The second I got my positive pregnancy test, I was off researching the best books to read about pregnancy. Sounded like a fun task! But if you go to Amazon and type in “pregnancy books” you get about 20,000 results.
Cue the overwhelm.
That’s a lot of choice!
But, I gotchu. I love books–> to a fault. My husband recently bought me a bookmark that reads “I have no shelf control!”.
I won’t deny it.
And something I love even more than collecting and reading books, is sharing books.
I wish I could have you over for a cup of coffee and a chance to browse my bookshelf. But since that presents a couple of challenges, please allow me to virtually share some of my favorites with you.
This isn’t a comprehensive list. It can’t be. If that’s what you desire- head to Amazon and search “pregnancy books”. Instead, these are books that I have found particularly useful during my own childbearing journey, in support of my clients’ journeys OR have been heartily recommended by trusted colleagues and clients.
Couple of quick notes:
1) Throughout this blog, I intentionally use gender neutral language because I recognize that identifying as a woman is not a prequisite to birthing a baby. Unfortunately, mainstream pregnancy and postpartum books have not yet caught up. I won’t call out the books that don’t use inclusive language- instead, I’ll call in the ones that do. I sincerely hope that regardless of your gender identity, you find value in this collection of books.
2) Many of the links below are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and buy the book, I earn a small commission. Please understand, I’m only recommending books I find useful and helpful and have some first hand knowledge of. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can feel free to copy and paste the titles of the books into your favorite book-shopping site. If you DO purchase through my links, know that at no extra cost to you, you are helping to sustain this blog (and THANK YOU!). Please do not spend any money on these books unless you feel that they will enrich your perinatal experience.
The Best Pregnancy Books
(in my humble opinion)
Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley RN, Ann Kepler RN, Janelle Durham and April Bolding.
I first encountered this book during my first pregnancy. It was given to me during the nurse education appointment provided by my OB’s clinic. I hate to admit, I initially wrote this book off because my OB gave it to me for “free”. I figured I’d have to really dig in the weeds to find really good guidance. I was wrong.
Years later, I have 4 copies of it on my shelf because I buy the new one every time it’s updated. As a doula, it’s the first book I recommend to all of my clients.
This book, written by a panel of doulas, pelvic floor physical therapists, nurses and board-certified lactation consultants is a gold mine of expert advice around everything childbirth. I appreciate the frank discussion of many difficult topics without judgement or fear-mongering.
Notably, this is the rare pregnancy book that uses gender-inclusive language and recognizes a range of family considerations.
This is an optimistic, up-to-date, inclusive and empowering guide that belongs on every pregnant person’s shelf.
The Childbirth Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide For Building Your Birth Plan by Stephanie Mitchell
You might have heard that you should write a birth plan. But do you know WHY? It’s not JUST so you can tell the hospital staff you want immediate skin-to-skin.
The birth plan is an incredible opportunity to LEARN about all the options available to you, interventions which will be offered to you and scenarios that might deviate from your preferences. It affords you the knowledge and preparation to be your own advocate during your baby’s birth.
Stephanie Mitchell’s Childbirth Handbook is a masterclass in writing a well-constructed birth plan. This is not a comprehensive pregnancy book- it does not aim to explain the intricacies of pregnancy or teach you how to have a healthy pregnancy. Rather, it helps you think through all of the variables that will impact your labor and delivery experience.
Of special note, I’m thrilled to see her include a discussion of birthing location (home, birth center, hospital) and providers (midwives and OBs) as a component of the birth planning process. She discusses how each of these options might dovetail with your birth preferences.
Packed with tips and templates, this a book I would have deeply appreciated when diving into my first birth plan! I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone looking get the most out of the process of writing their birth plan.
PS: On Amazon, this book is listed as part of the “First-Time Mom’s Series”. You’ll see Mitchell updated the language on the cover of the actual book (“First-Time Parent’s). That change reflects the contents of the book: it uses gender inclusive language throughout!
Your Best Pregnancy Ever: 9 Healthy Habits to Empower You in Pregnancy, Birth, and Recovery by Jen Torborg
Jen Torborg is a pelvic floor physical therapist with a passion for empowering pregant and postpartum people to understand their minds and bodies better. Your Best Pregnancy Ever is the first book in a three part series examining pregnancy, postpartum and pelvic health. All three of her books appear in this roundup.
In Your Best Pregnancy Ever, Torborg takes a deep dive into 9 habits that support a healthy pregnancy. She covers breathing, pelvic floor basics, understanding the difference between common symptoms and normal function, exercise, sleep, nutrition, body alignment and birth prep. Clocking in at under 100 pages, it’s a quick read with a big punch.
