I read a lot of books. A lot. Whenever I share about the books I am reading, I’m invariably asked to write a blog post with my favourite parenting books, but every time I sit down to do so I look across at the hundred or so books nestled lovingly in my study and feel a bit overwhelmed. So, I’ve decided to split them up into topics, covering one topic every fortnight or so. Hopefully this will make discovering new books more manageable for you as well as for me!
This week, I will start at the beginning, with some of my favourite books and resources on pregnancy, birth, and the fourth trimester. As a trained doula and experienced birth coach (though I’m not taking clients at present), this is a topic that is dear to my heart and that I am very well read on! I strongly believe that a positive birth experience – be it a natural home birth or a planned caesarean – and carefully considered fourth trimester can make a huge difference to how our parenting journeys unfold.
The best piece of advice I can give to any parent-to-be is to get informed – read books, take classes, ask questions – and to surround themselves with positive birth stories of every kind. With that in mind, here are my very favourite books and resources on pregnancy, birth, and the fourth trimester.
PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND THE FOURTH TRIMESTER
The Positive Birth Book. This is my number one book on birth. Evidence-based, straightforward, and non-judgemental in tone, I recommend it to everyone! It covers everything you need to know to prepare for a positive birth, however your baby is born. There is also a Positive Breastfeeding Book and although I have not read it, I’m sure it’s fantastic.
The Birth Partner. This is my second “must have” book, but this time for the mother’s partner or birth partner. It’s full of information and practical advice for how to support a woman in labour. If every father had to read this book, I have no doubt we would see significantly better birth outcomes for everyone.
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know. Whenever someone I know tells me they are expecting a baby, this is always the first book I recommend (especially if they are still in the first trimester). Written by an economist, it’s a brilliant look at the evidence around guidelines surrounding food, exercise, and alcohol during pregnancy as well as topics like miscarriage statistics.
I would also really recommend anything by Ina May Gaskin. Spiritual Midwifery totally changed the way I saw birth, as did her incredible Guide to Childbirth. It’s a bit “hippy” – it was written in the seventies – but Ina May has been the most influential voice calling for a more woman-centred approach to childbirth, and her books are awesome in the truest sense of the word. She has also written a Guide to Breastfeeding.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is also one for your bookshelf if you are planning on breastfeeding (another tip for breastfeeding mamas: get the number of an IBCLC certified lactation consultant and keep it to hand just in case of any breastfeeding issues – the quicker these can be addressed the smoother your journey will be, and midwives and health visitors usually do not have enough training to provide adequate breastfeeding support).
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother. This is a wonderful read for every mother who is expecting a child, be it her first or fifth. Nurturing and nourishment is exactly what every woman needs in the postpartum period.
This is a brilliant, free antenatal programme from the lovely Kicki Hansard (I did my doula training under Kicki’s expert guidance).
Sarah Wickham’s blog is just fantastic and a treasure trove of knowledge on birth. The blog Midwife Thinking is also amazing (this is my favourite of her blog posts about routine vaginal examinations during childbirth), and the AIMS website has so much research and information too. I would personally recommend searching these websites to find out more about topics like breech birth, premature rupture of membranes, caesareans, and inductions.
I really like this post on the fourth trimester (this website is generally pretty great for birth and breastfeeding).
I love this video showing the “dance” that babies often do when they are born.
This free course on welcoming a newborn into the home from a Montessori perspective looks great.
I also really recommend taking a local Hypnobirthing class or, if that’s not possible, doing an online course or reading a good book on the subject. It’s so empowering and totally evidence based, and whatever kind of birth you are hoping for is sure to help you feel calmer and more informed.
Next time I’ll be talking about my favourite books and resources for parents of infants and babies – be sure to check back soon!