When you’re pregnant, you’ll find out that everyone has an opinion on your pregnancy, your body and what kinds of advice you need to hear. So, you might want to turn to an expert to tell you all you need to know about pregnancy, labour and birth.
In the past, women would have lived in extended family groups where someone was always on hand to chat to about pregnancy. These days, many of us have never lived with another pregnant woman in the house and haven’t much experience of babies either. Our relatives don’t always feel they can pass on their own experience about this exciting time of your life, especially as the philosophy around what you should and shouldn’t do in pregnancy always seems to be changing.
You may turn to the internet to help you make sense of the changes to your body and how your baby is growing. But there’s nothing like a good book for helping you pick up some much-needed knowledge and understand what’s going on inside you.
It can be dipped into anywhere you go: the commute, the bath, or scanned in odd moments while you’re relaxing. Often, we find that we respond to a particular writer’s tone of voice and feel that they understand us, so peek into these in a bookstore before making your final choices. You’ll find that your favourite writers become like best friends, leading us through the myriad of choices available to pregnant women and new mums. On every question from folic acid to vitamin K injections, from gas and air to Caesarean sections, you’ll discover all you need to know.
A pregnancy book can help you get to grips not just with your baby’s growth and development, showing you amazing illustrations and scan images of how your little one is progressing but they can also help you think yourself ready.
Whether they are about your physical condition or are more humorous takes on the business of pregnancy, the books we have chosen have an authoritative voice and yet a personal tone that can really help you when preparing for your baby’s birth - and most importantly, they will enable you to feel empowered to make the choices that suit you.
Here are our top choices for helpful, informative books about this most exciting time in your life.
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The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill
Best for: having the kind of birth you want
This book helps you plan for the kind of birth you want to have, even if times are strange, such as in the post-pandemic world.
It includes advice on where to have your baby and has helpful tips on topics such as how to choose what exercise to do in pregnancy, with additional information from author of Bumps and Burpees Charlie Launder.
There are breastfeeding and pelvic floor tips from more experts and a section on your legal rights in pregnancy and birth, which not many books cover.
It’s very readable, with a warm and engaging style and has become a favourite recommendation of midwives, doulas - and new mums.
Buy now £12.09, Amazon
The Modern Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond by Marie Louise
Best for: midwife-led expertise and great advice
Author Marie Louise is a highly experienced practising midwife who also runs antenatal courses, so what she doesn’t know about pregnancy, labour and birth can be written on a postage stamp.
Marie Louise writes well and clearly, putting complex scientific ideas into simple language so that any woman can understand them.
The book is packed with facts about how your baby develops inside you - and how much they already know about you, from their life inside the womb. This book helps the reader to become confident, informed and inspired about their pregnancy.
Buy now £12.09, Amazon
What To Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
Best for: a light-hearted take on pregnancy
One of the most popular pregnancy bibles for years, the book is now in its fifth edition. It’s packed with all the information you need for both you and your partner, with insights and tips from the experts in the field.
It’s written with warmth and humour (if you can forgive some of the more American tones) and it covers all the crucial areas of knowledge such as antenatal screening, medications you can use in pregnancy, plus a new section on birth control after baby is born.
It covers current dietary trends and concerns too, such as health foods, GMOs, raw foods and more.
Buy now £11.69, Amazon
Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Dr Lesley Regan
Best for: advice from an experienced doctor
Lesley Regan is a respected and renowned obstetrician and she has used her experience of attending hundreds of pregnancies and births to bring you this book.
Your Pregnancy Week by Week takes you through each of the 40 weeks of your pregnancy, telling you what’s happening to your body at each stage and also how your baby is developing inside you. It has lots of pregnancy advice, plus information on how to care for your newborn baby for their first six weeks.
It includes illustrations and scan images showing the key moments of your baby’s development and is riddled with sound advice from medical experts for a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Buy now £18.59, Amazon
The Day-By-Day Pregnancy Book by Maggie Blott
Best for: knowing what’s going on at every moment of your pregnancy
Dorling Kindersley is exactly the sort of publisher you want for a pregnancy book – an exhaustive, in-depth account of what’s going on with your body and your baby at every stage of pregnancy.
