9 Great Books for Natural Pregnancy and Birth


38 weeks pregnant. Haven’t cooked a real thing in the kitchen in weeks.  It’s been toast with avocado smushed on it, or toast with liverwurst from the Piggery, or toast with scrambled eggs or toast with cheese or toast with sardines or beans with tortillas.  And collard greens.  And celery with hummus.  That is literally all we have eaten for weeks I’m pretty sure.  So not much to write about in that department.

I am experiencing a weird, not quite out of body but close, kind of feeling.  Just super loose and a little clumsy and I can feel my brain encased in a fog.  It’s bizarre but also kind of awesome.  The baby’s head is down (thank goodness) but posterior (hopefully he’ll roll over at some point?!).  Doing cat/cow pose as much as my wrists and knees will allow.  We’ll see.

Anyway, since I don’t have much else to write about I thought I would share some of my favorite books about pregnancy and birth.  Most of these I checked out from the library, many of them more than once.  I read several others but these are the ones that stand out.  (Actual photo of my huge self below.)


Health, Herbalism, and Nutrition

Real Food for Mother and Baby, Nina Plank.  Great book about prenatal nutrition, and not just the typical “eat lean protein and drink skim milk” kind of stuff– Nina talks about raw milk, eating chocolate and having the occasional glass of wine.  She also talks about foods for fertility, breastfeeding and first foods for baby.  Really enjoyable read.

The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices, Aviva Jill Romm.  This is a wonderful reference book for pregnancy. (This was probably my version of What to Expect, which I didn’t read, and I wouldn’t recommend.) The first half contains a ton of information about what to expect during pregnancy, information about diet, posture, exercise, even a chapter called “Emotional Changes by Trimester,” which is incredibly affirming and helpful. The second half is basically a reference for various ailments that commonly occur during pregnancy (backaches, constipation, fatigue, heartburn, etc.), and how to treat them naturally.  She gives herbal and nutritional remedies and includes recipes for different teas, etc.  I followed her guidelines for a mild UTI early in pregnancy (rather than taking the antibiotics that my first doctor prescribed) and it healed up in no time.  I’ve been using the library’s copy of this, but it would be worth buying as a reference.

Herbal Healing for Women Rosemary Gladstar.  Oh, this book, how I love it.  How I do not love the taste of red raspberry & nettle leaf tea, but I do love this book.  Recipes for salves and lotions and mostly teas and tinctures to help with various issues and ailments.  A TON of great information on herbs to take for fertility issues through the end of pregnancy, covering specific ailments during pregnancy as well as general teas and formulas for toning the uterus, etc.

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year Susan Weed.  Another great book on herbalism, focused exclusively on (obviously) the childbearing year.

Pregnancy & Childbirth

Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin.  Part midwifery manual, part collection of amazing birth stories from the Farm, this book is a must-read for pregnancy.  The birth stories at the beginning are beautiful and inspiring.  No birthing horror stories– just positive, encouraging narratives of natural births.  The rest of the book gives you a lot of great detailed information about labor and delivery, written as an actual manual for midwives, but also good stuff to know.  John read all the way through this one and knows more about birth at this point than I do.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin.  This book also contains a lot of birth stories but doesn’t include all the super technical instructions for midwives that Spiritual Midwifery does.  Just really great information about birth from a perspective that you’re not going to get in What to Expect or other mainstream books.  A must-read.  This book also has some great pictures, including one of a baby emerging face up (p. 58), which ladies, you must show to your husbands at some point to startle them out of their minds.

Natural Hospital Birth, Cynthia Gabriel.  If you’ve read a lot of other books about natural birth, parts of this can be a little repetitive, but I found most of this book to be really clearly written and a helpful overview of what to expect during labor, ways to cope with pain, etc.  A really, really good read for women wanting to give birth naturally in a hospital (and a great section on why hiring a doula is the best idea ever, if your partner needs convincing, which blessedly mine didn’t).

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Henci Goer.  Great and super informative overview of a lot of the medical stuff surrounding birth.

Hypnobirthing  This one is a little out there, I’ll admit, and the cover is a little creepy, but it also might be my favorite book about labor.  The premise (which the author adopted from Grantly Dick-Read) is that fear of pain during labor actually causes more pain.  It’s a little seductive, because the author says that birth doesn’t have to be painful, so I think it would be possible to read this and then get really discouraged when labor turns out to be, well, painful.  But there are some great exercises in it for breathing and staying calm during labor, and this is one of the few books that I still care to read at this point– no super technical terminology or worst case scenarios.  Just calm, encouraging, positive perspective on the birthing process and super practical, if totally out-there, exercises to practice for labor.

Anyway, I’d love to hear if any of y’all have great pregnancy book recommendations, or if anyone has a different perspective on any of these books!


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