Parenting Book Reviews

Table of Contents


Pre-pregnancy Books

Pregnancy Books

Nutrition in Pregnancy

Pregnancy for Fathers

Baby Name Books

Birth guidebooks

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean

Infants & Toddlers


Sleep Problems

Child Rearing & Discipline

Preschool-aged children

Young school-aged children

Teenaged children

Learning disabilities and ADHD

Medical Information & Nutrition

Life Style Choices

Death and Children

Boys/Girls: "Gender" issues

Miscellaneous Books

Other Media

Sources & Acknowledgements

Paula Burch's Home Page


Laurie A. Rich: When Pregnancy Isn't Perfect. A Layperson's Guide to Complications in Pregnancy. 1991 and 1997 editions. Dutton (a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.) ISBN 0-525-24961-3, $19.95 hardcover. [sources incl. the author herself and amazon]
There are many books to tell you about what goes on in the average pregnancy. Few books, however, are any use at all to those suffering from serious complications of pregnancy such as hyperemesis gravidarum, placenta previa, intrauterine growth retardation, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension ("toxemia"), premature labor, etc. This book does an excellent job of filling this gap. It begins with a chapter on just what a 'perfect' pregnancy is like--along with all of the pains and discomforts that are considered normal in pregnancy. I strongly recommend this book to all who need more info on pregnancy complications. It can be useful even to those whose pregnancies are perfectly normal, so far--for example, it gives clear instructions on how to detect premature labor before it's too late for treatment, something all pregnant women ought to know about, just in case. --Paula Burch

Richard S. Abrams, MD: _Will It Hurt the Baby_ [OOP; try the library or possibly amazon]
A book I found helpful. ..He goes into medications and other substances. --Laura Dolson [from a post]

The best source of official info on what drugs are and are not approved for use in pregnancy, along with info on just what catergories A, B, C, D, and X mean, and alternatives for the less-ideal drugs. A book such as Shapiro's Pregnancy Book for Today's Woman (see below) is more useful at presenting actual research results; official recommendations are often less useful than a review of the actual research..--Paula Burch

Howard Shapiro: The Pregnancy Book for Today's Woman. c 1993, NY: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-273030-4. [sources]
Many pregnancy books are long on hearsay and short on facts. While I do not always agree with the personal prejudices of this author (I think he's much more anti-home-birth than the facts warrant, although I'm not personally into home birthing), he tends to present all sides of the research on a subject, incidentally often concluding that many things condemned by fluffier books such as "What to Expect" are quite safe in pregnancy. As a result I personally find this to be the most useful general book on pregnancy that I've yet read. It is very long and detailed, too long for some, but with a good index. One of the many myths it contradicts is that one must wait several months after a miscarriage before attempting another pregnancy. --Paula Burch

Janet and Arthur Balaskas: Active Birth. 1983.(paperback)
An excellent book for pregnancy. Shows exercises that really help you during labor. --Paula Burch

Janet Balaskas: Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally. 1992. [sources incl. amazon]
Probably a more current version of the above.

Ina May Gaskin: Spiritual Midwifery. Fat paperback.[sources incl. amazon
Totally psychedelic birth stories from the Farm, a Tennessee commune where Ina May & others almost singlehandedly revived the art of midwifery in America.

definitely NOT for everybody, but if you're into the idea of having a birth 'experience' on the New Age side of things, you will really 'dig' it.

Great source of birth stories. Kind of weird and hippy-ish-- you have to get used to her use of the word "stoned" as meaning a meditative state, rather than drug use, for example. --Paula Burch

another view: I HATED this book. It's the ONLY book that I've ever bought that I feel I've wasted my money on. I found the spiritual part hard to take but that wasn't the whole story. I'd bought the book because I wanted information about pregnancy, childbirth, and midwifery. The lack of correct anatomical terms for body parts just killed me. I guess the intent was to make it more accessible and it WAS ahead of its time. But it came across as sounding stupid to me.

Claudia Panuthos: _Transformation through Birth, A Woman's Guide [OOP; try your library or amazon]
Talks about 'clearing' up distressing old memories of previous labors -- or your own birth trauma -- as part of an emotional/ spiritual preparation for a more rewarding childbirth experience.

