Best pregnancy books

14 May 2020

pregnant woman reading a book

With so many pregnancy books out there, it can be hard to know which to choose. Browse our list of the best books to read to prepare for pregnancy, birth and beyond, according to Mumsnet users.

With so much information out there, being pregnant and getting to grips with the changes your body is going through can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there's a world of mothers out there who've been there, done that and got the maternity T-shirt.

We've taken wisdom from the millions of pregnant women who frequent the Mumsnet forums – from our Pregnancy forum to the popular online antenatal clubs – and pooled their thoughts on the books that helped them the most during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Here are the best pregnancy books for expectant mothers.

1. Expecting Better by Emily Oster

Author Emily Oster combs through hundreds of medical studies to show that the widely-followed dictates of pregnancy, including alcohol and caffeine consumption, are often wrong – or at least oversimplified. This groundbreaking guide to pregnancy will provide you with all the data needed to make informed decisions about your pregnancy.

1. Expecting Better by Emily Oster

What Mumsnet users say

“Completely up-to-date science written with a no-nonsense attitude. I can't stand all this unjustified scaremongering!”

“This is great if you actually want the reasoning behind some of the guidelines. It made me feel a lot more confident in myself and how to keep me and my baby healthy.”

“It's definitely the book for me as I like having all the information and making my own choice. I've become increasingly aware that most pregnancy advice is fairly low on its evidence base, and this book confirms it.”

Buy it now

2. Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan by Rebecca Schiller

Rebecca Schiller, who is both a doula and the CEO of Birthrights, has written an empowering guide that helps you decide what is right for you – throughout your pregnancy, labour and birth, and the first few weeks with a newborn.

2. Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan by Rebecca Schiller

What Mumsnet users say

“I found Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan really good. Lots of practical advice and very non-prescriptive.”

“So useful, so non-judgemental – just pure info and encouragement to make your own choices. It's lovely. Can't speak highly enough of it!”

“It sets out all your options for every stage of pregnancy, rather than telling you the best way.”

Buy it now

3. Pregnancy: The Mumsnet Guide

Our list wouldn't be complete without the book that offers advice from those at the frontline of parenting – Mumsnet users themselves. This guide is packed with the advice, wit, wisdom and reassurances of the thousands of parents who log onto the site each day, distilled and presented in a way that is both accessible and authoritative.

3. Pregnancy: The Mumsnet Guide

What Mumsnet users say

“Indispensable. Found it in a secondhand bookshop and that was how I discovered Mumsnet.”

“I loved the Mumsnet pregnancy book for reassurance and funny stories!”

“I've been very much enjoying the Mumsnet guide to pregnancy (it's absolutely hilarious as well as down to earth and informative) so will definitely be investing in the baby and toddler books.”

Buy it now

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4. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Ina May Gaskin, America's leading midwife, shares her birthing wisdom in this intuitive guide to childbirth. With a focus on natural birthing, it offers advice and tips to maximise your chances of an unmedicated labour and give you the confidence to have the best birth experience possible, whether in a hospital or at home.

4. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

What Mumsnet users say

“This is the only book I would recommend to a fellow expectant mother. The birth stories are incredibly inspirational and moving.”

“I am a massive fan. That book helped me SO much during my pregnancy and galvanised my decision to have a home birth.”

“I find her approach interesting and inspiring. This book is a real support to my decision. It makes a nice change from the usual negative view of childbirth that filters through from society.”

Buy it now

5. Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish

Bestselling poet Hollie McNish speaks up about the things she didn't know before she got pregnant – from not being able to stomach Mr Whippy to how to stand while holding a baby.

Nobody Told Me is a personal account of being pregnant and raising a child today and, while not a traditional pregnancy guide, it gives a relatable and insightful look at what pregnancy is really like. It also includes this excellent poem on breastfeeding that went viral on YouTube. You're welcome.

5. Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish

What Mumsnet users say

“Bought this book when I found out I was pregnant. I love it. Her poems are so full of raw honesty and I thoroughly recommend it.”

“Just finished Hollie's book the other day and, although I don't read much poetry generally, as the mum of a six-month-old baby I was blown away by how she managed to put word to many of the feelings and reflections I've had through pregnancy, birth and beyond. It's really reassuring and made me feel like I'm part of a community of mothers/parents. At the same time, it's depressing that these feelings and experiences aren't more widely acknowledged in mainstream culture.”

Buy now from Waterstones

6. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill

Milli Hill is the founder of the popular Positive Birth Movement. Along the same lines as hypnobirthing and indeed utilising its methods, this is a movement which 'believes that every woman deserves a positive birth' and so approaches birth from a place 'without fear or dread'. The book explains this approach and aims to give the reader the tools to figure out the kind of birth they really want, and how to make it the best it can be. It must be noted that the book and movement aren't for everyone, but a number of Mumsnet users have found it inspiring and useful.

The similarly named (but different) Positive Birth Company also comes recommended, founded by Siobhan Miller who has her own book, and also a digital pack containing lots of video and audio content, which some women have found delivers the 'positive birth' message in a more accessible way.

6. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill

What Mumsnet users say

“Milli Hill's The Positive Birth Book is my hypnobirthing bible and basically covers everything on actual courses.”

