Once you get pregnant you quickly discover there are a billion books on pregnancy, not to mention the dark hole of the internet! And when your body is going through so many unfamiliar changes every single day, it’s tempting to become all-consumed with learning and Googling every twinge or weirdness. And then you discover that almost everything and everyone will give you conflicting evidence, which means you can’t just be told what to do but have to be as informed as possible while ultimately trusting your own intuition… which no one really teaches us how to do.
Most books and resources focus on the physical aspects of baby and your body, but I knew I wanted to focus on the mental, emotional, and spiritual side of this sacred time.
I’m a Type A planner and love reading and learning, so I’ve burned through a ton of pregnancy books over the last year. I recommend checking them out of the library if they’re available to see which ones you love most, and save your money for a cute maternity outfit that makes you feel gorgeous.
My personal philosophy around pregnancy and motherhood is a combo of science and “woo” -- I like knowing the evidence based studies and also strongly believe in the power of alternative medicine and energy work. Give me the facts, and then let me trust my intuition.
If you’re interested in a conscious pregnancy, mind/body/spirit, here are my favorite books that are worth spending money on! They also make fabulous baby shower gifts for your sister or friend.
5 great books for a conscious, holistic, and calm pregnancy
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Don’t eat turkey sandwiches! Keep your heart rate below 140! Avoid caffeine and alcohol at all costs! There are so many random rules we hear from doctors and society about what we can and can’t do while pregnant, and a lot of them are conflicting. What’s the deal, and what actually matters? Written by an economist, Expecting Better is data driven and evidence based. The author combs through hundreds of scientific studies to verify what is actually proven fact and what is simply outdated policies or old wives tales when it comes to all the advice and rules you’ll come across. If you are prone to anxiety and like facts and figures to make your own empowered decisions, this book will be incredibly reassuring!
Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen
Written by a doula, this book is basically like taking an in-depth holistic childbirth education class. While it trends towards the more natural route, the tone is very positive and neutral (i.e. no shame vibes if you choose or require interventions or medication during labor and delivery).
The sections on each trimester are pretty brief, but the sections on the stages of labor including different positions and comfort measures are the best I’ve found.
I would use this book as a resource for labor, birth, and early motherhood, less of a pregnancy resource.
Birth Without Fear: The Judgment-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum by January Harshe
Pregnancy and childbirth is incredibly overwhelming, and no one warns you about the mental and emotional changes that happen when your hormones go haywire. This book normalizes EVERYTHING through a self care lens.
The author is the founder of the Birth Without Fear movement and has 6 kids. It seems like she’s experienced every type of delivery under the sun from C-section to homebirth and she keeps it real.
There are chapters on pregnancy, every type of delivery you can imagine, postpartum, input from her husband for the partner’s perspective, sample birth plans for every scenario, it’s fantastic and incredibly empowering.
Bountiful Beautiful Blissful: Experience the Natural Power of Pregnancy and Birth with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
This Kundalini resource might be a little out there for most people, but it is the most incredible guide if you like meditation and are interested in approaching pregnancy and childbirth as a spiritual journey (which I strongly believe it is!)
Kundalini is a Sanscrit term from ancient India that identifies the arising of an energy and consciousness. This book takes you on a journey through pregnancy from that perspective, so the meditations are calming but also active as you assume various mudras or arm/hand positions. Instead of simply calming your mind, you will reset your entire nervous system. Each chapter is a short reflection that makes me feel extremely grounded, calm, grateful, connected to my baby, all the warm fuzzy feelings that are so important and an antidote to the stress and anxiety of pregnancy in the modern age.
You will have a much deeper appreciation of the celebratory, deep and powerful initiation you’re going through as you grow a new life!
Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimum Prenatal Nutrition by Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE
If you’re interested in learning about nutrition during pregnancy, this is the only food book you need.
I bought it because I thought it was going to be a cookbook, but it turns out it’s a comprehensive guide to a healthy pregnancy through a nutrition perspective. It’s also the most heavily researched and evidence based book I’ve ever seen -- there are almost 1,000 references in the index !! It feels like an accessible and practical textbook on prenatal nutrition and food based prenatal care.
A couple important things to note:
She takes a meat centered, low carb -- almost paleo -- approach to nutrition so if you’re vegetarian or vegan, this is not the book for you.
If you have a complicated emotional relationship with food, it might trigger you into negatively controlling or perfection mindset.
I ended up loving the book but pretty much ditched the majority of her advice on meal planning and eating because I’ve had strong aversions to animal protein and vegetables through my entire pregnancy. My body has craved carbs and I don’t feel satisfied or energized without making them my main food group, so I’ve been taking a more intuitive approach to food and allowing myself a more relaxed approach without guilt.
That being said, I still highly recommend at least checking out the book out of the library, maybe either super early in your pregnancy or in your second trimester once your morning sickness and nausea has passed.
If you end up being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is a fantastic resource, as well as her book Real Food for GD.
The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson
If you only get one book while pregnant, make it this one! And gift it to all your pregnant friends!
We are so consumed with pregnancy and birth, no one talks about the biggest transition of all, the postpartum period! We assume postpartum is the first 6 weeks or so after delivery and then we are cleared to workout, have sex, go back to work, and continue life as usual right? HA.
It’s kind of like getting so obsessed with planning every detail of your wedding that you forget it’s only one day, and then it’s over, and you realize the actual focus should be on prepping for marriage because you now have to spend the rest of your life with this person.
At the end of the day, the 9-10 months of pregnancy go by so fast, and active labor and delivery last at most a few days. Why aren’t we planning and preparing for how to heal and recover and learn how to take care of a new human for the rest of its life?
This book covers all that, a practical and encouraging guide to setting yourself up for a smooth-as-possible transition into motherhood. Not just the weird things that happen to your body but also the mental and emotional challenges of dealing with the biggest hormone crash of human existence while simultaniously healing from physical trauma/major abdominal surgery and trying to feed a human with your body all on extreme sleep deprivation (which in itself is used as a method of torture !!)... and learning how to ask for and receive support which is a giant challenge for women.
I recommend getting it by your second trimester so you have plenty of time to read and absorb in small doses to avoid complete overwhelm. But overall the tone is normalizing and empowering and will make you feel way more prepared for what’s to come.
You’ve got this, mama!