Lennart Nilsson. A Child Is Born. Hardcover. [hardcover sources; paperback sources]
Wonderful book of photographs of human embryos and fetuses at various stages. You should note, however, that it is imperative to get the 1990 update! The first update was 1978, and was minor. The '90 update was a whole new book!!!!

I loved being able to say "it looks about like a cashew nut now" or "it's about at the shrimp stage now"! The photos are wonderful. --Paula Burch

I also really have enjoyed Nillson's "A Child is Born" the hardback "completely new edition" (not the "completely revised edition) is the most up-to-date with colorized photos of scanning tunneling micrographs, and lots of detail of what is happening, especially in the first few weeks, when the embryo changes shape rapidly. So this is not quite a pregnancy and childbirth book, but it is fascinating. [Ed's note: It *is* a pregnancy book, just not a how-to book!]

Stoppard: Pregnancy and Birth Book (1987, Ballantine; 0-345-31908-7) [sources]
My favourite pregnancy book. The one to get if you're only getting one. Ignore the section on maternity clothes. Has drawings of relative size/features of embryo/fetus and woman at different points in the pregnancy. -- Kate Gregory

I really liked the book by Stoppard... I don't plan on making it an only book (I've already got _What to Expect...Expecting_ and _Getting Pregnant_), but it would make an excellent only book if you could only get one.

Morrone: Pregnant While You Work (1984, Berkley; 0-425-08538-4) [OOP; try your library or amazon]
Tips on maternity clothes, planning your leave, coming back, not coming back, etc. -- Kate Gregory

Bing: Making Love During Pregnancy (1977, Bantam; 0-553-14523-1) [OOP; try your library or amazon]
The other books brush this topic off with references to "lots of pillows, and lots of imagination." 165 pages later, diagrams and all, I can see why. That's basically all this book says, but it takes longer to say it. -- Kate Gregory

Martin & West: Mother and Child - The Time Before Birth (1988, Random House; 0-394-22038-2) [OOP; try your library or amazon]
A Canadian book that doesn't have the emphasis many American books do on the cost of procedures and tests. I turned often to the "discomforts by trimester" section which is very complete and has good suggestions. -- Kate Gregory

Hotchner, Tracy: Pregnancy and Childbirth [sources] _and_ Childbirth and Marriage [OOP]
both deal with the psychological as well as the physiological, and emphasize your existing relationships and life as well as the new one.

I also have and like a book by Tracy Hochster (spelling may be off) called "Pregnancy and Childbirth" She is a bit more of an advocate for learning about the controversies of technology and does talk about the controversy of fetal monitoring among other things.

Barrett, Nina: I Wish Someone Had Told Me Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster, 1990) [sources]
I've lent this one to 3 women who have had babies in the past year, and they've all said "where'd you get that??? I know someone _I_ want to give it to.

To be read in pregnancy to find out how bad early parenthood can be! I disliked it, but a friend of mine loved it. Better than being surprised, I suppose. --Paula Burch

Barbara Katzman Roth: THE TENTATIVE PREGNANCY [sources]
Just as an aside to this discussion of statistics, if you are a 37 year old woman worried about conceiving a Down's syndrome baby, you must ask yourself only one question: am I willing to care for a Down's affected child? For a nice discussion of this and related issues, read [this book]. -- Janet Wilson [posted on]

A very useful book for anyone undergoing prenatal testing. This book is better checked out from the library than purchased, however, if possible, as it's not apt to be referred to repeatedly throughout the course of the pregnancy. --Paula Burch

Penny Simkin, et al.: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn [sources]
My favorite. This had lots of non-judgemental information on medical interventions in pregnancy and childbirth, presented in chart format from least interventionist, to most. --Carol Alvin [from a post]

Your Pregnancy Week by Week [sources]
Once I became pregnant, I really liked "Your pregnancy Week by Week", which showed drawings of what you could expect the fetus to look like at various stages. I labelled all the chapters with the appropriate dates, and once a week my husband and I have a treat looking at what the baby looks like now (including size, and what parts are developing)

a dissenting view.... I hated this book! The book seems to be written by an OB who sees lots of complications in his practice and thinks they are common. He cavalierly talks about all sorts of things that can go wrong during pregnancy, without any real statistics to show that they are actually very rare. I am glad that I got this from the library instead of buying it, and I am also glad that I had read several other books first. Otherwise this one would have been very frightening. Plus, his information about the AFP test is completely wrong. Guaranteed to needlessly distress many people.

