What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Appointment
There's no reason to worry when you know what to expect.
In The Guide
If you’re anything like me, you want to read anything and everything about pregnancy that you possibly can!
I wanted to be as well-prepared as possible for the new little bundle of joy that was soon to be moving in.
When it comes to pregnancy books, there are a LOT of them out there, and some of them truthfully just aren’t very good, but there are a lot of great ones that range from hilarious to essential guides that all moms should read.
Here’s what I recommend as the top 10 pregnancy books that you might want to take a look at.
Starting off the list is a great informational book, the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (click here to check price on Amazon), a book that a lot of people would consider essential for moms-to-be.
It’s written by trustworthy professionals (doctors who are also parents!) in language that’s easy-to-read yet professional. It’s organized very well: it’s setup in 3 sections: pregnancy, childbirth and newborn, detailing all of the stages and the things you should know in each.
During the pregnancy section, it gives you a week-by-week explanation of the changes your body is going through, the development of your new baby (complete with illustrations), and what kind of emotional changes to expect; you’re left informed of exactly what’s going on! It also lists all of the problems you might have during each week, and let’s you know whether or not you should worry about them. It really makes you feel better about the whole experience.
There are also “decision-making guides” in the middle, helping you decide on all of the important things every mom has to during their pregnancy; whether or not to breastfeed, having another child, etc. It gives you the pros and cons of each, but doesn’t steer you in either direction; it just gives you what you need to make an informed decision yourself.
The book is so long that it functions more as a reference guide than something you’ll read cover-to-cover, although you can definitely read it that way, too. You’ll probably find yourself taking it out to look things up from time to time to look things up.
This book is an excellent resource for mothers interested in having a natural childbirth (or not)! The author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (click here to check price on Amazon) has over 30 years experience in being a midwife and has been published in medical journals on the subject.
You have to keep in mind that she’s an advocate of natural birth practices and is completely against the use of painkillers and C-sections, so you have to take some of it with a grain of salt unless this is something you’re interested in. There’s a lot of great information in the book besides these parts, though!
A lot of moms-to-be love this book because it does an excellent job for preparing you for childbirth no matter who you are; whether or not you want to have a natural birth or not. The prospect of giving birth can be pretty scary, but the book is full of stories from actual moms and does a lot to ease the worries and concerns you might have. It’s often recommended by nurses to future moms who express worry about the idea of childbirth!
Now, some of the stuff in the book can be a little out there such as the “orgasmic delivery” experiences (literally having an orgasm while giving birth) and the language does sometimes border on the overly hippy-ish, but I found it endearing and it doesn’t subtract from the information at all.
The book is split into 2 sections, and I would recommend reading the second half of the book first. The second half is about the birth process and the whole biological aspect, which is great for anyone even if you plan on having a hospital birth. The first part is about stories from moms who had natural births and kind of pushes the whole idea.
It tends to get a little hippy-dippy, and starts to border on cultish territory; the whole section is about “The Farm”, the author’s natural childbirth facility and the patients and midwives there. It makes a lot more sense to read the first half after the second half, and I think it would have been smarter for them to lay the book out in this order instead. Oh well.
All in all, I recommend this book if only for the second half. There are a lot of parts you’ll probably want to skip over if you don’t plan on having a natural birth, but the second half of the book is invaluable for anyone who is going to be giving birth.
The average pregnancy lasts 280 days, and the Pregnancy Countdown Book (click here to check price on Amazon) details the entire experience along the way.
It guides you month by month, telling you about all of the milestones you can expect and the changes your body is going through. It’s full of great advice for expecting parents, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything; it gets right to the point. It’s not harsh or blunt, though. The authors of the book are both doctors and parents, which I think is just about the best qualifications you can have to write a book on pregnancy.
What’s really great is that it talks about a lot of the pregnancy problems you’re probably going to face but might not want to to ask about, like varicose veins, stretch marks, foods to eat and stop eating, when to stop flying, how and when to tell friends and family, etc.
Another part I was impressed about in the book is the attention to the pregnancy and what it means for both partners in the relationship. It has some good tidbits for dads, too; it addresses the stress and trials their pregnant partner is facing, and how you can help them and relate to them during this time.
