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 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 Jennifer 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: 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!
Some of my podcast guests recommended books on pregnancy as well that you should check out.
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Are you considering natural childbirth? If you’ve already had one, what book helped you the most? Share below!
Discussion (36 Comments)
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!
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
Holly Perry Wolfley
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m reading it for the second time around and very highly recommend it!