_BABIES AND OTHER HAZARDS OF SEX_ by Dave Barry. [sources]
the most ACCURATE and informative guide of all :-> [humor]

Niels Lauransen: It's Your Pregnancy [sources]
I have a book entitled It's Your Pregnancy, which I like.

Sheila Kitzinger and Penny Simpkin: various titles
Other good authors in the field are Sheila Kitzinger and Penny Simpkin, but I don't know if they cover before pregnancy. Mostly I would suggest getting several from the library, since not every book is going to answer all your needs, and every book has its biases.

I liked EVERYTHING by Kitzinger--go to the library for the ones you don't buy! --Paula Burch

Sheila Kitzingers books are all good. Also, "Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn" by Simkin, Whalley and Keppler is very good, discusses the plusses and minusses of medical intervention and has lots of references to studies to back up the findings. Another very good book if you really want to maximize chances of non-intervention is "The Birth Partner" by Simkin. Good information on the benefits and risks of all labor drugs, and at what stage they can be used. --Dorothy Neville [posted]

Sheila Kitzinger: Complete Book on Pregnancy [sources]
As a soon-to-be-new parent, I must add my voice to the chorus of the anti- "What to expect" books. My favorite pregnancy book (although a bit dated) has been Sheila Kitzinger's Complete Book on pregnancy which had lots of facts and information and a no-nonsense tone. -- Holly Isdale [posted]

Kathleen Diamond: Motherhood After Miscarriage. [sources] (Bob Adams Inc., Holbrook, MA, 1991, ISBN 1-55850-043-x)
When I had my miscarriage in Dec 93, I also wanted to find out more information on why it happened. I found a good book by a biologist who had 4 miscarriages and 2 births (3 miscarriages + the start of her second pregnancy was all in 1 year!). I thought the book was very understandable. It had more information than I wanted at the time, but it does look into why miscarriages occur with her own personal experiences included. For $10.95, its a good buy for someone wanting more information. -- karen.l.carr [posted]

Miriam Stoppard: Conception, Pregnancy & Birth [sources]
The best book that I've read. It is a text book sized book and covers everything in those three areas. If you are more interested in the fact than the fantasy of motherhood I think this is a very useful book. In comparison I found "What to Expect when you are Expecting" lacking in real details. "What to Expect..." is formatted in a question/answer style. I found many of the questions rudimentary in nature. I preferred the wealth of facts found in Stoppard's book. --Gail Hatch [posted]

Dr. Meriam Stoppard: "Conception through Pregnancy" [could this actually be the one just above? I can find no record of this title. -Editor.]
I am enjoying a book by Dr. Meriam Stoppard called "Conception through Pregnancy". It describes what happens to the mother and baby on a 4 week basis. It has a lot of details and nice pictures. I like it better than What to expect... because I know where I am. --Pam Omeara (posted to

Niels Lauersen: Childbirth with Love. 1985. [OOP; try your library or amazon]
Since I haven't seen it recommended, I thought that I would recommend "Childbirth with Love". I really was not a fan of "What to Expect.." although I did like "What to Expect in the first Year". I think I liked "Childbirth with Love" because it covered the broad spectrum, not just answering individual type questions. Each topic had a section of its own. Although the title would imply, at least in my opinion, that it is about labor, it really is about the whole pregnancy. It gives information about the baby at about two? week intervals (i.e. what it's doing, how long it is, how much it weighs) for the entire gestional period. It covers how the mother may be feeling etc. My husband also read this book (cover to cover) with our first pregnancy and felt it helped him. Good Luck. -- Linda Raver [posted]

Wendy and Matthew Lesko: The Maternity Sourcebook [OOP; try your library or amazon]
I liked [this book]. It provided good information on the process, with a very impartial tone. The book points out the good and "bad" side of various issues like circumcison, episiotomies, C-section etc, as well as outlining what was going on step by step in the pregancy, what to expect, etc. I've lent my book to many friends, and it's now pretty beat up, they liked it too. --Kim Fisher [posted]