What’s nice about this book compared to some others is the impartial stance the authors take. They don’t tell you what to do; rather, they give you the information you need to make the decisions yourself. You’ll also like the quotes from moms, which are often humorous and give the book more of a lighthearted feel.
Whether or not to breastfeed is a decision all moms need to make, and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (click here to check price on Amazon) aims to be a guide to everything you need to know about the topic. It also includes information on pumping breast milk, which is something a lot of moms are doing these days.
The book is basically a bible to breastfeeding, answering all the questions and concerns you might have. It’s well organized into chapters on each subject, and they’re all covered comprehensively. It covers all the cases you might run into, including both common and uncommon scenarios, which is helpful to recognize special needs.
I recommend this book more as a reference tool rather than a book to read cover to cover. If you want information on a specific breastfeeding-related topic, you can look it up quickly and read about it. It’s a little dry to read from beginning to end and I don’t think it’s meant to be read that way.
One thing that’s a bit of a turnoff is that the book does get a little judgmental at times. For example, the author is against moms going back to work, and urges all moms to be stay-at-home moms. It’s not exactly realistic these days, and it can leave you feeling a little guilty.
The authors also side heavily with the concept of natural childbirth, and vilify the use of medications or c-section. You can ignore these parts, but it’s good to know about before reading it, so you know what to expect.
The book starts out with the typical progression of both the mother and baby during pregnancy, and includes a lot of great little tips that aren’t found in some of the other books. Things like diet and exercise, which are actually rather important, but a lot of books miss out on.
Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn (click here to check price on Amazon) does cover natural childbirth, and it’s obvious that the author sides with natural childbirth, but unlike some of the others, it doesn’t try to sway you to go in that direction. It gives you information on both medicated and natural childbirths and leaves the decision up to you.
It’s pretty refreshing, as most books with a natural slant heavily vilify those of us who choose to have a normal childbirth in a hospital. With lots and lots of pain meds! I commend the author for not trying to force the natural childbirth angle down our throats.
It’s also nice that the author writes very neutrally and refers to mothers, fathers, partners, etc. It could be a great book for same-sex couples, as it doesn’t necessarily write in the perspective of a man-woman relationship. Thumbs up for this, too.
The last chapters are about the first few months of your baby’s life, covering the topics of breastfeeding, how to position your child, what to expect when it comes to poop and diapers, as well as what you should and shouldn’t be concerned about. Along with these sections are helpful illustrations, for example, showing you the proper way to hold your new baby.
The book does focus a lot on pre-pregnancy, and if you’re looking for pregnancy books then it’s likely you’re already well past this point, but that’s okay. It’s a great resource and it comes highly recommended.
This one is a little different than the rest of the list; it’s meant to be a humorous book, and it does do a good job of that. Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth (click here to check price on Amazon) is written in a very down-to-earth style and is full of jokes and humor, which is a nice approach that you’ll probably appreciate compared to some of the other books that are written in an almost clinical style.
The book is written in a conversational tone, being both blunt and honest about the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, and almost reads like the author’s personal diary. It’s not really structured in any particular way, and often jumps from one topic to the next.
Let’s make one thing clear: it’s not the best resource, nor does it try to be. The author, Jenny McCarthy, is an actress and not an expert of any kind. She is a mom, so I guess that counts.
Belly Laughs is a good light-hearted book to read alongside other pregnancy books, but it’s by no means the best, and you’ll want to have other books that are more informative. The writing isn’t great, but it does itch that scratch of reading a humorous pregnancy book that you’ll probably be able to relate to a lot.
This book is about the healthy and nutritional side of pregnancy, and is mostly very well-researched. However, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care (click here to check price on Amazon) does have some sketchy parts, and you’ll probably want to take some of it with a grain of salt. For example, the author is against vaccinations, which I personally think is ridiculous. You’d to best to ignore some of the sections like this.
The book goes into detail about the nitty gritty of nutrition, covering everything from the vitamins and minerals you should be taking in while pregnant, to the discussion of healthy fats and their importance. It also covers the topics of toxic chemical exposure we face in day-to-day life and the risks associated with it. Other subjects covered include infant formula and the nutritional values of it,
It covers everything from pre-gestation to how you should take care of your newborn baby, to raising them through childhood, so it’s very comprehensive. I like the baby stuff, because it gives good information on how to keep baby safe; avoiding toxic crib mattresses, baby jumpers and walkers that could be dangerous, tips for childproofing and avoiding germs, etc. It’s something that most other books don’t really cover, which is nice.
