Top 10 Pregnancy Books

Natural birth is an amazing, life-changing experience that is hard to put into words, but it takes preparation and knowledge. From experience, I know that fear and tension can make natural birth a scary and painful experience, rather than a challenging but empowering accomplishment it is meant to be.

The following are some (of the many) pregnancy and natural birth books that I read that were instrumental to me in making my 26-hour natural labor an experience I look back on fondly. If you are considering natural birth, I highly encourage these books.

ina mays childbirth ncIna May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin- Highly recommended, an excellent blend of birth stories and practical advice from the most well-known midwife in the country. It does contain graphic images of birth.

Your Best Birth: Know all Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices and Take Back the Birth Experience by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein- Highly Recommended. This book came as an addition to the documentary, The Business of Being Born, which I also highly recommend. It is an in depth look at all the common procedures of labor and birth in society today and encourages you to evaluate all your options.

Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas- Some good information, it addresses the importance of movement and involvement during birth. I like that it gives concrete suggestions for minimizing the discomfort of labor and making delivery either with movement, massage, visualization and distraction.

Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by paperbackcover 196x300Jennifer Block- Highly Recommended. Great information on modern maternity care. This is probably the top book I recommend to expecting moms and doula clients. It explains in depth the reason (or lack thereof) of many of the common interventions and procedures during pregnancy and birth and empowers moms to make the best choices for them in these situations. This was the book that gave me the knowledge to be able to stand up to pushy doctors and nurses, even while in the pain of transition. If you want natural birth, read this book!

Childbirth Without Fear by Dr. Grantly Dick Read-The book that started it all for me and changed the way I viewed birth. Highly recommended, though the language takes a few pages to adjust to as it was written several decades ago. This books helps women feel confident that their bodies are capable and excellent at birthing naturally in most cases.

Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper- Some information slightly outdated, but good information on empowering yourself to make informed decision.

Baby Catcher bookBaby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent- A memoir of a midwife who has delivered hundreds of babies. Some very touching birth stories and some great info mixed in.

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin- A great resource for moms, dads, labor coaches, doulas, etc. Make your husband and birth team read this book (so they won’t say things like “ssshhhh… it’s ok, don’t yell,” in transition.

Birthing from Within by Pan England and Rob Horowitz- A pretty good book. I didn’t really connect with her writing style, but she does offer some good advice on the emotional preparation needed for birth.

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way – Many women do really well with the Bradley method of natural childbirth and I like that this system also involves the husband as an integral part of the birth.

Natural childbirth is incredible, but the proper preparation can make a tremendous difference!

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Are you considering natural childbirth? If you’ve already had one, what book helped you the most? Share below!

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  1. I thought “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices,” by Sarah Buckley, was a good one.

    • I also really found this book informative.

  2. I think it is essential to educate yourself if you are going to give birth naturally. I have been telling people this since I had my first child. I used the Bradley method, and it was so good to know what was happening to my body the first time. The second time, I was in complete control and knew exactly what was going on. Definitely worth educating myself.

  3. I read Ina May’s book when I was thinking about having kids. It was life changing. I grew up on a farm and I always wondered why the way animals birthed was so different that what I’ve heard about human birth. While reading this book I kept saying to myself “I knew it! I knew we went any different than cows (or horses or sheep)!” I have seen had an amazing lovely powerful homebirth.

  4. These are all FANTASTIC! I would just add one more thing, and it has been the most life altering pregnancy related tool for me, that is the hypnobabies home study course. PRICELESS.

  5. These are great books! I’ve had three naturally and also expecting my fourth as a planned homebirth. My husband and I have done the Bradley Method as well as taught it. The most important thing is educating yourself when it comes to childbirth. Our culture is so fear-ridden about what could be a beautiful experience they miss out on so much! Thanks for this great list. I will be linking it to my page of childbirth classes.

  6. I’ve had four babies and my favorite book is definitely Aviva Jill Romm’s “The Natural Pregnancy Book” She has the most comprehensive section I’ve seen on how to deal with various pregnancy ailments and discomforts naturally. She generally offers herbal recommendations (she’s an herbalist) and diet/activity/environmental tips and then points out when a visit to the doctor/midwife is in order. I love it. And her herbal pregnancy tea is great, too. I notice a huge difference when I drink it regularly during pregnancy.

    • Thanks for this tip. This is the type of book I’m looking for, but everything seems so centered on the actual labor and delivery. I need to get there first.

  7. I loved Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley. Have read half of these books you’ve listed but excited about learning of the others!

  8. I had an unexpected c-section with my first (12 months ago). This was disappointing as I wanted to have a natural birth. I went into labor on my own, my body just did not respond and I did not dilate past 1 cm.
    My husband and I want to have a second child and I want to have a v-bac. Can anyone suggest or know of any good books specific to v-bacs? Thank you!

    • I’m sorry I can’t recommend any books but I would definitely encourage you to get in touch with a local ICAN group if you can. My sister had a similar situation with her first, a planned homebirth that ended up with a c-section but had a beautiful Vbac in a birth center with supportive midwives. She now co-leads an ICAN group in her area and has found them to be a tremendous resource and support.

  9. Just wondering, how come all of the books you mention seem to be only about childbirth, and almost nothing is specific on pregnancy? I’m mainly asking as I have been really searching hard for books specifically on pregnancy (first time for me). 🙂

    • A lot of these address healthy pregnancy as well, but that is a good point. I”ll try to create a list of pregnancy health related books too…

  10. I have yet to “make it through” without an epidural, but I keep doing research and practicing, and I am hoping to take another “shot at it” in February. Anyhow, one books that is just making me sigh with relief is “Mindful Birthing” by Nancy Bardacke. Really, truly fantastic!