This book reveals all you need to know while your baby grows and includes stunning artwork and foetal images so you can see your baby’s progress. There’s a detailed account of the first 12 hours after your birth as well as more information about your baby’s first two weeks and how your body recovers.
It has been written by a team of experts and has Q&As with those experts and with mums, answering common queries and giving you the confidence you need to approach birth.
Buy now £25.00, Waterstones
Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make Your Birth Better
Best for: focussing on a good birth experience
Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make Your Birth Better targets the birth experience and leads women by the hand when exploring what hypnobirthing is, and how it can work for you.
Penned by a practitioner with a huge knowledge of pregnancy and birth, Siobhan Miller, founder of the Positive Birth Company. Miller explores facts and myths about hypnobirthing and shows how it can help every woman to have the kind of birth they want, feel empowered and relax into labour. Partners are included in this evidence-based, logical birth strategy as it teaches your body how to work on a muscular and hormonal level.
You’ll look forward to the birth with calm excitement.
Buy now £8.26
Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan by Rebecca Schiller
Best for: reassuring advice
This guide takes you right from the moment of conception and goes through your pregnancy to the moment of childbirth. What makes this book different is that it takes the angst out of pregnancy for you.
So much of our lives when pregnant is about what we “should” do, should not do, should eat, or not eat. Once you have all the information you need about what’s safe to do and how you should care for yourself and your growing baby, the book encourages you to take charge, understand the science and medicine and ignore other unhelpful advice.
It discusses the changes to your family life, how your body changes, what happens with work and how your feelings and emotions might change. Then it helps you make a birth plan that fits you and your lifestyle.
Buy now £9.80, Amazon
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Best for: understanding and debunking bad science
Expecting Better caused quite a pleasant stir when it came out for its bold and common sense approach, which is to hold your hand through your pregnancy and take on all the health and science facts you need without feeling overwhelmed.
It explains how women’s lives change in profound ways when they are pregnant, falling into the trap of becoming infantilised by the whole medicalised process of pregnancy and offers advice on how to negotiate it. Oster examines several controversial areas such as food choices, alcohol and coffee and explains why these are often on the naughty list – while discussing the real truth about what’s safe and what’s not.
Debunking myths is what Emily does best and she has no hesitation in telling you how to cut out the less helpful information out there.
Buy now £6.10, Amazon
Nobody Tells You by Becca Maberly
Best for: honest and refreshing look at controversial aspects of pregnancy
Though as a parenting journalist of over 20 years I object to books called ‘nobody told me’ - because I have been telling women all they need to know - this book is at least refreshingly honest about pregnancy, birth and living as a new mum.
It has more than 100 first-person accounts brought together by pregnancy and postnatal expert Maberly, together with advice from obstetrician Roger Marwood.
It takes you through a range of topics from trying to get pregnant, Caesareans, recovering after the birth, how you feel about breastfeeding, plus self-care which is often in short supply after the birth. It offers evidence-based information and tips with plenty of good humour.
Buy now £14.99, Waterstones
Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish
Best for: a good-humoured book
Plugged as the book everyone who’s pregnant – or even if they are thinking of getting pregnant - should read, Nobody Tole Me is warm and approachable, as if you’re one of McNish’s mates.
She goes through a lot of the things she didn’t know about pregnancy beforehand and discusses the things that were suddenly forbidden - such as soft whip ice cream.
The obstetric information is interspersed with poetry and first-person stories and reveals McNish’s thoughts on topics such as having a baby in today’s Britain, gender, sex and “finding secret places to scream once in a while.” We’ve all been there.
Buy now £7.99, Amazon
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May
Best for: focussing on your mental as well as physical preparedness
Ina has been a midwife for over 40 years and has wide-ranging experience of all types of pregnancies and all types of labour, whether they went according to plan or not.
She likes to make the link between your mind and your body to help you approach labour calmly and with a positive attitude. May uses real-life anecdotes that show that childbirth can, indeed, be a positive experience and she takes readers through what changes inside the female body as it prepares for birth. There’s also advice on creating a secure and nurturing birth environment to help you approach the birth you want.
Buy now £12.09, Amazon