Inspired by the joyous news that our friends are now expecting, I had a look at the “baby stuff” section of my library and discovered a couple pregnancy books that I had just completely forgotten about. I read them all cover-to-cover while we were trying to conceive and then they just went on the shelf. But before I re-gift them to the next happy couple, I thought I’d share a few impressions…
Dr. Spock’s Pregnancy Guide, by Marjorie Greenfield: Very medicine-centred, although midwives and alternate caregivers are also mentioned. This book breaks the pregnancy down into week ranges, covering the changes you can expect in the baby, the changes in you, what you might be feeling/experiencing and what you can do to mitigate unpleasant experiences, and what your caregiver might do (tests, recommendations, etc.). It does cover many of the emotional aspects of pregnancy – such as mom’s concerns, or dad’s feelings – and tends to take a very ‘medical’/OB approach. It does include little “parent to parent” boxes where people who are pregnant or have recently been share some of their experiences. It’s a good way of humanising the material, I found. One thing that concerned me a bit – and this may be an issue of editions – is that some of the advice given in the book is dismissed in the materials I receive from my midwife. For example, the Dr. Spock’s says that one benefit of getting an episiotomy is that it’s much easier to stitch up than a tear, while the materials my midwife gave me say that episiotomies “start” a tear and actually make it more likely that force-tearing will occur. (Ladies, be ready for tons and tons of contradictory information. This seems to be endemic to the whole pregnancy discourse.)
The Mother Of All Pregnancy Books, by Ann Douglas: The great thing about this book is that it’s written specifically for Canadian moms-to-be. One of the big frustrations about being Canadian is that it’s so hard to find information that isn’t coming out of the US. For many topics, this isn’t such a big deal, but anything relating to health is so different between the two countries that very little practical advice from the US is applicable to us. So while there are certainly variations from province to province, this book at least gets it in the right ballpark.
I would say that, out of all the books, this was the most useful. It covers everything from “are you ready to conceive?” to “baby’s home… now what?” I found the table of contents to be much more useful than the Dr. Spocks because it didn’t just list the chapters, but listed the actual content as well. This made finding the parts I wanted to re-read much easier. I also found that there was a lot more emphasis on dealing with the emotional side of pregnancy. For example, a whole section is devoted to answering specific concerns (organized by trimester). I’ve also noticed that the advice given in this book tends to be closer to the advice I get from my midwife.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting, by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff, and Sandee Hathaway (I have an older edition): A staple of every pregnant family’s library, we bought What to Expect because doing so is as much a part of being pregnant as getting really really big. Much like Dr. Spock’s, this book does break its advice down by stage (months, in this case). Each month gets an overview of the baby’s changes, your changes, possible symptoms, what you can expect at your prenatal visits, etc. It also covers other topics in detail, such as diet, choosing a practitioner. I liked that it was more detailed than Dr. Spock’s and broke its table of contents down in the same way that The Mother Of All Pregnancy Books does. The only thing I don’t like about the month-by-month format is that there isn’t really a “normal” pregnancy, and I can see areas where I experienced symptoms in the “wrong” month. If you’re going to read this, don’t just read the month you are on – rather, give the whole book a read-through at least once right at the beginning.
The Pregnancy Bible: I won’t be getting rid of this one quite yet as I’m still making use of it. This book is much better illustrated than the other three (in that it’s actually illustrated), with lots of glossy, full-colour photographs and artists’ renditions. The downside, of course, is that the content isn’t nearly as detailed. Other than a skim, I haven’t actually bothered reading the whole book, since I simply wasn’t finding anything new that wasn’t covered far better in the other three books.
What I like about this book is the section on fetal development. Each week gets its own photograph (or drawn representation), along with approximate weight and size of the baby, and a little description of what changes the baby is going through (“Your baby is beginning to look almost human now, and her tail has nearly vanished,” for example). It’s been something of a tradition since we dated our pregnancy to sit together at the start of each week and read the relevant blurb.
If you are someone who learns through books, this should not be your primary resource. This is a fun book, not one you want to be getting most of your information from.
My Thoughts On Pregnancy Books
A co-worker complained to me that she couldn’t read any pregnancy books because they made her worry too much. Any good resource is going to cover all the things that can go wrong, and if you have the kind of personality that will then imagine that everything is going wrong, you probably don’t want to spend too much time with these books.
I’m the complete opposite. For me, reading about all the horrible things that can go wrong make me feel powerful, like I’ll be ready if any of these things happen. If you’re more like me, you’ll probably want to read as much as you possibly can! Just make sure you know yourself and, if you find that you are getting overwhelmed, stop reading.
If you do read more than one book, you will find that there are many contradictions – often on matters that should be simply “is there or is there not?” questions. Do episiotomies prevent tearing or cause tearing? How complicated could that question possibly be? Very, apparently. So be prepared. My advice would be never to stick with a single source – read as many books/websites and talk to as many healthcare professionals as you can and make your own decision based on what seems the most plausible to you. That being said, be prepared to change your mind as you receive new information or experiences. The most dangerous thing, I would say, is to decide that one side has the “right” answer and to follow that even when it’s clearly not working for you and your body.
The other thing you will likely notice is that these books can make you feel very guilty. Pregnant women sometimes have cravings and we just really really want that cheeseburger. We also have social obligations and find ourselves in our favourite restaurants knowing that we’re not supposed to eat the things we like any more. My philosophy is this: Avoid the really bad stuff, eat healthy overall, and forgive yourself when you occasionally eat something that isn’t so healthy. After all, if you’re going to break your dietary ideals, you should at least be able to enjoy the experience! Thankfully, most pregnancy books nowadays will take this more flexible approach, but you will find some pretty crazy sticklers out there. Pregnancy comes with all sorts of symptoms and discomfort – guilt shouldn’t be one of them. If a book is making you feel uncomfortable or excessively guilty, put it down.
The last thing I want to say is that you should avoid buying pregnancy books before reading them. We bought all of ours (except The Mother Of All Pregnancy Books, which was a gift) and I really regret it. As I said above, I read them all early on and then didn’t touch them again. Whenever I have specific questions, I tend to turn to either my midwife or the internet, so I really haven’t been using these as on-going resources. If I could do it over again, I would have borrowed the books from the library to read them, and then only bought those that I could see myself using more than once.