This book shines where most pregnancy books fall short. She goes into depth on pelvic floor anatomy, function and exercises. Her advice goes well beyond basic kegel exercises and teaches functional pelvic floor exercise including:
- a variety of cues to help you find pelvic floor contraction AND relaxation
- discusses common mistakes people make when kegeling
- provides tricks to check that you’re kegeling correctly
- how to incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your exercise and activities of daily living
From my bias as a pelvic-floor informed birth professional, I think this book should be required reading during every pregnancy!
The Best Postpartum Books
If you are anything like me, you are (or you did) prep hard for your sweet bouncing babe. You read books about pregnancy. You took classes. Maybe you sought out support during labor. You learned about basic breast/chest-feeding and bottle-feeding options. But… did you prepare for you?
If you are still pregnant, I urge you to think a little bit about what postpartum is going to look like for YOU.
Who will you call on for support? How will you handle visitors? Do you AND YOUR SUPPORT PERSON know the warning signs of postpartum mood disorders? How will you and your partner deal will disagreements and conflicts at 3 am after weeks of shitty sleep? Is your home set up for easy navigation during the first days when your bottom or your belly are healing?
Consider this a firm and loving nudge to think about these things before you are in the thick of it. And peruse this small but mighty collection of books which are packed with information, inspiration and tools to help you prepare for life-after-pregnancy.
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother is a beautiful and practical guide to help new parents through the early weeks postpartum.
The book is inspired by the Chinese Tradition of zuo yuezi, the practice of “sitting” for forty days after birth. Heng Ou draws on her own experiences as a mother and the traditions passed down through generations of her family to offer helpful advice on everything from self-care to healing foods.
This is an essential book for any new parent who wants to nurture themselves during this vital time of transition.
The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson
The Fourth Trimester is a comprehensive guide to postpartum healing and recovery.
Johnson, a doula and postpartum expert, offers practical advice and wisdom for birthing parents navigating the challenges of the fourth trimester. The book covers a wide range of topics, from physical recovery to emotional well-being, and provides helpful tips for managing common postpartum discomforts. Of special interest to me, she dives deep into preparing for the fourth trimester during pregnancy and restoring your core and pelvic floor postpartum.
The Fourth Trimester is an essential resource for any new parent seeking to heal body and mind after childbirth.
Your Best Body after Baby: A Postpartum Guide to Exercise, Sex, and Pelvic Floor Recovery by Jen Torborg
One of the things I love about Jen Torborg’s books is that they’re SHORT. If you’ve recently given birth, you’ll appreciate that brevity is a gift.
Your Best Body After Baby is a postpartum guide which aims to help you recover physically after your pregnancy. She addresses postpartum recovery in a functional sense, not in a damaging “body back” sense.
This book builds off the first book in her series (Your Best Pregnancy Ever) in that it assumes some basic pelvic floor knowledge. That withstanding, she offers enough of a recap that you’ll be able to take advantage of the exercises she offers.
Torborg walks you through early core and pelvic floor recovery exercises and explains to exercise guidelines. She also hits the highlights where return to sex, Diastasis Recti and scar massage are concerned.
A super quick read, this book will help you get your postpartum recovery off to a start start!
Build Your Nest: A Postpartum Planning Workbook by Kestrel Gates
During pregnancy, it’s common (and so easy!) to get caught up in preparing for birth. But too often, the stuff after the birth gets overlooked.
Enter Build Your Nest. With this book, you’ll spend time developing a concrete (yet flexible!) postpartum plan to navigate the realities of the fourth trimester. Gates covers everything from self-care, relationship expectations, defining your support circle, examining your budget and planning out childcare for older siblings, all with the goal of helping new parents transition into parenthood with as much ease and joy as possible.
This book provides readers with the tools they need to anticipate challenges and set themselves up for success during an exciting and daunting time.
If you’re someone who LOVES to make a plan, or you simply appreciate the value in sketching out your postpartum plan, I highly recommend this book as a resource.
My Favorite Breastfeeding Book
Latch: A Handbook for Breastfeeding with Confidence at Every Stage by Robin Kaplan M.Ed. IBCLC
I found Latch after my second baby was born. As a seasoned mother, I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to breastfeed my babe. But breastfeeding takes two and no two babies are the same- I quickly found myself immersed in a fresh set of nursing-related challenges.
This book was an invaluable resource for me, providing clear instructions and helpful tips for breastfeeding success. Kaplan is a lactation consultant with over 13 years of experience, and her knowledge shines through on every page.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time parent, Latch is a must-read for anyone who wants to breastfeed with confidence.
Pregnancy Nutrition Books
Lily Nichols is where it’s at if you want evidence-backed advice around prenatal nutrition. When I have clients who desire to build nutrition into their healthy pregnancy lifestyle, this is where I send them.
Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition by Lily Nichols
A note for vegetarians and vegans: I personally take the chapter on vegetarian nutrition with a grain of salt. 1) I produced two grassfed delightfully chubby, extraordinarily charming, smart-as-whip children. 2) Lots of other people have. 3) I’ve never had an OB, midwife, or pediatrician of which I’ve cycled through many throughout my pregnancy journeys, ever suggest my diet was problematic. If you are a vegetarian, I recommend seeking additional advice from your medical provider or a registered dietician familiar with prenatal nutrition
Pelvic Health Books
Before I became pregnant, I didn’t know a thing about my pelvic floor. And I don’t think I’m alone here- most people don’t take the time to learn about their pelvic floor until it starts to misbehave.
If I could turn back time, I would go back and learn about the pelvis and it’s muscles. I’d learn about how I could proactively support and monitor my pelvic floor and core during pregnancy. I’d learn the signs and symptoms of pelvic floor stress before I experienced them.
If you are early in your childbearing journey, I urge you to carve out some time to learn about your pelvic health. These books (particularly Your Pelvic Health Book) are great places to start.
If you want to learn about how you can manipulate your pelvis to create change in your pelvic floor (important in labor!), take a look at The Female Pelvis.
Your Pelvic Health Book: A Guide to Pelvic Floor Awareness, Bladder Health, Bowel Health, Sexual Health, and Changes throughout Your Lifetime for People With a Vagina and/or Uterus by Jen Torborg
Your Pelvic Health Book is the last book in Jen Torborg’s three-part Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy series.
In this book, she takes a broader lens to pelvic health relative to her first two books. She provides an overview of the anatomy and physiology of the pelvis and then spends a chapter each on bladder health, bowel health and sexual health. Within each chapter she explores normal function, common dysfunctions and ways to troubleshoot these issues. She also discusses how menstruation, pregnancy and postpartum and menopause impact pelvic health.
This is book is a great introduction to anatomy, physiology and common conditions related to the bowel, bladder and vagina. If you’re not super comfortable with your own pelvic anatomy or aware of the common dysfunctions that often associate with the pelvis, I recommend you give this a read!
Note: This book is written with gender inclusive language (although the first two books in the series are not).
The Female Pelvis Anatomy & Exercises by Blandine Calais-Germain
If you really want to nerd out on the anatomy and biomechanics of the pelvis, pick up this book. It is the book that has most impacted the way that I think about the pelvis and how it moves to facilitate childbirth.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness Books
As you might guess, I’m pretty dang picky when it comes to recommending books about perinatal fitness. Anything that passes my filter must be evidence-based, core and pelvic floor informed and body-size neutral (no get-your-body-back garbage here!). There are three books in this category; the first two (Pregnancy Fitness and Go Ahead, Stop And Pee) offer workout plans and frameworks while the last (Exercise Through Your Pregnancy) is really for the athlete that wants to know all the why’s.
Pregnancy Fitness by Julia Di Paolo, Samantha Montpetit-Huynh and Kim Vopni
Pregnancy Fitness is a book that is perfect for expectant parents who want to stay fit during their pregnancy. The book is written by a pelvic floor physical therapist and two very experienced perinatal fitness professionals and you can absolutely trust what they have to say.
They’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers the anatomy and function of the pelvic floor and core, strength workouts for each trimester and birth preparation exercises.
In Pregnancy Fitness, you’ll learn optimal breathing and core engagement strategies and recieve detailed cueing and instructions for each exercise in their programs. For each trimester, they offer instructions to tweak the workouts to your ability level. Sample Fourth Trimester workouts are included.
Even if you’re following another exercise program, I recommend this book as a stellar resource on everything core and pelvic floor and the changes those muscles experience during pregnancy.
Go Ahead, Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum by Kate Mihevc Edwards and Blair Green
New parents have enough to worry about without being told they can’t run anymore. So it’s refreshing to read a book like Go Ahead, Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy And Postpartum.
The authors, Kate Mihevc Edwards and Blair Green, are both experienced runners, mothers and physical therapists, and they know what they’re talking about. In their book, they address common myths and misconceptions about running during and after pregnancy. They cover core and pelvic floor function and dysfunction, including what to keep an eye on. And they offer targeted pre- and postnatal exercises specific to each chapter. Finally, they outline a return-to-run plan for the postpartum runner.
If you are a runner and you’re gunning to run during your childbearing year, do yourself a favor and read this book.
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James F. Clapp III MD and Catherine Cram MS
When I was pregnant for the first time, this was the only book available on prenatal exercise. More enclopedic than practical, it is THE book to pick up if you really want to understand the physiological basis for recommendations around pregnancy fitness. It’s also the book to pick up if you still need to convince yourself or someone else of the safety and benefits of exercise during pregnancy.
