A Doula’s Favorite Books {Pregnancy and Birth}


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As a doula, I often have friends and acquaintances ask for book recommendations and other resources as they are preparing for motherhood. Here are a few of my favorite books on pregnancy and birth:

“The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth” by Genevieve Howland. I have yet to find a pregnancy book that I LOVE and have not read this one (yet), but I have heard some great reviews, and Genevieve has a great blog on all things pregnancy, birth, and parenting for natural-minded moms and dads. Who will this appeal to? Parents who like a conversational tone and both conventional and alternative options that are well-researched.

“The Birth Partner” by Penny Simkin. This book is a great resource. Written for dads, doulas, and anyone else who is supporting a birthing woman, I have also found it to be super helpful for expectant mothers. It contains fairly unbiased information on risks and benefits of various medical interventions and practical suggestions for coping with labor and supporting a woman in labor. Who will this appeal to? Moms and their support people who like a logical, analytical approach and practical, concrete suggestions for preparation and participation in the birth process.

“Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin. Written by “the mother of American midwifery”, this book is geared toward women who want an unmedicated birth. It is written in the context of birth at home being the norm, but is still very applicable in hospital settings and is great for helping women build their confidence in their ability to give birth. Who will this appeal to? Those who want an unmedicated birth, value the natural process, find inspiration in the stories of others, and want to strengthen their own confidence in their ability to give birth.

“Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” by Dr. Sarah Buckley. This book is unique in that it is written by an MD with a strong confidence and trust in the birth process along with a strong confidence and trust in a woman’s intuition and decision-making ability. It provides scientific evidence for many birthing and parenting practices that are highly instinctual, but not mainstream. Who will this appeal to? Those who value their own intuition as women and mothers and also value knowledge and scientific evidence around all things mothering.

“Natural Hospital Birth” by Cynthia Gabriel. This book realistically addresses the challenges of unmedicated birth in a hospital setting with a confident, can-do attitude. Who will this appeal to? Those who have a strong desire for natural birth and are, by choice or necessity, giving birth in a hospital setting and want a practical guide to preparation and birth itself.

“The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer. This book provides detailed information on many interventions commonly used in modern American childbirth, including the evidence behind them, options surrounding them, and ways to maximize positive outcomes for mother and baby. Who will this appeal to? Those who value a thorough knowledge of childbirth practices along with some cultural background on them and value being an active part of the decisions regarding their care.

“ The Labor Progress Handbook” by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta. This is a detailed book primarily written for caregivers and support people to help address common labor variations and complications with alternatives to help avoid unnecessary cesareans. Who will this appeal to? Those who are very detail-oriented and interested in the physiological process of birth and who feel less anxiety when equipped with the tools to deal with the many possibilities in labor.

“Pushed” by Jennifer Block. This book addresses the state of American maternity care and examines the cultural, legal, financial, and medical influences on current maternity care concerns that can interfere with the rights of the childbearing woman to safe, respectful care and normal birth. Who will this appeal to? Those who are interested in cultural influences on healthcare, improving medical care for women and broadening their options, and who are willing to take action to address any fears that increased knowledge about maternity care concerns may give rise to.

Birth Matters” by Ina May Gaskin. This book provides a compelling viewpoint as to why birth matters and how it can affect the health of mothers, families, and society as a whole. It touches on a wide variety of cultural factors in relationship to birth, including the importance of birth stories, feminism, sexuality in birth, technology, empowerment, and a father’s role in birth. Who will this appeal to? Those who are interested in the cultural factors related to childbirth and a broad, holistic view of mothers, babies, families, and the world. My personal favorite. 

Do you have a favorite book that helped guide you through pregnancy or prepare you for birth? Tell me about it in the comments!

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