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The Bookshelf ~ Pregnancy and Childbirth
updated 1 April 1999
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Planning for Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond 
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 
I got this book from my ob-gyn at my first visit.  My cat tried to eat it.  He had the right idea.  The only reason I still have this book is because it explains the tests that doctors love to give their patients, and what will happen to you in the hospital if you don't fight for your rights. 
Rating: One Web
Active Birth 
Janet Balaskas 
The most dogeared pregnancy book I have - it advocates instinctive "active" birthing positions based on women's anatomical structures, and describes in detail the whole process/experience of natural birth and delivery (with lots of illustrations of births both hospital and home environments).  It is dogeared because it also contains several chapters with yoga excersizes for maternity and post-partum.   [Review by Lucy]
Rating:  Four Webs.
In The Newborn Year: Our Changing Awareness After Childbirth 
Elisabeth Brutto Hallett 
Some would call this a "hippie" book, but for anyone who has experienced natural childbirth the stories will sound familiar.  It helped me put some of my feelings about birth into words.  [Review by Debbie]
Rating: Three Webs
Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Childbirth and VBAC in the 90s 
Nancy Wainer Cohen 
If you are going to have a baby, and are planning a hospital birth, you should read this book.  If you have had a c-section, and want a VBAC, you should definitely have this book.  Nancy Wainer Cohen has been there and done that and can show you how to do it too!  If you have had a c-section, this book will make you angry, especially if you weren't treated with the dignity every birthing woman deserves.  This book should be titled "Don't have a baby without reading this book." I read this book once before my son wa born, and switched from my ob/gyn group to a homebirth midwife.  After my son was delivered by c-section, I read it four times.  It has become instrumental in my healing process; it validates every feeling I may have, and gives me the strength to go on.
Rating: Five Webs
What to Expect When You're Expecting 
Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway, BSN 
This book has become the new Bible for childbirth in the 90s.  IT'S TIME TO BURN THE BIBLE!!  This book has "intervention city" written all over it.  Allow me to quote what they have to say about homebirth: 
"For some women, the idea of being hospitalized when they aren't sick isn't appealing, but delivering at home is.  And sometimes such a birth is very successful.  The newborn arrives amid family and friends in a a warm and loving atmosphere.  The risk, of course, is that if something goes wrong, the facilities for an emergency cesarean or resuscitation of the newborn will not be close at hand.  For many women a maternity center or a hospital birthing room is an ideal compromise, combining homey atmosphere with the security of high-tech backup.  Those low-risk women who insist on a home birth need to be certain they will be attended by a quality physician or certified nurse-midwife, and that emergency transportation to a nearby hospital will be available at a moments notice." 
This is on page 14.  Not very far into the book, and it's pissed me off.  Need I say more? 
Rating: Zero Webs
The What to Expect When You're Expecting Pregnancy Organizer 
Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 
I bought this when I found out I was pregnant; I thought it would be a great place to keep track of information during the pregnancy.  Save yourself the $12.95 and buy a spiral notebook. 
Rating: One Web
What to Eat When You're Expecting 
Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway, BSN 
Out of all the WTE books, this is probably the only one I would buy these days, and only if you can't find any books by Dr. Tom Brewer.  This also seems to be the least popular of the books - check out the reviews at - women complaining that they aren't supposed to eat white bread while they are pregnant, and that 100 grams of protein is too much, and they gained too much weight eating like this.
Rating: Two Webs
Healing Yourself During Pregnancy 
Joy Gardner 
I haven't read this one cover to cover, but it's actually a pregnancy book in general, with tips on how to get pregnant, diet, etc., as well as herbal remedies.  She's even got a list in the back of herbs to avoid.  [Review by Debbie]
Rating: Two webs
Spiritual Midwifery 
Ina May Gaskin 
With one foot in the past and one in the present, this book is a must for anyone planning a homebirth.  Once you get past the fact that the birth stories are being told by hippies, it becomes invaluable.  It is very strange, though, to read through all these births from the 1970s and then skip to the back section where it discusses AIDS.  I always read the section on birth complications when I get that "I want to become a midwife" feeling. 
