Discover the top holistic pregnancy books for first-time moms. My list of top favorites will empower your natural birth experience into something memorable and positive. Birth doesn’t have to be feared.
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In case you haven’t caught on by now, my husband and I are expecting our first child sometime during the first half of November.
As exciting as that has been for us, there is still so much to do. I am a planner and a researcher by nature. Preparation is key, especially for such life-changing events such as birth and motherhood.
As someone who plans on being a natural mama and who already has a holistic approach to living, I’ve been reading lots of holistic pregnancy and postpartum books in preparation for these events at the end of this year.
Although I know that all the planning in the world can never prepare you exactly for what life with a baby is like, I do know that going in with more knowledge rather than less is a good idea.
Almost every first-time mother I’ve known remarks about how unprepared they were for postpartum, especially. They almost always say they wish someone had prepared them more for all the tough work that comes after the actual birth.
It also may be true that pregnancy and birth, too, cannot necessarily be controlled, but there is very strong evidence to support the notion that proper preparation: education, tools, and the right mindset with lots of support do strongly influence the mother’s experience with birth and the postpartum process.
This is even more true if you want a natural, physiologic birth without medications and interventions.
What’s my point? Well, preparation is essential. A book may not teach you how to love your baby (that will come naturally) or have every single answer to every single question you have.
It will give you a lot more confidence, though. That’s something postpartum mothers often need the most when they’re in their most vulnerable state.
What does holistic mean? What are holistic pregnancy books?
“Holistic” simply means that the mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected. These type of birth and pregnancy practices support and value emotional well being, spirituality, physical health, and the mind.
Holistic pregnancy books are often written by midwives, doulas, doctors, or women who have first-hand experience giving birth.
Although they may have some credentials behind their name, they are just like you and I. They value holistic health and aim to support mothers in ways outside of the western medicalization of pregnancy and birth–citing that it extends much farther than this narrow scope.
It could also be said that holistic may mean a more “natural” approach to pregnancy and birth.
Holistic pregnancy books tend to focus on physiologic, unmedicated vaginal birth; prenatal care with certified midwives over traditional OBGYNs; learning about the development of baby and also the transformation of the woman stepping into motherhood; and nurturing the mother during her postpartum period.
Many of these holistic pregnancy books will touch on finding the right provider, methods for natural pain relief during labor and delivery, adequate whole food nutrition, prenatal care, and what a woman experiences mentally, spiritually, and physically through the entire journey from pregnancy to birth to postpartum. These books are all about informed consent, too. They often go into great detail on both benefits and risks of certain choices parents need to make about the birth process. Then many of these books will go on to describe how to advocate for your own wishes if you make the least popular choice.
Is gaining information through reading the best way to learn about birth and motherhood?
Clearly, nothing beats real-world experience. If you’re not having your first child, you’ll have more confidence in what you’re doing and may not need as many resources or information. You’re already a mother and know more about what to expect.
However, you may be seeking a different method of childbirth this time around, or it may have been a decade or more since your last birth. In this case, it may be wise to brush up on certain topics to refresh your memory or learn something new.
I would argue that experience and education go hand in hand. You really need both for the best results.
Reading is just one way to gain education on pregnancy, birth, and postpartum topics. You may choose to use a combination of reading and online or in-person courses to learn more. Whatever the case, arm yourself with the proper knowledge to at least set your mind at ease.
13 Best Holistic Pregnancy Books
The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland
This guide is a perfect starting point. It’s broken down in an orderly fashion that is convenient for an expecting mother. Although I expected some bias with this one, it was refreshingly informative and evidence-based without being too pushy about going all-natural. The author is thorough and provides excerpts from different women’s experiences, including many of her own–something you typically won’t find in a traditional medically-oriented pregnancy textbook.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin | holistic pregnancy books
I am currently reading this book and have to say it has been one of my absolute favorites. Ina May Gaskin has paved the way for midwives across America. A trailblazer in her field, she has helped thousands of women birth since the 1960s when she first began her midwifery training and practice. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how nearly the entire first half details numerous womens’ birth experiences, written first-hand from their perspective. It really goes to show how wildly different each and every birth is, but also how skilled and trained midwives like Gaskin are at managing the care of women with such a wide range of experiences. The second half is dedicated to educating on specific aspects of laboring and giving birth. I highly recommend reading this book even if you don’t read any others on this list.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diane West, and Teresa Pitman
I read this book probably a little too early on in pregnancy (early in the second trimester). But I knew it would be such a deep topic to unravel since breastfeeding today has become such a controversial topic for something so natural and instinctive. This book is written by women who were leaders for the world renowned “La Leche League International” nonprofit dedicated to educating and supporting women through their breastfeeding journey.
