Mama and the Media Part 1: What to Read During Pregnancy

In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at one of the most powerful influences on your life as a parent–the media.  I’ll give you my doula/childbirth educator/mama scoop on what’s most likely to build your confidence and what’s just going to freak you out!

Once that positive pregnancy test confirms you’re on your way to mamahood, the reading begins.  Books, books, and more books have been written about preparing for pregnancy and birth, but which ones are worth the read and which ones are better used to prop up a wobbly table?  Here’s a list of my top picks and why:

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin — This book is hands-down, without a doubt, my favorite to read during pregnancy. As one of the leading midwives in the country, Ina May shares inspiring birth stories in the first half of the book. The second half gives an incredible insight into the physiology of birth and the female body, something that I feel not only builds confidence in the birth process, but as a woman in general. Dig in to this one and you’ll find your “inner mama” for sure.
  • The Official Lamaze Guide by Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries — The subtitle to this book is “Giving Birth With Confidence” and that’s seriously what reading this book will do (and I’m not just saying that since this is the Lamaze blog.) I feel this is the perfect blend of crunchy, earthy birth and evidence-based information. I’m not required to give the Lamaze Guide to all of my students–I choose to because it’s that good!
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, & Ann Keppler– If you’re looking for a complete guide to having your baby, this is it. Step-by-step, you’re guided through what to truly expect when you’re expecting without any of the scary stuff.  It also includes accurate information about birth procedures and interventions, and good insight into what to expect for mama and baby in the early postpartum time.
  • Birth Day by Mark Sloan — This book is one of the few out there that answers the questions that often go unasked.  Why do so many women push on their back (spoiler alert: it’s NOT because it’s easier for mama or baby)?  How do babies make that transition from womb to world (it’s pretty amazing)? Will my partner really get me through birth and on into parenthood (one word: hormones)?   Birth Day provides an amazing history of pregnancy, birth, and babies, tying it in with modern day practice.  I think to truly understand what you’re getting into, you must know how we got there, and this one does it in an entertaining, yet informative way.
  • Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent — If you know the basics of birth and don’t need another how-to guide, check out this fabulous collection of birth stories written by a midwife.  As you follow her professional journey, you’re invited to dozens of amazing, raw, empowering, and emotional births.  From home, to hospital, to houseboat, there is never a dull moment.  The stories will make you laugh, cry, and make you realize–hey, I can do this!!

Happy reading, Mamas!!

Avatar of Liz AbbeneAbout Liz Abbene
Liz is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and birth doula certified through DONA, and the founder of Enlightened Mama. Liz absolutely loves sharing in the experiences with those embarking on this incredible journey into parenthood, and she believes that knowledge is the key to a positive experience during pregnancy, birth, and parenting. She and her husband, Chris, are the proud parents of three vivacious children, with number four expected in early 2011. Learn more about Liz at


  1. Sheridan says:

    I agree with all of these but Baby Catcher. I personally love Baby Catcher, but don’t think it is OK for pregnant moms, because of some pretty sad things that happen in the book. I think it is too upsetting for pregnant moms to read.

  2. Avatar of Liz Abbene Liz Abbene says:

    Thank you for your comment, Sheridan. I debated whether or not to include “Baby Catcher” due to the fact that there is one story in particular that is very sad. However, the amazing, empowering stories really overshadow the tragedy that sometimes is associated with birth. To pretend as though these things don’t exist does a disservice to expectant families (which is why I’m guessing the author included them in her book). Lamaze prides itself on giving a complete and accurate picture of the birth process. We teach about healthy birth practices, but don’t ignore the fact that some women and babies benefit from medical interventions. These situations are far less common, but they do exist. In “Baby Catcher” there is a story involving an extremely rare birth complication. It is my hope that woman will understand that. More important, I feel, is to remind women that every birth is truly a unique experience and that no one has ever written the story of THEIR birth–that is yet to happen. Also, I always give families the disclaimer that it’s not necessary to read books cover to cover in order to gain helpful information.

  3. labortrials says:

    Nice list!

    I’m pregnant and planning a HBA2C and read “Baby Catcher” about a month ago. For me it was a GREAT read.

    Wagner’s “Born In the USA” and Simkin’s “The Birth Partner” are foundational; I recommend them often.

  4. Lindsey says:

    I LOVED the Baby Catcher. I loved her stories of how she rocked a home birth transfer and saved that baby’s life. I love how she described herself as a midwife that wore KEDS. I will never forget her stories… so encouraging!

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