Rating: Four Webs
Macrobiotic Pregnancy and Care of the Newborn 
Michio and Aveline Kushi 
This book does have some interesting things to say about fetal and infant development, but it doesn't provide a lot of useful advice for pregnancy.  Essentially, all of the complications that come with pregnancy should be dealt with through eating a standard macrobiotic diet (without offering many specific variations).  If you have any complications it is evidence that you haven't been eating properly.  It is much more interesting to read the section on care of the newborn, however, where it offers many insights that I haven't heard elsewhere. [Review by Lucy]
Rating: Two Webs. 
NOTE: This book is currently out of stock at
A Good Birth, A Safe Birth 
Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer 
I think if I had to choose a book to hand out with the positive pregnancy test, it would be this one. [Review by Debbie]
Rating: Five Webs
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way 
Susan McCutcheaon-Rosegg with Peter Rosegg 
The book basically covers everything about pregnancy and birth. You learn about emotional signposts - which I would say is the single most important thing you could get out of this book, if nothing else. It talks about how to choose a dr (or not choose one ;-)), nutrition, drugs during pregnancy, mechanics of labor and birthing, getting your body ready for birthing, labor - relaxation/imagery/music etc., ways your partner can help you, pushing, talk about (lack of need for) episiotomy, cesarean, hospital controversies, etc. This book and the birthing classes are very anti-establishment and helps empower you to protect yourself. 
The gist of the method is relaxation. When you have pain if you don't relax it hurts more so you tense more so you hurt even more so you are in even more pain and you tense even more.... It's a vicious spiral never giving you a chance to have a natural birth. So if you learn to relax - which really is easier than it sounds - it really isn't as painful. Honest! I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, but it's manageable. [Review by Mindi] 
Rating: Five Webs
A Child Is Born The Completely New Edition 
Lennart Nilsson 
A classic with color pictures.  Great for visualizing what your baby looks like, and my three year old loves it.  [Review by Debbie]
Rating: Five Webs
The Pregnancy Book 
William and Martha Sears, Linda Hughy Holt 
This is a good alternative to the WTE book.  Good, solidly laid out information on every aspect of pregnancy.  Marginal information on home-birthing.  [Review by Phan]
Rating: Four Webs
Conception, Pregnancy and Birth 
Dr. Miriam Stoppard 
I like this book.  I really do.  Dr. Stoppard treats homebirth as a viable option and not like it's a freaky thing to do. So are breech vaginal births.  All the more than 500 pictures are in color, and they are fabulous.  And all the drawings and pictures of penises have foreskins!  My copy is from 1993, so some of the information about testing is out of date, but other than that, it is an excellent, excellent book.  Well worth the $29.95 cover price (it's only $20 through Amazon, though.)
Rating: Five Webs
The Birth Partner 
Penny Simkin 
An absolutely indispensable resource for any partner or doula.  It's great to study beforehand, and even as a quick reference for ideas during labor.  If every partner read this book, intervention rates would plummet. [Review by Linny Simkin]
Rating: Four Webs
Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn 
Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley and Ann Keppler 
The should-be bible for every pregnant woman.  Here in Seattle, it's given out by many many OBs and midwives to all their prenatal patients.  It gives an even-handed, non-judgmental approach to all the issues that come up surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.  The message I get from the AlternaMoms concept is that if everyone knew the facts of what's best for themselves and their babies, they would choose natural childbirth, breastfeeding, no circumcision, etc., as I've done.  This book provides those facts and lets people draw their own conclusions. [Review by Linny Simkin]
Rating: Four Webs
While Waiting 
George Verrilli and Anne Marie Muesser 
I wasn't thrilled with this book, which was handed out along with formula samples at my OB orientation (Navy).  There is no mention of homebirth at all, though there is one paragraph on having siblings attend the birth.  It is, however, a good quick-reference for those pregnancy symptoms you feel silly calling your care-provider to ask about.  [Review by Phan] 
Rating: One web.
Other books at
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth 
by Shiela Kitzinger
Pregnancy Day by Day 
by Shiela Kitzinger and Vickey Bailey
Mothering the Mother : How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth 
by Marshall H. Klaus
Birth After Cesarean : The Medical Facts 
by Bruce L. Flamm
Silent Knife 
by Nancy Cohen & Lois J. Estner
Birthing from Within : An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation 
by Pam England
Immaculate Deception II : Myth, Magic & Birth 
by Suzanne Arms 
Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities 
by Henci Goer, Don Creevy
Birth As an American Rite of Passage
by Robbie E. Davis-Floyd
Heart and Hands : A Midwifes Guide to Pregnancy and Birth 
by Elizabeth Davis 
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