This book provides lots of groundwork for women who plan to breastfeed–helping in preparation before birth, getting started once a newborn arrives, and maintaining her supply throughout the months and years. There are lots of tips and tricks on latching and positions and supply issues (including many helpful graphics) in addition to lots of personal stories from individual women. All this along with education on the benefits of breastmilk and how it helps a baby’s development. This is the holy grail of all breastfeeding books. I plan on referring back to it if/when I run into issues during my own journey of breastfeeding.
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
This is a book I’m currently reading in preparation for the fourth trimester (I bet you didn’t realize that there is a fourth!). Postpartum is a sensitive period for both mother and baby and is often overlooked by society, providers, and even individual women. Women get one six-week check-up and are expected to be on their way again.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “No one told me what happens after birth,” “I was so unprepared. No one tells you what comes after. They just prepare you for labor and delivery,” and “I thought the pregnancy and birth were the hard part. Boy was I wrong. The real work begins after birth!”
Adjusting to life with a newborn is no walk in the park. Most people are aware of this.
However, what they aren’t prepared for is the physical and mental recovery that comes with postpartum. Some women take months to fully heal. It’s a fact that a woman’s brain changes after becoming a mother for six years until it goes back to normal again.
Childbirth changes us. There’s the ever-changing hormones, the change in the relationship you have with your partner. The possible physical and mental side effects of sleep deprivation, birth trauma, or the way you experience the world differently now as a new mom. These are the things most women aren’t prepared for. They just aren’t talked about the way pregnancy, birth, and caring for a newborn are discussed. Mom can get lost somewhere in the shuffle…
And although no one is trying to scare you, it is smart to be aware of the reality of what happens afterwards. Whether good or bad, easy or hard, there will be many, many changes and adjustments to life after having a baby. It will never be the same again. That doesn’t mean there won’t be beautiful moments, laughter, and happy tears. It will all still be worth it. But it will be hard.
This particular author provides a refreshingly honest account of her personal experience and aims to help provide other women with advice on managing their own mental, physical, and spiritual health after baby is born. After all, it’s not just the birth of a baby, it’s the birth of a new mother, too.
HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan and Lorne R. Campbell
This is a book I have on my “to be read” pile, that I am very excited to dive into. HypnoBirthing is a technique used to help women labor unmedicated by using visualization and breathing, among other techniques, as a means of relaxation during labor. This not only helps manage labor pain (making the birth more enjoyable and empowering), but it also helps women mentally endure the tough work they’re doing through the entirety of labor. After all, labor is a mental game just as much as a physical one.
The results of these relaxation techniques aid in allowing the woman to open up and fully dilate (since tensing up will keep a woman from progressing). These techniques can help prevent stalling in labor, something you don’t want to happen–especially if you’re giving birth in a hospital and your provider is watching the clock. I’ve heard very high praises on this read!
Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel | holistic pregnancy books
Natural Hospital Birth was recommended to me after reading some other holistic pregnancy books. This one is really important if you’re birthing in a hospital and plan on having an unmedicated, physiologic birth without interventions.
Even if you have a very understanding provider who supports natural birth, many hospitals have certain policies in place simply because they view certain practices as a liability to them, whether statistics support their opinion or not. Some current hospital policies are archaic and aren’t even evidence based (like the “no drinking and eating during labor” policy that has been debunked over and over again…).
Unfortunately, even the providers who are in the profession for all the right reasons may have internal biases and/or get nervous if they aren’t trained and experienced in natural birth. This automatically increases your risk of interventions, which by the way all carry some risks.
This book will arm you with everything you need to know to have the positive, empowering birth you desire. It will help you know your rights, inform you on benefits and risks of everything during pregnancy and birth, and empower you to decline unnecessary interventions when there is outside pressure.
Orgasmic Birth by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro
This one has a wild title, but the gist of it means that women should be empowered to have a pleasurable and empowering birth experience. While an orgasmic birth is possible and has happened for a few women, they are far and wide between. Nevertheless, this book shows how unbelievably wonderful we can make childbirth with the right tools, mindset, provider, and environment. This book helps women develop the birth plan they desire and is filled with “plenty of practical advice and solutions.”
Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, Marjie Hathaway, Jay Hathaway, and James Hathaway
I heard a natural mama I’ve been following on YouTube for a while mention this method once and was intrigued. Though I haven’t read it yet, I’m excited to get my hands on it and work through some of the ideas and techniques with my husband. It isn’t exactly in our budget to hire a doula to guide and support me through labor and postpartum, but my husband is a very willing participant to help keep me comfortable and sane during the birth process. Although I have some qualms about how easily he’ll be able to recall these during a high-pressure time such as labor, I know he’s eager to learn and will do everything in his power to help me stay calm and centered. It helps that he is naturally an empathetic human.
