to Skip)

pregnancy books to read

In most aspects of my life (notice I said most), I like to be prepared. Before I have a meeting at work, I want to know who I’m meeting with, the agenda for the meeting, and how I can come with data to help out. My coworkers even make fun of a bit for being over-organized and structured – my maternity leave documentation was 10+ pages long. Oops.

So it’s no surprise that when I found out I was pregnant I wanted to be fairly prepared. And while lots of it will come naturally or through trial-and-error (ok – and from advice from friends and family), I thought I should do some pre-work in the form of reading pregnancy books. So I visited my local library and picked up a handful of books that I had researched as being helpful for first-time moms.

Note that I didn’t pick up any that were specific to post-birth topics like sleep training or breastfeeding. Instead I chose books about pregnancy and labor itself, since that was top of mind at the time. I’ll do a follow-up if I end up reading any on sleep, feeding, etc.

Pregnancy Books To Read

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster

This was the first pregnancy book I read since it was at the top of my list, and I’m glad I read it first. Oster, an award-winning economist and mother, culls through hundreds of studies on various pregnancy topics and basically spits back out (in layman’s terms) the results of the studies. It’s a no-bullshit guide to topics like drinking caffeine while pregnant, the safety of various drugs, myths of epidurals, and more. I liked that I was able to make my own decisions on controversial topics by reading through her analysis (along with my moral beliefs and my doctor’s recommendations, too).

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting by Emily Oster

This second book of Oster’s is more focused on what happens after the baby is boring. As a first-time parent it was entertaining to read the mistakes that Oster herself made and then again to see analyses of studies on controversial parenting topics. I particularly loved the chapters about breastfeeding and sleep training, since those are two popular topics that every woman seems to argue about.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This classic (which was made into a terrible movie – why!?) is helpful for first-time parents. Although I read this later on in pregnancy and already was aware of topics like conceiving and the first trimester symptoms, it would be a helpful read to pick up before that happens. I suggest checking this out as soon as you’re thinking of trying to get pregnant, as it can better prepare you. A lot was common sense to me (even as a first-time pregnant person), but the topics that weren’t so intuitive to me were very interesting and presented in an easy-to-understand manner. Throughout the book, there are lots of charts and lists that I found myself snapping photos of for later (vs. just paragraphs and paragraphs of text or corny photographs), which also kept the book interesting to read.

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Myra J. Wick M.D. Ph.D.

This is another thorough guide that takes you through all the steps of pregnancy. However, this one focused half of being pregnant and half on birth/after birth, which was what I was mainly interested in. Since it’s affiliated with the Mayo Clinic, it really dove into more medical topics than the other books which I found helpful. This was the book that I thought taught me the most about actual labor (others glazed over the topic or just didn’t do a great job of addressing it).

Pregnancy Books To Skip

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I picked this up after hearing rave reviews from women online. I then realized once reading that it’s a pro-midwife and anti-hospital book, which I wasn’t a fan of. It’s like an MLM of pregnancy books – it was very one-sided and many topics aren’t backed up with research. I did enjoy reading the birth stories of various women from all walks of life, but some were a little too “out there” for me (like comparing birth to orgasm… uhhh).

The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child’s First Four Years by Tara Haelle

This book wasn’t terrible, but compared to Emily Oster’s two books above it was just repetitive. Like Oster’s books, this one serves to take research and summarize it for the average pregnant woman. However, they don’t do as good of a job as Oster does. So just read hers instead.

The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger

The title of this book made me think it would be THE pregnancy book and I could skip over a bunch of the others, but it really let me down. The information within was a bit too common sense, and I wasn’t a fan of the weird photos throughout. Seemed very out-of-date and it was super boring.

Which pregnancy books did you find helpful or unhelpful and why? 

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