While the book does offer a lot of nutritional and medical advice, it does lack references for a lot of it, so you might want to double-check some of it. For the most part, it’s very well-researched, though.
All in all, it’s a pretty good book for information on a more holistic approach to pregnancy and parenting, but you do have to take some of it with a grain of salt.
Not having much to do with pregnancy itself, Preggatinis: Mixology For The Mom-To-Be (click here to check price on Amazon) is a neat book for pregnant moms. It’s a book about alcohol-free cocktails! The recipes are really good, and they’re broken down by stages of pregnancy and symptoms, too. They’re innovative, fun, and best of all, pretty delicious.
The recipes mostly use things like fresh fruit and vegetable juices, herbs, and homemade syrups, and generally include nutritional information for each. It’s nice to not feel left out during pregnancy when you can’t drink alcohol along with everyone else.
There are also suggestions on how to “devirginize” the cocktails with alcohol, which is great for letting dads or people who aren’t avoiding alcohol to enjoy them, too, with an extra kick. It’s a nice touch.
I really like this book, and it also makes a nice baby shower gift. While not informational, and it doesn’t intend to me, this is a fun and helpful book that I think a lot of moms-to-be are really going to enjoy.
This is a pregnancy planner, and it’s very well researched and organized, and super helpful. 40+ Weeks (click here to check price on Amazon) has everything right down to the size is designed for practicality; it’s small enough that you can slip it right into your purse.
This is a no-nonsense pregnancy planner. It’s not full of informational text like a lot of other pregnancy planners; it just has text at the beginning of each section that serves as an introduction and tells you where to look for specific things. It’s full of helpful checklists detailing the things you should remember, and does a great job in helping you organize and prepare.
While it does have sections that let you put pictures and stuff like that, the book is first and foremost an organizer, and that’s a good thing. It does the job really well, and if you start using it you might wonder how you could have managed without it. I liked that it wasn’t made up with cutesy pictures and stuff like that. You don’t pull this book out of your purse and have it scream “pregnancy organizer” like a lot of other similar organizers!
It’s helpful past birth, too. You can record things like diaper changes, feedings, and take notes of things you’re not going to want to forget about the experience.
There’s not much else to say; I really recommend this book for any mom-to-be.
Switching things up, I think this is the best pregnancy book for dads. There aren’t a lot of pregnancy books available for fathers, but The Expectant Father (click here to check price on Amazon) is really, really good. The author is a dad himself, which is, needless to say, a requirement for writing a book like this!
It’s well-written, and is organized in a month-by-month breakdown of the entire pregnancy process, detailing what their pregnant partner is going through, both physically and mentally. It’s written in a humorous but informative style, and is full of knowledge that every father would find useful.
The end chapters of the book deal with the labor and delivery of the baby, including the possible emergencies that may arise. It’s not meant to frighten dads, but to inform and prepare them of things that could possibly go wrong. A lot of dads-to-be are full of anxiety about the whole process, especially the birth part, but this book does a lot to help ease those worries.
While the book is a good reference, it also makes for a good cover-to-cover read. The humor and tone of the book makes it easy to read, and also fun. It doesn’t go into super great detail about the development of the baby, and it expects that you probably have other books that cover the subject in far greater detail, but that’s fine because you probably do.
In the end, there are a lot of pregnancy books on the market that talk about the dad, but more as an afterthought rather than the focus of the book. The Expectant Father series does a good job in focusing the the father’s side of the experience, and I’d highly recommend it!
Now that we’ve been through the best pregnancy books, let’s start with ones to avoid. What to Expect When You’re Expecting has a long history, and moms tend to either love or hate this book; there’s no real in-between. Pretty much everyone has heard of the series, and it has been through a few editions over the years, currently on the 4th.
Personally, I couldn’t recommend it. It lacks research (no references) and is written by someone who’s only qualification is that she’s a mom. It’s also a bit condescending in tone and tends to make moms feel guilty instead of informing and making them more excited. Not recommended.
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