Since this is a husband-coached birth method, it highly involves both parents, which in my opinion is how it should be (along with the guidance of professionals, too). It empowers the husband to be very much a part of the labor process. That being said, that is only one portion of the book. Written by a doctor, it delves into topics such as proper nutrition to ensure a healthy baby and smooth delivery, natural preventative methods of issues in pregnancy, how to bond with baby and father during the postpartum period (which is too often neglected in birth books), and learning techniques to manage pain, ensuring a natural childbirth.
Another postpartum guide, this one focuses on ancient traditions used in Asian cultures where women who have just given birth are nourished and cared for during their postpartum healing and recovery period. In my opinion, we need more books like this. Although I have only read an excerpt from this book, I can tell you now that we could all adopt some of these ideas into our postpartum care.
You see, in many other cultures around the world, outside of America, women are treated with much more care after birth. The mother is treated like a queen, so she can focus all her time and energy on getting better and caring for the new life she holds in her arms. Postpartum women in Asian cultures are said to stay in their home resting for the first forty days. Now, although this may sound boring, it is seen as necessary for baby, the new mother, and the new father to bond.
The postpartum woman’s closest family members, far and wide, visit her in her home after birth to cook every meal for her, clean her home, do all her laundry, bathe her, give her massages daily, and literally feed her while she feeds the baby. It’s called mothering the new mother.
These cultures are very community driven and family focused, where in America we value independence and individualism more. I think there is something wise we can learn from them. After birth there is no time to waste on running silly errands, hosting, homemaking, etc. Not when there is a new baby to care for. These wise women band together to take care of the new mothers the way they should be taken care of after birth. They value the new mother.
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin | holistic pregnancy books
A prerequisite to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Spiritual Midwifery is a great foundation for understanding the breadth and depth of midwifery care and how it encompasses all aspects of a woman’s health–not solely the baby and mom’s physical body. Published in the 1970s, this book is probably the first really big book on midwifery. It introduced women to the idea of breastfeeding and home births in a time where most women were beginning to work outside of the home and were still being told they had to have a medicalized hospital birth.
Popularizing home births in America, Spiritual Midwifery gives first hand stories, citing lots of statistics and evidence of the safety of home birth, and educates about techniques used in hospitals that actually pose more risk than home birth and natural birthing techniques do. I cannot wait to read this one!
Midwifery for Expectant Parents by Aubre Tompkins, CNM
This was actually the first holistic pregnancy book I read, actually well over a year before I even got pregnant. We knew we were planning to start a family soon and I wanted a straightforward read that outlined the basics of what I needed to know about midwifery care and having a midwife-led birth. This one did not disappoint. With everything you need to know about prenatal care, what to expect during labor, and making preparations for after birth, this guide gives women the foundation for everything they’ll be learning on their journey through pregnancy and motherhood. A light read with lots of great information.
Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas
Active Birth outlines everything a woman needs to know about being fully involved, informed, and present in their entire pregnancy and birth. It emphasizes the importance of movement during labor, the wide array of positions for delivery, and the natural options for managing pain. This book gives women back their power to birth how they need to, with a focus on the individual rather than a statistic like so many medicalized approaches do.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley RN, Ann Keppler RN, Janelle Durham, and April Bolding
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn is a book I’m excited to read in the third trimester. This book focuses on healthy pregnancies (and what can go right instead of what can go wrong) during the normal birth process. I can appreciate this over the usual medical model pregnancy books that tend to focus more on risks and the slight chances of worst possible scenarios. I am not one to hyperfocus and get anxiety over the what-ifs, unless of course they are actually happening. Especially when statistically many of them are rare and likely won’t happen. I’m not so naive to think these things could never happen, but it’s not my job to anguish over things that simply aren’t occurring in my low-risk, healthy pregnancy.
I am determined to have a positive birth no matter what happens. I’m going in with the attitude that I can’t control everything, but I can use all the tools I’ve gained to keep me in a good mindset and confident in my abilities to give birth in a way that feels right for me.
Women know how to birth, our bodies know what to do. We’ve been doing it for thousands and thousands of years. Sure, we may need guidance at times by an experienced and skilled provider, but it is not their job to intervene when intervention isn’t absolutely necessary. This book really emphasizes this. …I am especially excited to read more about the “newborn” portion during the postpartum period, as most of my reading thus far has focused on pregnancy and birth.