    • Have you ever hired a doula? You can definitely do it in February!

  11. I can’t wait to get my hands on these books. I have 2 children, I tried to deliver both vaginally but it didnt happen… so both were c section. Both of my labors were spontaneous and progressed pretty well (I dilated to a 10!) I just believe I had too much medical intervention during my labors and not enoughh time that didn’t allow for my ideal vaginal births. I am however preparing for baby 3 and am going to attempt ANOTHER vbac this time without ANYTHING. All natural. (With the support of a Doula) And God willing, it will be successful. But I need a lot of good supportive reading so I can be more confident about doing this the all natural way even after 2 c’s. Any suggestions as to which reads would address all natural vbac births?

  12. The thing that helped me the most with my natural birth was confronting the fear and accepting that there was going to be a lot of pain. More intense than I could imagine. I also used an image that helped me to visualize the force with which nature was working in my body. I used a heavy rushing waterfall. Something with such force that it was useless to fight against it. I told myself to just ride the water. It ended up being much less painful than I expected. But there were some things in place that I couldn’t have controlled. I would not suggest to anyone to have their bag of waters broken as I feel that cushioned my body from the contractions the entire time until my baby crowned. Don’t even get your membrane stripped, as that could cause your bag of water to burst prematurely (happened in my first very-unatural birth) and make for a long painful labor.

  13. What are the best resources you have found for exercise during/post pregnancy? Any specific books or videos you can recommend?

  14. Birthing the Easy Way by Sheila Stubbs is another great read. Tons of amazing facts, it made me laugh and cry. Worth a read for sure!

  15. Most of these books I read and gained so much information from for the birth of my daughter. It was an amazing home birth experience and being a mom has been my favorite thing ever since. But, I haven’t found a lot of informative resources on new moms and hormones, etc. So much of what I’ve felt has guided me as a mother are instincts but I’d love to understand them. Do you have any helpful books on this topic?

  16. My first birth was an amazing experience I had a wonderful suportive midwife and my mother-in-law at the time was a doula, second birth was.in a different state with a subpar midwife.and the experience was horrible but luckily quick, now with #3 I have looked into a doula but can’t.afford one, my.husband and best friend will be.with me and.interested.in any books that would help them.learn techniques to be a substitute doula so to speak and be a more active part of help me thru a natural birth ,.instead.of.hubby standing.there like a deer in the headlights and saying idk when I asked.him.something, lol I thought I could handel it.on my.own last time.but.I was wrong he came so fast and hard that inwas.fighting with my.body and tense and stressed and freaked out.not.at all.like.before, im soooo afraid.this will happen again

  17. THANK YOU for not recommending any of that silly hypnobabies trash, really! Lol, sorry ladies, you do NOT need this to have an awesome birth! I also loved Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering in addition to some of the books you mentioned. I do not care for Aviva Jill Romms “The Natural Pregnancy Book” but I have not read her updated 2014 book. She does have some good info on herbs and exercise in her 2003 edition but largely I found it pretty worthless. Birth Matters and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin are good too, for those interested in everything birth!

  18. Orgasm Birth by: Elizabeth Davis and Debrah Pascali -Bonaro really made such an impact on my birth in addition to several of the mentioned books above.

  19. I had 2 unmedicated childbirth a both in a hospital with a midwife. Loved my midwives! The labor tub was always a natural epidural for me. We did the Bradley method childbirth classes which were great. There was no way my hubby would read an entire book on it, but he went to the classes and was an amazing coach during the births of our daughters! I definitely had the euphoric feeling of accomplishment after my first. After my second I just felt SO tired after laboring all night!!

  20. The Christian Childbirth Handbook by Jennifer Vanderlaan was the first book I read that introduced me to a more natural approach and gave me confidence in birthing with an OB at a hospital. But it was the nutritional advice of a midwife and experiences with a homebirth and at a birth center that made a significant difference for my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies. Also the stretching tips from a Doula friend helped a lot when I approached 42 wks pregnant.

  21. Hi Katty, I wan to buy you Wellness mama guide, healthy pregnancy book but I am wondering if it is updated?

  22. Hi there! Do you have any recommendations for books on infant care? I have read about 4 or 5 birth books and will continue to read those, but for the most part I hope to have my birth plan done. I am starting to look into registering and would love a book on what to expect after birth.

  23. Ina Maes guide to childbirth was my read for both girls. I read that book several times during each pregnancy, for sure right about 37 weeks to prepare for my home birth. My first went fast, water broke early morning and 10 minutes later I was vomiting in transition . (I had been “dreaming about contractions all night–oh the bliss of not knowing what is going on as 1st time mom). She was a smaller baby and with the rush of the big water break, she went into my (later discovered) crooked pelvis in any wrong way that could be possible. My midwife and I tried everything to get her unstuck to no avail where several hours later I went to the hospital for my necessary c section heartbroken. Less than 18 months later, I had the second huge baby at home! I had strong labor from Friday afternoon at work and she was born wed. At 10pm! What a challenge, but less than an hour after her birth I looked at my husband and said I couldn’t wait to do that again! It is absolutely amazing. I want to do it again but master more relaxation even though I did alright. I think I had some fears that I let creep in from the first time. It’s amazing….

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