Pregnancy/Birthing Book Reviews

January 18, 2011

My partner and I have been reading a lot of books lately about pregnancy and birthing, so I thought I’d give you a brief review for some of them.

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting

A good place to start, but overly simplified.  There is also a long section on infertility, which is odd given that the book’s target is ostensibly people who haven’t tried to get pregnant yet.  I haven’t read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but I have heard that lots of this book is cut and paste from that book.  This book was pretty obviously published to make more money, not to put out new information, but if you keep that in mind, it’s still a useful basic primer.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

This book was great for me personally because I am a nerd and I liked the listings of findings from scientific studies, but the book was poorly organized and not particularly well written.  I also appreciated the seemingly unintentional irony that the author ends the book with a description of her scheduled c-section birth where she admittedly feels uninvolved. After writing an entire book about how the fetus’ experience during pregnancy influences the rest of its life and in light of reputable research about how c-sections may have adverse long term impacts on child development as well, it seems like an oversight not to mention this, but I guess this book was just about the 9 months of fetal development, not everything you can do to make sure your kid turns out okay.  Overall, I liked this book a lot, but I admittedly have a high tolerance for poorly written non-fiction books with interesting information

The Art of Conscious Parenting: The Natural Way to Give Birth, Bond With, and Raise Healthy Children

For the most part, I liked this book and think it has a lot of useful information.  The book does a good job of doing a literature review of work supporting pre-conception planning, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.  It does not do a good job of presenting a balanced literature review, which is fine, but should be noted if you’re not 100% sure you want natural childbirth because the author’s goal is clearly to make you feel that you are a selfish parent who will cause irreparable harm to your child if you opt for anything less than a completely natural, drugfree birth.

That said, I found the author a little irritating and self-righteous.  There are eye-roll inducing passages where the author describes how wonderful and well adjusted his child is and attributes it to his and his wife’s amazing parenting skills.  He goes to great lengths to tout the benefits of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc, but in a throwaway sentence extols circumcision as a positive religious bonding event without even acknowledging the ongoing debate about circumcision as potentially traumatic genital mutilation.  I don’t have particularly strong personal feelings about whether or not to circumsize boys, but it struck me as hypocritical to not even mention that performing “surgery” on a newborn may run counter to many of the themes in the book.  There is also a not-so-subtle rah rah Jewish voice that pops up throughout the book, which seemed random.

Summary: This is a good book for anyone considering natural childbirth, but you need to be able to put it in the context of one author’s perspective who clearly thinks he and his wife are the most well/completely informed parents.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

This book stressed me out, but in a productive way.  I know a lot about the pros and cons of hospital births and I’ve watched the Business of Being Born, etc, etc, but this book laid it all out very matter of factly, which was good and bad.  It is not meant to be a balanced book, which the author admits, but there are some questionable statistics and some moments of ranting as opposed to fact-based persuasion.  Even despite that, this book has very useful information to consider when making your birth plan, so I recommend this book even if just to feel empowered when you talk to you doctor about your options.

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be

It goes month by month to give the expectant dad a very basic idea of what happens each month.  My partner liked it, but couldn’t think of anything particularly striking that he learned from the book.

Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads

My partner is reading this now and he thinks it’s amusing and has learned some interesting things.  It’s snarky, but not offensively so and isn’t overly partronizing as books for dads can be.  I’ll post more when he’s done if there is anything to add.