The Wise Woman's Herbal for the Childbearing Year [sources]
Contains potentially dangerous medical advice. Herbs are not necessarily safer in pregnancy than synthetic drugs, and a couple of the ones recommended by this book can be quite dangerous. (Avoid blue cohosh, which can cause maternal heart damage, and any internal use of comfrey, which has caused at least one baby to die after its mother used the tea during pregnancy.) --Paula Burch

Myles Textbook for Midwives [sources]
[Another book] that I found had errors in things as basic as English/metric conversions, and was really rather fuzzy. The one my wife found had lots of generic "feel-good" advice: "You should stay away from spicy foods such as Mexican and Chinese." We wondered aloud how they could possibly have managed in Mexico and China until McDonalds came along. "Your doctor knows best." My wife shut the book. Both those books went back to the store. [...] We ended up with medical textbooks. These require a fair amount of scientific literacy, and of course are written from the point of view of the medical professional. They are concise and matter-of- fact, and obviously make no attempt to make the reader feel good. (Get used to being referred to as "the patient" or "the primigravida".) The best of the ones we found, and the one that we referred to most is _Myles Textbook for Midwives_. It's a British publication, and some of the material is not applicable in the US (it refers to particular practices in the UK). However, all of the physiology (obviously!) and much of the practical information is the same as in the US. A "pocket" medical dictionary may also be of some use. --Bruce Toback [from a post]

Chalmers, Enkins, and Keirse, eds.:_Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth_ (volumes 1 and 2) [OOP; may have been replaced by Enkin, Keirse, and Neilson: A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth, 1995]
My favorite in this department. I found it in the local university med. library. It has dozens of chapters written by various researchers, each on a different issue of pregnancy or childbirth. Though it comes firmly from the medical establishment, it is very broad in scope and outlook (including information on home and birth center births and other controversial practices). It provides an excellent review of the empirical literature. Personally, I *want* to see what kinds of research all this advice is based on. Often, it's just a study or two with little power or a shaky methodology. This book lays all bare to the interested reader. Oh, and it definitely qualifies as concise. Even though it's a *lot* of pages, it covers a *lot* of territory and each chapter is relatively short. You can jump around and check out the topics that interest you (many are very finely focussed and would only be of interest to people with certain medical problems). --Ericka Kammerer [from a post]

Thomas Congdon: "Having Babies: 9 months inside of an obstetrical practice" [OOP; try your library or amazon]
I just read this new book --by a journalist who spent 9 months hanging out in an OB's office...His book is an account of the pateints, the docs and the office staff and it's a good read for anyone who has had a baby or plans to. It's a brand-new hardcover book -- I got it from our local library. --Leigh Hancock [from a post]

Henci Goer: Obstetric Myths versus Research Realities [sources]
This book is about the current controversies in childbearing (EFM, cesareans, VBAC, drugs, etc). It breaks down the medical literature and cites hundreds of pages of the actual studies for you to read. It also contains a section on how to read medical literature. -- Robin Elise Weiss, ICCE, CD, NACA

What to Expect When You're Expecting [sources] (each paragraph is from a different contributor)
This book has been on the New York Times bestseller list forever. Is it because it's so good? Actually, it's kind of a scam. The book is given away for free at many hospitals (presumably in response to an great publisher discount), so it's the only book many people know about--this inflates sales figures dramatically, and of course anything on the bestseller list sells even more. "What to Expect" is a good book if you don't have access to any of the other fine books recommended in this list, and many people do like it....but also many people loathe it, for its many deficiencies. -- Paula Burch

Medically inaccurate, pro-intervention, and makes you feel like you should be a good patient. On the other hand, some really like the emotional aspects of this book, but I wouldn't get carried away with the medical portions. -- Robin Elise Weiss, ICCE, CD, NACA

I don't think "What to Expect.." is that bad, and it does have a whole chapter on before you get pregnant, as well as early pregnancy stuff such as symptoms. Someone on the net complained a while ago that it did not include the common symptom of pain when the blastocyst passes through the sphyncter at the base of the fallopian tube into the uterus. But no book is perfect and can handle everything. I agree with others that the diet and some other things are written in a guilt producing way, but the nutritional information is pretty good (except for the fructose hype). One just has to relax, learn the important things about calories, vitamins and minerals and then do the best you can (she says with half a piece of chocolate cream pie in front of her) I also object a bit to the childbirth section of the book, as it seems more designed to make you a good patient from the dr's point of view instead of a real advocate for your rights. For example, there is nothing in there about any controversy surrounding fetal monitoring, just says it is a hunky dorry thing and if the hospital says do it, then obey. (Must be why the hospitals give it away for free.) But on the whole, it is a decent book to read and has a lot of good information and things to think about, just don't make any one book your only source of information.

