Parenting, Pregnancy

A Doula’s Top 10 Pregnancy Reads

Preparing for birth and life with a newborn can be overwhelming. So many pregnancy books and so little time (just nine months!). Take a deep breath, your doula is here to help! As it turns out, reading ALL the pregnancy and childbirth books is something I love to do. Here’s a short list of books that are recommended reading for my doula clients as they prepare to welcome their little ones…

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The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth by Lindsey Bliss – Written by an experienced doula and mother of seven, this gem of a read is loaded with wisdom and advice for pregnancy, planning for birth, labor, postpartum and newborn care. The author walks you through determining your own birth preferences and assembling a support team that is right for you as well as how to approach last-minute decisions and the unexpected – just like an experienced doula would. This book is one of my favorites and is always on my recommended reading list for clients.

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin – This book is an excellent resource for anyone who is supporting a pregnant person – partners, doulas, friends, family – as well as for anyone who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Penny Simkin has been specializing in labor support since 1968; she is a renowned childbirth educator and co-founder of DONA International. In this book she thoroughly covers the processes of labor & birth and offers a comprehensive guide for providing support through each stage of labor. The book also covers various types of birth in detail, preparing the reader to be a supportive companion in differing birth situations.

Birth Without Fear by January Harshe – Written by the founder of the website and online community Birth Without Fear, this book is an honest, raw, positive, guide to everything surrounding pregnancy and birth. The author covers topics such as care provider choices, birth options, medical freedom, feeding your baby, intimacy after birth, and postpartum depression in a very passionate yet inclusive and non-judgemental manner. I particularly love that each chapter contains a section written by Brandon Harshe, the author’s husband, offering a partner’s insight and point of view on the topic. This book is a wonderfully empowering read for anyone who is expecting.

Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke – Focusing on mindfulness as a tool to get parents through childbirth (and parenthood and life in general), this book is a wonderful resource for everyone, not just those who are pregnant. The author, a nurse-midwife and mindfulness teacher, provides mindfulness concepts and specific exercises for expectant parents as well as anecdotes and stories from classes she has taught to parents who have gone through all kinds of birthing scenarios. The tools presented in this book are useful for childbirth as well as everything that comes afterward.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – This book is always on my recommended reading list for clients simply due to the fact that the entire first half of the book consists of positive birth stories. Birth is often portrayed in the media in a less-than-accurate fashion, and for many people this media representation is their first/only exposure to giving birth prior to experiencing it for themselves. Positive, real birth stories can offer something so powerful to those who are expecting and planning for their own birthing experiences.

The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland – This book offers a different take on the week-by-week “what to expect” pregnancy guide. This is the book I wish I had during my own pregnancies. In my first pregnancy I quickly disposed of the other week-by-week guides because they offered a lot of information about what to expect to go wrong each week. I wished for a guide that was more positive, encouraging and empowering – this is that book.

Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel – written by an experienced doula and medical anthropologist, this book offers insight into avoiding unnecessary medical interventions and consciously preparing for birth. The author offers insight into creating a birth plan that doesn’t focus on rigid “dos” and “don’ts” for your birth but rather on your personal values and what is important to you in your birthing experience. This book also includes wonderful positive birth experiences shared by others who have given birth in the hospital.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pitman – This book from La Leche League International, now in its 8th edition, covers breastfeeding basics, breastfeeding through the stages of baby and toddlerhood, troubleshooting breastfeeding issues, and many other topics pertaining to the breastfeeding journey. For any family considering breastfeeding, I highly recommend keeping a copy of this book on your shelf.

Go Milk Yourself by Francie Webb – from an experienced lactation professional, doula and mother of two, this book is a great read for “lactating parents and anyone who supports them”. The author shares very real, raw, often hilarious and empowering insight from her own experiences as she shares techniques for the hand expression of breast milk.

When Survivors Give Birth by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus – This book offers readers information on the long-lasting impacts of abuse and trauma and the role they play in childbearing, something that is often unexpected or overlooked as expecting parents prepare for their birthing experience. The authors provide tools for acknowledging and addressing previous trauma that may impact one’s experience in birth. For survivors as well those who support others in birth, this book offers valuable resources in communication and self-help skills as well as a broader understanding of how previous trauma can impact how one experiences birth.

I’m always on the lookout for my next favorite pregnancy read… let me know what your favorites are in the comments below!

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