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.


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Preconception/Prenatal Supplements

January 1, 2011

As anyone who knows me can attest, I don’t take decisions related to my unborn children lightly.  You’re supposed to start taking prenatal vitamins as least three months before you start trying to conceive, so I’ve been doing a lot of research because I have FOMA and there are a TON of options.  This is what I’ve decided on and why:

1. Rainbow Light Prenatal One

  • I only want to take one vitamin a day, so I skipped all the ones that require you to take 3-6 a day
  • One a Day Women’s Multivitamins make me nauseous, so I looked for one with reviews that said they didn’t make people nauseous.  Many conventional vitamins have weird filler ingredients, which I try to avoid when possible.
  • I compared the ingredients of these to many other natural and vegetarian multivitamins and decided on this one based on ingredients and reviews.

My doctor said it doesn’t matter that much which prenatal vitamin you take as as long as you take one with folic acid, which all prenatal vitamins have.  So really, just pick one that works for you!

Sidenote: the FDA released a study about traces of lead found in vitamins for women and children, including Rainbow Light Prenatal One, which sounds scary, but the actual amount found was way below safe amounts, so I believe it’s nothing to worry about, but yes, I did see that study and had a minor heart palpitation!  Make your own decision based on what you’re comfortable with.

2. DHA supplements – DHA is a type of fish oil, but not all fish oil is created equal.  DHA is the one that you need for pregnancy.  Lots of research has linked DHA to benefits for mom and fetus (particularly the development of the nervous system, retina) and other research has linked DHA deficiencies during pregnancy to postpartum depression in mom and the development of ADHD, dyslexia, and allergies in baby.  There haven’t been a lot of studies done about how much DHA you need, but I did find some suggestions online that suggested at least 250mg/300mg of DHA a day.

I liked two types of DHA supplements, Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA, which have 450 mg of DHA per serving (2 capsules), and Barlean’s Ultra DHA, which have 530 mg per serving (2 capsules).  I picked the former because I was swayed by the fact that the prenatal ones are prenatal and also Nordic Naturals’ website is very convincing about purity of the source of their fish.  It’s hard to know whose fish is safe, but I would definitely stay away from the Costco type of fish oil because fish oil comes from fish and not all fish is pure and the last thing I want to do it take ultra cheapo fish oil for my baby’s brain development that is laced with mercury or some other impurity.  Barlean’s seems safe too, so I think either of these are good choices.

3. Make sure you’re not taking too much vitamin A because high doses can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.  The FDA recommends a max of 1o,000 IU, so make sure to check your multivitamins and make sure you’re not ODing and stay away from medication like Retin-A.

Happy preconception planning!