Sometimes the right book at the right time makes all the difference.
This is our library of recommended books to read if you're navigating your health, body, pregnancy, or the early days of parenting. In addition, I've got a round-up of my favorite books on business, entrepreneurship, marketing and leadership. Over the past decade, I've read hundreds of books and some of them are stand-out winners for business and parenting support. Good books, crafted with love and effort by authors who take years to pour wisdom into their pages, can be life-changing. Take a look through our recommendations by category, below!
CHILDBIRTH: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
If you’re pregnant and you need somewhere to start, these are the books that helped get me (and thousands of other women) through pregnancy, postpartum, and more.
BEST BOOKS ON CHILDBIRTH
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Ina May Gaskin
I’m not sure I can do this book justice in a short summary, but this was one of my all-time favorite books. I loved reading about women’s childbirth stories, and the many variations that can happen as labor begins and progresses. I craved being on The Farm, and having a birth experience like these books—the careful attention and nurturing by a long-practice midwife who can tell when you’re starting labor, when you’re in transition, when to come in, and how to tap deeply into yourself when you need to—it sounds divine.
I also deepened my respect for her knowledge when I read stories where the midwife would alert a hospital, and knew when extra attention was needed. Birth is a critical sequence of events and there are some life-saving tools that hospitals can provide. The irony is that hospital environments aren’t always the best places to allow women to give birth, at least not emotionally and psychologically in making you feel safe and protected. Read this if you want to immerse yourself in birth stories, and surround yourself with women who have given birth before. Read this if you want to cry about how beautiful birth can be, and feel familiar with the process. Read this to feel in awe of women.
Ina May Gaskin
This book is credited with “introducing an entire generation of young women to the possibility of home birth and breastfeeding.” The history of childbirth and breastfeeding over the last century-plus is a deep (and somewhat dark) takeover of a realm of knowledge my medical practitioners, often male, who had very little experience in the subject matter. For those longing for a deeper inner connection to your own body and a deep understanding of childbirth and homebirth, read this book. It’s beautiful, evocative, and filled with love. I found myself drawn to birth stories—craved them, wanted to be in touch with other women’s stories—constantly when I was pregnant.
HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method
Marie Mongan MEd MHy
My first birth experience was so deeply challenging—and painful—that I longed to find out if that had to be the case. Through extensive reading, studying, and practice, I learned how various elements contributed to my experience: from the environment around me, to my sense of safety, to my perception of fear, and the words I used to talk to myself all mattered.
I picked up Hypnobirthing to find ways to bring my experience into my own hands, through better conceptualizing fear and pain, and digging into the experience and narrating it in a new way. If I’m honest, my doula and I laughed (a lot!) at the idea that contractions were just “pressure.” We had a lot of belly laughs at that idea. Yet it still gave us comfort in knowing that the way we frame the story of pain matters, and practicing empowering, calming statements and responses can help shift the overall experience from one of extraordinary pain to one of manageable pain.
I still had massive insomnia, loads of third-trimester anxiety, and a healthy dose of fear leading up to my second birth, but I approached it in a calmer, steadier manner, and it made a huge difference. I’m happy I took the time to listen to the meditations and learn more about the mental practices that can support your path through childbirth—however it happens.
The Birth Partner
Birth is an event and adventure taken on by the birthing mother, but it is also a time when we connect most deeply to our support systems—the partners, friends, relatives, and doulas that are part of our network and are an essential component of the ecosystem needed to bring new life into the world. This book serves as a guide to helping women through labor and birth.
My husband was fastidious about taking notes and learning the patterns. He couldn’t help with the pregnancy, but he wanted to be all-in with supporting however he could. From tracking contractions to setting timers to learning massage techniques, to eventually spending hours on the birthing ball, bouncing our newborn to sleep with loud shushing noises in the living room—childbirth and the postpartum period should not be alone.
Every partnership is different, and you may find you need other partners—sisters, doulas, friends, neighbors—to join you in this journey. It may feel strange, given Western cultural norms of extreme independence and isolation, but birth can be a time to find and initiate the support structures that you need. For many, early parenthood can be the start of new connections and friendships that last a lifetime.
Birthing From Within
“Here is a holistic approach to childbirth that examines this profound rite-of-passage not as a medical event but as an act of self-discovery.” For my second birth, I began to see birthing as a rite of passage; a transformation and a shedding and re-birthing of myself, as a person. Birth is more than just a medical event or a physical act. How you show up, who you are, and how you deal with pain, fear, and challenge is also a huge part of the work you’re called to do.
If you like journaling exercises, meditations, and art “homework” assignments, and you want to get deeper into analysis and reflection about the birthing process, and how you are changing as a part of it all, this book might be great for you.
Childbirth Without Fear
This book is considered a staple for midwifery and obstetrics, and it is as dense and meaty as you would expect a textbook to be. It’s not “watered down” or “basic” at all (according to Amazon reviews in support of it)—but as we are shifting culturally away from the masculine-centric views of the 1960s-1980s, parts of this book can be hard to read. Written by a male doctor, at times sexist, and sometimes a bit heavy, the book can take some time to wade through.
At the time this book was written, however, it was a radical departure from the cultural of fear and anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth. The philosophy at the center is one of heart and empathy, which is still important today for all childbirth educators, supporters, and most of all—experiences!