Books I’ve enjoyed reading during my pregnancy

Madelyn's nursery is full of books. This past weekend, I bought her a doll (her first one!) and found a spot for her on one of the bookshelves.
Madelyn’s nursery is full of books. Earlier this month, I bought her a doll (her first one!) and found a spot for her on one of the bookshelves.

For the past nine months, I’ve been drawn to pregnancy literature of all sorts — books, newsletters, birthing class handouts, and more. Sometimes it feels like information overload, but in general, I would rather have more information than not enough.

I’ve bought a lot of pregnancy and childbirth books in hopes of learning more about Madelyn’s development in the womb and what to expect when she finally arrives. Some of the books have been hard to put down. Others have struck me as too preachy, dated, or one-sided.

That said, here are six books I enjoyed reading and would recommend to other pregnant women:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.57.24 PMPregnancy Day By Day,” edited by Maggie Blott: I bought this book just a few days after I found out I was pregnant. I stumbled upon it in a bookstore and was drawn to the idea of reading daily updates about my pregnancy. Every night, Troy and I take turns reading the updates, which start off with a countdown to Madelyn’s due date. (We’re down to four days!) Troy’s already familiar with a lot of information in the book because of his medical background, but we still enjoy reading it together. It’s a shared experience that I’ve come to love.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.47.05 PMBaby Bargains,” by Denise and Alan Fields: Creating a baby registry is fun, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many brands and products at various price points. Should you get a Boppy or a My ‘Brest’ Friend nursing pillow? A bumbo seat or a high chair? An Ergobaby or a Baby Bjorn? (I could go on and on…!) It’s hard to know which products are the best, and whether the more expensive ones are really any better than the cheaper ones. The Fields’ book, which offers reviews of thousands of baby products, was a lifesaver. A book about product reviews doesn’t sound all that compelling, but it’s a worthwhile guide that’ll save you money (and lots of headaches)!

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.46.34 PMExpecting Better,” by Emily Oster: I’ve written before about this book, which I found to be especially helpful in my first trimester. Early on, I was so worried about doing anything that could potentially harm Madelyn. I wouldn’t eat certain “off-limit foods” like soft cheeses, and I stopped doing things that relaxed me because I read about the possible side effects they could have on fetuses. This included painting my nails, taking a bath, lying on my back, using essential oils, and lighting candles. Oster, an economist, debunks a lot of the myths surrounding what women should and shouldn’t do during pregnancy. Her book helped put me at ease and made me realize that most of the “rules” you read about aren’t as black and white as they’re made out to be. (The majority of soft cheeses in the U.S., for instance, are pasteurized and perfectly fine to eat.) I didn’t follow all the information in Oster’s book, but it helped me make more informed decisions about what I did and didn’t want to do. Sometimes it just comes down to what feels right to you.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.51.57 PMWhat To Expect When You’re Expecting,” by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel: I couldn’t help but buy this classic. The cliches in the book made the writer and editor in me cringe, but I found it to be a helpful guide nonetheless. It’s broken down by pregnancy months, and it’s formatted as a series of questions and answers, making it an easy read. When I was trying to get pregnant, I read “What To Expect Before You’re Expecting,” and waited for the day when I could buy the follow-up. When that day came, I bought the book soon after and thought about how grateful I was to be pregnant.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.03.40 AMBrain Rules for Baby,” by John Medina. This book is a fascinating read filled with scientific research and practical advice about how to provide the best environment for your baby’s brain development, inside the womb and after birth. (Here is a roundup of related tips.) Medina explains why praising your children’s efforts is better than praising their intelligence, and why self control — not IQ — is a better predictor of your child’s academic performance. Medina offers insights with a dash of humor and without sounding too didactic. I learned a lot from his research.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.59.20 PMIna May’s Guide to Childbirth,” by Ina May Gaskin: I’ve found this earthy-crunchy book to be a good pick-me-up whenever I’m worried about labor and delivery. I’ve heard so many stories about how painful childbirth is. One woman told me it was like a scene out of “The Exorcist.” My OB said it felt like “a knife was being stabbed” into her bladder. Others have claimed there’s “no way” you can get through the pain without an epidural. I don’t let these comments worry me too much; I know every labor is different and that a lot of factors go into it, including the size of your pelvis, the size of your baby, and the duration of your labor. Gaskin’s book features dozens of empowering stories from women who gave birth naturally and who chose to focus on the beauty of the experience rather than the pain. I’m hoping to give birth naturally, so I’ve found these women’s stories to be comforting. I know anything can happen in labor and delivery, so I’m open to an epidural or a C-section if I truly need one. I’ve told myself, though, that as long as Madelyn is ok, I’m going to try to push through the pain. I’m going to remind myself that it’s pain with a purpose and that each passing contraction means Troy and I are one step closer to meeting Madelyn.


I have another stack of books I’m planning to read once Madelyn gets here: “Whole Child/Whole Parent,” “Touchpoints,” “The Gift of Failure,” and “Caring For Your Baby and Young Child.” (Tip: If you live near a Publix and join the store’s Baby Club, you’ll receive a free copy of this last book; it’s a 960-page tome!)

I also have a few “me” books that I’m hoping to delve into while I’m on maternity leave: Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?“; Sara Bareilles’ “Sounds Like Me“; Drew Barrymore’s “Wildflower,” and Brigid Schulte’s “Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.” (We’ll see how much reading time I actually have once Madelyn’s here!)

What pregnancy/childbirth/parenting books would you recommend? You can make recommendations in the comments section below. 



Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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