What to Expect when you are Expecting is the BEST book going. What to EAT when you are Expecting (which is an expanded version of a chapter in what to expect..) was flamed for its unrealistic approach to diet.

Before I had conceived, my copy of "What to expect..." was dog-eared from being read so many times. I loved it, and can't recommend it enough.

You are getting two books 'What to expect when you are expecting' and 'what to eat when you are expecting' mixed up. Although they are written by the same authors... [Ed's note : 'What to Expect' does contain a whole chapter of the nutritional nonsense of 'What to Eat'.] What to expect... is a great book, and most people in the past on the net have agreed. It gives you a month by month guide, which I found very helpful. All except the chapter on what to eat, which they took out of the other book. A friend bought me 'What to eat... (some friend) and I was immediately depressed. It tells you not to eat anything that isn't 100% real, and identifiable, and its list of not to eats is nearly impossible, especially when you and your husband put in 40+ hours a week each at work! (for example, it tells you not to eat salad dressing, but to make your own... please, like I have time to mix vinegar, oil, and a perfect blend of herbs and spices every evening...) I made an appointment with an OB nutritionist, who listened to my diet (cereal for breakfast, juice, pretzels for snacks, along with fruit, peanut butter and jelly for lunch (I craved it), and a grilled meat with rice and vegetables for dinner) The nutritionist informed me my diet was perfect, and better than 99 percent of the people walking around, and couldn't believe I was worried, until I told her about what to eat.... She laughed, told me that speaking as a nutritionist, that book was extreme, and advised me burn it. I'm holding on to it to give back to my friend when she gets pregnant... (hee hee hee...)

What to Expect says absurd things about diet. We now know that restricting sodium can actually CAUSE high blood pressure in pregancy, but What to Expect recommends cutting it out. This advice stinks. And suggesting that refined fructose is an ingredient worth using is just ignorant! Read this book, but don't take the nutrition seriously. Eating well is important, but you don't have to follow What to Expect (or the companion What to Eat When You're Expecting) in order to eat right!

_What_To_Expect_ is rather preachy about certain topics, especially nutrition, but if you can overlook it is really is the best all-round book on pregnancy and it even includes a section on pre-conception. Try to think of it like a mother, kind of preachy, but very knowledgeable and wanting the best for you!

I didn't read the flaming about this book, but I bought it and I like it. I am not pregnant yet, but it has good pre-pregnancy information. It also has a list of symptoms possible, many are possible for menstruation and pregnancy. It has two parts to it. The first is a list of questions and answers that many people have while pregnant. The second is a month by month, what changes to expect. I would suggest looking at your local library. Maybe check it and a few others out and see what you like. Then purchase a book. As for the impossible to stick to diet, I think that if people read a standard diet and what they should be eating, they may think that is impossible too :). At least the diet they give gives lots of examples of what to eat to get good nutrition. It helps when you don't know what to eat some night. Some things I didn't realize had the nutrients they do.

The _What to Expect..._ books are pretty good and I like the month by month format. I also agree that you should find as many sources of information as possible--I read *every* book in 2 local libraries about pregnancy, infertility, etc. when we were having problems conceiving and read some over again when I finally did get pregnant!

Well, YMMV ["your milage may vary"] on this one. A big reason to go to the library and check out many different books. I found "What to expect..." very pro-intervention, mostly says just relax and your doctor will do what's good for you. Says only good things about electronic fetal monitoring, and poo-poos all the research that says episiotomies are worthless (or worse). It's pretty clearly against homebirth also. -- Dorothy Neville [posted]

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Last updated: March 2, 2003