pregnancy books – hits and misses part 1

Before I fell pregnant, I’d normally get through a couple of books a week, plus whatever magazines I could get my hands on.  While I haven’t stopped reading by any means the genre has shifted to contain, unsurprisingly, a lot more pregnancy focused mags and books.

Here are a couple I’ve read of late:

You Having a Baby: The Owner’s Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD (better known as Oprah’s doctor)

This book is quite a treat.  Easy to read (I managed it in an afternoon but it was raining and there was nothing else to do). 

It differs from many pregnancy books as it provides some basic medical information so let’s you know (as per the description) “what you can do to maximise your and your unborn child’s health, but also why”.

This is useful for someone like me who, unless knowing the reason why you should do something, will just do what they want.

For those of you familiar with Dr. Oz from Oprah’s shows there are no real surprises in the format – all the advice presented is relatively simple (aided by some illustrations that do verge on silly at times) and easy to understand, along with some handy checklists (although these are not unlike many you will find online.

Topics covered range from conception to how to picking a stroller, dealing with labour pains to deciding whether or not to vaccinate your child.

One of the more interesting sections covers eipgenetics, the idea that ‘stressors in the mothers environment cause changes in the gene expression patterns of the fetus’ ie, what you do pre, during and post pregnancy can effect how particular genes are expressed. 

An example is if you eat too little (or are otherwise undernourished), your baby will switch to famine mode in utero, setting it up for a lifetime of slow metabolism (and possible fatty boomba status). I liked this example particularly because it gives me a wonderful excuse to eat as much as I can.

Some other examples of epigenetics can be a bit scary, particularly if you’ve already done something the authors recommend you avoid BUT they come with a disclaimer that it’s never too late to change and just focus on doing the best you can from now on.

All in all it’s a good, basic summary of how the body works in pregnancy, when you should worry and when you should relax. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll come back to this one as the pregnancy progresses and after the baby is born.

Borrow, buy or bury?  Buy (or try before you buy here)

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Many view this book as the godmother of pregnancy and childbirth books. The author, Ina May Gaskin, is described as the most famous midwife in America and comes with a host of positive reviews and recommendations from famous and not so famous sources (read more about Ina May here).

 I found it interesting, but a bit too self aware and hippyfied for my liking.

One of the biggest plusses is that it does (at least for me) help reduce some of the fear associated with childbirth, explaining that while it’s not necessarily a picnic for most (although it does go into orgasmic labour a fair bit) it doesn’t have to be the scary experience the media so often makes it.

The book also opens your eyes to many medical interventions commonly viewed as normal in this day and age which while accepted by most, are often unnecessary.

Although the book has been revised, it is older, and while childbirth in it’s basic form hasn’t changed since it was written (or ever, for that matter), some of the medical procedures described sound a bit outdated.  This could however be due to the difference between medical care in Australia and the US.

One of the best parts of the book comes near the beginning, which contains a number of descriptions of the birth process from women Ina May has been involved with.

There are also some illustrations and photos (a few of which have scarred my partner for life, but I guess he will have to suck it up before he’s involved in a birth himself).

All in all a good read, highly informative and backed up by a lot of research and solid scientific evidence (and plenty of anecdotal evidence as well). 

A great choice for the earth mothers among us, and for those fearing the birth process.  Also good if you are hovering on the “should I or shouldn’t I” line of decision for a drug free birth.

Borrow, buy or bury?  Borrow

Mama Mia by Mia Freedman

OK, this is not strictly a pregnancy book, but I had to include it.

For those of you not familiar with the blog MamaMia, or her weekly contributions to Sunday Life (truly one of the highlights of my weekend), Mia is informative, personable, funny and inspirational, providing great insight into the life of a working mum.

Her book charts her rise to the top of the Australian glossy mags (another favourite topic of mine) and everything she faces along the way, from bad boyfriends, pregnancy, labour, miscarriage, friendships, work and everything else in between.

I read this book twice when it came out, and turned to it again when I found out I was pregnant as I was sure I’d view it in a different light (I did). 

The joy of this book lies in Mia’s ability to describe her personal experiences in a way that makes you feel like she understands yours, whether they be similar or vastly different.

While I’m yet to go through the ‘joy’ of birth yet I felt the sections on Mia’s labour experiences highly relatable and informative (and deliciously silly – donning Collette Dinnigan for the birth process, hello?).

Buy, borrow or bury?  Buy (for yourself, your sister, mum, daughter, friend, cousin, co-worker…)

I’ll be posting some more reviews next week but would love to hear from anyone who can recommend books to read (or avoid!)

P.S. Amity Dry of Essential Baby has a great blog on this topic, focusing more on books relating to the post-birth period


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