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The nerdy mom's pregnancy reading list

Early on in my reproductive journey a couple of things occurred to me.

  1. 1. Most people have babies at some point in their lives.

  2. 2. Most books written for people on the reproductive journey make me want to throw them against the wall, probably because they are written with the assumption that the person reading them hates reading (see: women being condescended to in life).  You see I am a nerd.  You tell me a fact and I want to know why and how you know that and what the exceptions are and on and on.  Citations needed, damn it!  
Many pregnancy books are either:
Thus began my journey for a reading list that had some basis in reality.  I will confess here that I often have to read medical literature for a living and so if I have a specific question I can find the answer to it myself on Google scholar.  That said, prior to beginning and then partaking of my pregnancy journey I did want to read some comprehensive books on the topic.  And so, here are the ones that I have found the most useful, trustworthy, and worthwhile to read.

Trying to Conceive

Before trying to have a baby I really enjoyed reading a book called The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant.  This book described a lot of the data we have around fertility, including debunking some of the fear mongering about getting pregnant at an older age.  Additionally it explained all the science behind the various ways of tracking ovulation, research-based advice on mom-to-be nutrition, and some fun stuff about timing conception to increase the likelihood of babies of a particular gender.   I also found the chapter on miscarriage probabilities oddly reassuring.  It's a fun, easy read, written by someone who clearly knows how to do a literature search (the author is a Psychology professor) but is coming to it as an interested party and not a professional.


I'm sure as a self-described nerdy mom, you've already heard of the book Expecting Better.  This book came out in 2013 and made many waves for its controversial stance that a couple of drinks in pregnancy are probably fine (I occasionally drank wine in both of my pregnancies because I came to the same conclusion and my OB was totally fine with this).  I enjoyed reading this book and think its conclusion to not worry too much that you're gaining excessive weight or that a piece of deli meat will kill you and everyone you love is really helpful in combating the fear mongering that is often directed at pregnant women.  I will say that I was a bit annoyed at the author for complaining about her provider all the time and not switching to a practice that would fit with her better.  Surely somewhere in the 7 million residents of the great city of Chicago is a more science-based obstetrics practice.  That said, I do recommend reading this book.

Another great book that contains a review of our current understanding of the science of fetal development is Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.  I really loved reading this book because it opened my eyes to processes I didn't even know were taking place inside me.  Written in a conversational style by a science reporter who is herself pregnant, it's a great balance of hard data review and empathy for her fellow travelers on the reproductive journey.  This book, like the 2 recommended above, provides the actual references for you to go look up, should you be inclined to do so - heart.  I cannot recommend this book any more highly.  It's also a great book for dads to read, in my humble opinion.

For a more general review of the various physical, medical, and emotional aspects of pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, I recommend From the Hips.  It presents a lot of great information, helpfully organized by topic (ex. prenatal testing, nutrition, etc.), rather than trimester.  This makes it both easy to read in order or use as a reference.  Additionally, the margins have these great thought bubbles from recent moms and dads and their experience with the topic at hand.  I loved reading these most of all, especially when there was disagreement from one to the next.  The thought bubbles also normalized so much of the new and confusing feelings that arise when pregnant.  I don't know why this book is not more popular, frankly.  I think it is such a hidden gem.

Labor & Birth

Here, as already mentioned by my partner in his post on books for dads (and non-dad partners!), I greatly recommend The Birth Partner.  Technically this book is written for the person or people supporting the pregnant mother in labor.  However, I read it too because I found it to be the most comprehensive and clearest description of what happens in labor.  I also appreciated the judgement-free, concise descriptions of the various interventions that may have to take place when in labor.  This was a great starting point for conversations with my provider about those potential interventions.  Those conversations came in particularly handy when I needed medical help in my first labor.  There is also a great chapter in the book about nursing and other aspects of "the 4th trimester" (definitely the right name for the first weeks postpartum).

Photo credits - Wikipedian Protester under a Creative Commons license.
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