“My midwife recommended The Positive Birth Book and I read the whole thing cover to cover. It left me and my partner more informed than any midwife or NCT class. It breaks down every element of your delivery, how to compile a birth plan and things you would never even think of. In the end, my birth plan went out of the window due to an emergency c-section, but I knew what my choices were and why it was happening because of that book.”

“One caveat – she is in the States so there are some slight differences when compared to the UK. However, she is from the UK, I believe, and does talk about the UK side a lot so it's very balanced. The main thing that seemed different was that, in the States, they apparently ask you not to snack during your labour at the hospital. But it seems it's fine in the UK!”

Buy it now

Related: What do you need for your baby? See Mumsnetters' newborn essentials

7. The Whole 9 Months by Jennifer Lang MD and Dana Angelo White

Eating when pregnant can feel like a minefield – what food do you need to avoid, what should you eat to get the most nutrition for you and your growing baby, and what can you actually stomach? While general advice is to eat healthily where you can (and not eat for two, as much as we'd want to), it does help to have some inspiration in the form of pregnancy-specific recipes, such as cookbook-guide The Whole 9 Months.

Co-written by doctor Jennifer Lang, the book has stellar reviews on Amazon and, as well as covering food, it also contains week-by-week updates on fetal development.

7. The Whole 9 Months by Jennifer Lang MD and Dana Angelo White Buy it now

8. The Food of Love by Kate Evans

If you're worried about breastfeeding, this delightful book should help – complete with witty illustrations and an honourable mention for La Leche League's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which many Mumsnet users also recommend.

A few do say that The Food of Love is quite technical and might feel a tad overwhelming during pregnancy. But if you'd prefer to equip yourself sooner rather than later, it has helped many women, especially with breastfeeding problems.

8. The Food of Love by Kate Evans

What Mumsnet users say

“I definitely recommend The Food of Love. It's so friendly and chatty and hilarious! It was the ONLY thing I read about babies/feeding before having DD and it really helped with my confidence in the early days of breastfeeding. I read it over and over – it was like a friend. It's also full of cartoons and is funny.”

“Food of Love is excellent, really accessible and fun to read. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is also good, but more of a textbook.”

Buy it now

9. Mindful Hypnobirthing by Sophie Fletcher

Hypnotherapist and doula Sophie Fletcher covers a range of mindfulness, hypnosis and relaxation techniques in this book on the methods of hypnobirthing. The audiobook comes especially recommended, as it features downloadable hypnosis and relaxation tracks.

9. Mindful Hypnobirthing by Sophie Fletcher

What Mumsnet users say

“I had Sophie Fletcher's Mindful Hypnobirthing as an audiobook. I would definitely recommend getting it over a conventional book as the chapters and exercises flow nicely together.”

“I would agree that mindfulness is also a really good place to start. I can recommend Mindful Hypnobirthing by Sophie Fletcher as a good way to explore this. It really addresses anxiety and fear around childbirth and how to reframe birth differently from our very Western/modern view of glorifying the horror stories and wearing them like a badge of honour to terrify others.”

Buy it now

10. The Second Baby Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

A rare occurrence on the pregnancy books scene, this book addresses the specific experience of a second pregnancy and birth, and how that might differ from the first time around. It starts with exploring right time to add an additional family member, and then goes on to give practical advice around introducing a new sibling, as well actually coping with having two children.

10. The Second Baby Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

If you are expecting a second child, Mumsnet users recommend these books to help aid the transition for your firstborn:

“I second My New Baby. It's just pictures, so you can adapt the story to your circumstances. The toddler could be either a girl or a boy, and it has everything that happens before and after the new baby arrives. DS1 was two when DS2 was born, and we read these books lots in the last few months of my pregnancy”

Buy it now

Related: Best baby books, according to parents

11. Pregnancy for Men by Mark Woods

While many men might benefit from reading any of the above texts, this is a nice book for expectant fathers. It covers what they need to know – from how the baby is developing month by month to how to support their partner throughout pregnancy.

11. Pregnancy for Men by Mark Woods

What Mumsnet users say

“I bought my DH Pregnancy for Men. It's quite funny in places, but also has good medical details and practical preparation for the baby.”

“Pregnancy for Men is great. It's sensible, informative and witty.”

“I wasn't sure about getting DH a book initially, since it felt a bit patronising. But he really liked it – it seemed to be written in a way he could identify with and gave just the right amount of information to make the pregnancy seem real to him, and help him feel part of it. He even said (unprompted!) that he wished he'd read it earlier so he could have been more supportive early on (I gave it to him at about four months in).”

Buy it now

12. Your Baby Skin to Skin by Rachel Fitz-Desorgher

Not technically a pregnancy book, but one that should help to ease anxieties about what the year after birth may hold. Your Baby Skin to Skin was written using conversations with thousands of parents over a period of 30 years (sound familiar?) and gives reassuring and practical advice on a range of areas – from feeding to sleeping to weaning.

12. Your Baby Skin to Skin by Rachel Fitz-Desorgher

What Mumsnet users say

“While I found reading pregnancy books interesting and useful, I regret not spending enough time reading up on what to do when the baby arrives! I would highly recommend Your Baby Skin to Skin by Rachel Fitz-Deshorger. It's brilliant as it explains your baby's behaviour and outlines how you can best respond. It will demystify things and reassure you during those challenging (but amazing!) first few weeks and months.”

Buy it now

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