Deb’s Book Club and Book List!

17 Aug Deb’s Book Club and Book List!

It’s time for a book club! We’re revisiting a post from 2010, but this time I want to delve back into these books with the PYC community. We’ll be reading one book a month, starting with Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth. At the end of the month I will post some questions on the blog and we can have a community discussion.

I am often asked if there are certain books I recommend for expectant mothers to read, so I thought it was high time to start a book list.

Here are my personal favorites:

Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth
By Ina May Gaskin
This is a clear, digestible book about childbirth. The first half is a collection of birth stories from women that have birthed at The Farm, the midwifery center in Tennessee that Ina May and the Farm midwives built in the 1970’s- and still run today! The second half, called “The Essentials of Birth,” runs through the mechanics of labor, an explanation of labor pain, Ina May’s famous “Sphincter Law,” prenatal testing, labor and birth, and medical interventions. All of this is written in a way that the average (non medical degree holding) person can understand. While this book discusses many of the same things that other childbirth books do, the delivery (no pun intended) does not elicit fear in the reader. Instead, it encourages the reader feel at ease and empowered.

One of my favorite parts of the book are the pictures of the women birthing. Many of them have a peaceful, euphoric smile as they are birthing their baby. I think this book is essential for women to read to remind them that birth does not have to be a scary, painful riddled experience as it is often portraited. Birth can have beauty, love and joy.

The Labor Progress Handbook By Penny Simkin
The focus of this book is to understand how laboring women, their partners, doulas and care providers can help avoid the cascade of intervention due to dystocia (difficult or abnormal labor) which often leads to a cesarean birth. This book is an absolute gem for doulas, but also can be very helpful for the expectant mother to understand how the mind/body, or as Simkins calls it Psycho-emotional state, effects labor. She also goes into great depth about how to recognize, cope, and resolve back labor or a baby entering the pelvis in an un-optimal position. She gives wonderful pain management techniques that are valuable regardless if you are concerned about fetal position of not.

The Birth Partner By Penny Simkins
This book is excellent preparation for the birth partner or labor companion. The author, long time world renowned doula, Penny Simkins, gracefully explains in an un-overwhelming manner what to expect in the last few weeks of pregnancy: the unfolding of labor, comfort measures and technology, and interventions and procedures that may arise in labor and delivery. She offers tips for how the partner can be supportive from offering comfort measures and massage to being prepared should the mother need a cesarean birth, and what to expect in the operating room.

I also love that throughout the labor section the stages are segmented into subcategories like, “What might the mother feel?” “What might you feel?” “How can you help?” I think it is easily forgotten that while the mother is going through an intense experience, this is likely not a common occurrence for partner, and he or she may also need some guidance on what to do and expect. This is really a MUST read for all birth partners!!

Birthing From Within by Pam England
Birthing From Within is not your typical “childbirth education” book. While the author, Pam England, does discuss many of the familiar issues that other books cover- try to avoid birthing on your back, medical intervention and pain coping techniques- her approach to these subjects often come in the form of stories and exercises. Many people associate this childbirth education style with England’s exercises and birth art in which she introduces and encourages through the book.

My personal copy of this book is dog eared and marked up with passages I find insightful and have often shared with my prenatal yoga classes. I have handed out favorite chapter, “Out of Control: How to “Lose It” in Labor” to my doula clients. I appreciate that the author does not shy away from discussing the fears that surround pregnancy and labor and the pain that is part of the labor and delivery period. She does this with tact, compassion and ideas with how to handle these common obstacles. While some have criticized this book as “hippy dippy,” I think there is incredible wisdom to be learned from the author.


Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born By Tina Cassidy
This book is a very factual, informative book about the (slightly frightening) history of birth. Tina Cassidy gently explains some of the barbaric birth techniques from 1700 and 1800’s and take the reader through the discovery of current obstetric practices. It is also fun to read about everyday obstetric usages like how the “Friedman’s curve” and the APGAR scoring came about as well as the path in which Dr. Lamaze and Dr. Bradley discovered and coined their particular methods of childbirth education.

The author does a very good job at neither villianizing nor praising modern obstetric practices, but reminds the reader that there have been practices in the past that seemed advantageous and even a healthy option that turned out not to be so in the long run.


Pushed By Jennifer Block
This book is a no nonsense, upfront look at modern obstetric practices and malpractices. Its packed full of wonderful interviews, research and statistics. I loved reading it, and it fueled the ideas for many of my blog articles. The author unabashedly approached subjects like “Why is the US Cesarean rate so high?” “What are the consequences to such an increase in routine intervention?” and “Are women being denied the opportunity to make decisions about their own birth choice?”

Pushed is for someone who really wants to understand and discover modern maternity care in the US.

Holistic Midwifery by Anne Frye
This is one of my truly treasured books that I NEVER lend out in fear that it will get lost or misplaced. I also refer back to it on a regular basis and would hate to have it out of reach. Holistic Midwifery is not likely a book the average expectant mother needs to read, but since I know that this blog also gets prenatal yoga teachers, doulas and childbirth educators browsing through, I thought it would be irresponsible of me to leave this book off the list.

This book is actually a midwifery textbook. And as someone that has not taken a science course since the 11th grade- I can say that it is very easy to read and understand and extremely informative. There are sections on proper nutrient during pregnancy, thorough explanation of prenatal care and a very in depth discussion of the many anatomical and physiological changes of the pregnant body with therapeutic applications. This should be on the book shelf of anyone working with pregnant women.

Just got and can’t wait to read:

Our Bodies, Ourselves Pregnancy and Birth By The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective


Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

I am always looking for a new book to dive into. If you have any suggestions, I am all ears (and eyes!)

7 Comments
  • Nki
    Posted at 10:12h, 15 December

    This is a great list! Thank you

  • Alex
    Posted at 23:09h, 15 December

    Hypnobirthing By Marie F Mongan

    great book
    excellent discription of perennial massage, breathing and relaxing techniques
    the importance of trusting your body and no fear approach to birth

  • Jen
    Posted at 12:30h, 16 December

    great list, thank you!

    I would add: Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth, by Jeannine Parvati Baker
    and ditto on the HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan
    and, you mentioned Peggy Vincent’s book — I just read it and it is great. Another amazing midwife memoir is Carol Leonard’s Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart.

  • Emily
    Posted at 22:02h, 18 August

    Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel was really helpful for my spouse and me – lots of helpful techniques for minimizing interventions for those of us who choose hospital birth.

  • Noel Liverton
    Posted at 22:40h, 25 August

    these books are really helpful for the expected mom in their pregnancy period and you provide a great collection of books for the pregnant women to help. great job dear.Keep it up.

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