Menopause and Reproductive Health
The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina: Separating the Myth from the Medicine by Jennifer Gunter
In her comprehensive book, The Vagina Bible, Dr. Jen Gunter provides an engaging resource on all things vagina.
Covering everything from sexually transmitted infections to pregnancy and menopause, Gunter offers readers an essential guide to estrogen-based sexual health. Throughout the book, she debunks common myths about the vagina and dispels harmful medical myths that have been perpetuateed for generations. In doing so, she provides readers with the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health.
In addition to being an informative resource, The Vagina Bible is an accessible and entertaining read. Gunter’s writing is straightforward and often humorous, making complex topics easy to understand.
The Vagina Bible is an essential resource for anyone with an estrogen-based metabolism who wants to better understand their own body.
Menopocalypse: How I Learned to Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too by Amanda Thebe
👆🏽 Because perimenopause is the next physiological transformation on your horizon. And because you can be pregnant or postpartum AND perimenopausal.
Amanda Thebe’s Menopocalypse is a funny, relatable and highly readable book about the often-taboo topic of menopause. Thebe uses her own experiences to explore the various ups and downs of menopause, from hot flashes and mood swings to weight gain and hair loss. She also tackles the broader issue of how our society views aging women, and how the menopause transition can be both liberating and frustrating.
Her book will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with menopause and felt like they were losing their mind. I appreciate her mentions of the positive aspects of menopause (increased confidence and newfound appreciation of her body) as well as the abundance of optimistic and actionable advice on how to manage symptoms of menopause.
Highly recommended for anyone looking for a lighthearted but honest take on menopause.
Books That Challenge Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom
Like a Mother by Angela Garbes
In Like a Mother, Angela Garbes offers an intimate and insightful look at the science of motherhood. Drawing on her own experience as a mother, Garbes weaves together research, interviews, and personal narrative to explore the physical, emotional, and societal forces that shape our experience of motherhood. Throughout the book, Garbes challenges common assumptions about motherhood and makes a compelling case for why we need to radically rethink the way we support mothers.
Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
Cribsheet is a data-driven approach to parenting, from the moment your sweet babe bears itself earthside through the early years of toddlerhood,
Drawing on her experience as an economist, Oster takes a data-driven approach to topics like breastfeeding, sleep training, and screen time. She guides parents through the minefield of parenting advice, gently challenging assumptions and offers evidence-based alternatives. Her insights are both thought-provoking and occasionally surprising.
Oster is not afraid to stake out controversial positions, but she is always careful to qualify her statements and make it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Her use of data provides a welcome counterpoint to the often emotional debate around parenting choices.
Cribsheet is an invaluable resource for parents who want to make informed decisions about their children’s health and wellbeing.
Expecting Better: Why Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong- And What You Really Need To Know by Emily Oster
Emily Oster’s Expecting Better is a refreshingly data-driven approach to pregnancy. Oster uses her background as an economist to debunk many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding pregnancy, from the claim that caffeine is harmful to the idea that pregnant women should avoid sushi. Throughout the book, she provides readers with clear, concise explanations of the scientific evidence behind different recommendations, and she offers readers practical suggestions for how to make informed choices about their own pregnancies.
The book is eye-opening, entertaining, and most importantly, empowering. By giving women the tools to evaluate the risks and benefits of various pregnancy decisions, Oster has truly given them the power to take control of their own pregnancies. Expecting Better is essential reading for any woman who is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.
Birth Without Fear: The Judgment-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum by January Harshe
Okay- gonna be honest here. I haven’t actually read this yet. BUT, it’s on my stack and I’m gonna tell you WHY I want to read it and why I think you probably should too-
I first encountered January Harshe via her Instagram account and her hashtag movement (#takebackpostpartum) which she created to encourage new parents to share candidly about the realities of early postpartum life.
In Birth Without Fear, Harshe takes this to the next level. She sets out to shatter myths around pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. To empower her readers to take control of these delicate chapters, educate them on their rights and encourage them to advocate for their needs. To prepare them for the realities of the early weeks and months after giving birth.
Her book looks to me to fill a void in pregnancy and postpartum guides with optimistic, non-judgmental and evidence-backed guidance.
I’m super stoked to dig in and I hope you do to!
👋🏼One last thing!!
Now that I’ve shared mine, will you share yours? What are your favorite pregnancy, postpartum or reproductive health books? Or which ones earned a spot on your reading list?? Please tell me in the comments below!
And if you found this helpful, please forward this list to a friend!
Next on your reading list:
27 Postpartum Care Products to Speed Up Recovery and Make Life Easier (2022)
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My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me with questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I work with people online and in-person (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) to develop personalized pregnancy and postpartum exercise plans.
Proud Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.