The best books for couples on the rollercoaster of pregnancy and new parenthood

Who am I?

Around 25 years ago, I thought my husband and I were ready for parenthood…until we got there. And as a relationship counselor, I was listening to countless stories of couples struggling through the rollercoaster ride of becoming a family too. So I wondered: can couples actually prepare for this? For years I waited for a book to recommend to my clients to guide them after our sessions ended and I ended up writing (an award-winning) one instead. This turned into training for professionals, and now expectant couples are doing Becoming Us courses at the hospitals where our three children were born. And, thankfully, there are more books to support new families too!

I wrote...

Book cover of Becoming Us: The Couple's Guide to Parenthood

What is my book about?

For expecting couples to plan ahead, new parents in the thick of it, and those wondering what to expect next, Becoming Us is a map for the journey. There are insights and practical step-by-step guidance on every page to navigate the wilds and wonders of life and love during pregnancy, birth, and beyond. Topics include work/life balance (is this our new normal?), financial pressures (can we afford this?), including grandparents and inlaws (bring a casserole!), identity shifts (who am I now?), common relationship issues (are we OK?), intimacy, sex and more. There’s also help and hope for perinatal anxiety and depression, relationship distress (what happened to us?), a challenging birth experience—and how to support each other through it all. Parents at any stage of the journey will find places to circle back, get on track, and move forward together as a team.

Best for: expecting and new mothers, fathers, and parents, and parenthood-related professionals wanting to work in a holistic, “whole family” way.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of What About Us?: A New Parents Guide to Safeguarding Your Over-Anxious, Over-Extended, Sleep-Deprived Relationship

Why did I love this book?

From the well-known author of Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts, this book gets straight to the heart of the matter. Through on-point illustrations, it shows tired and time-poor parents how having a baby impacts a couple’s relationship, what’s really going on inside both of them, what the big issues are, and how to get through this trying time together. Parents will see themselves in the pages and find reassurance that they’re normal, not alone and it won’t last forever. I can imagine couples sitting in bed at night and having a good chuckle, maybe a good cry, and then an even better cuddle afterward. I'm honored that renowned maternal mental health expert and author Karen Kleinman recommends Becoming Us for further reading.

Best for: new parents who don’t know which way is up and for therapists working with new parents who are struggling.

By Karen Kleiman, Molly McIntyre (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What About Us? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The demands of a new baby can test a couple’s relationship like nothing else! When we factor in sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, depression and anxiety, and different personalities, life with a newborn can feel a bit CRAZY. Couples tend to misinterpret this rough patch as a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, but when couples take steps toward open communication and safeguard their relationship, they can face everything new parenthood throws at them together. From the team behind the bestselling Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts comes a new guidebook of short essays, comics, and quick journal prompts about…

Book cover of Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families

Why did I love this book?

What I love most about this journal-type workbook is how practical and easy to digest it is. The book doesn’t give specific advice but provides prompts and worksheets for couples to focus on the most frequent topics of concern for new parents so they can plan ahead for how to manage them. The book poses thought-provoking questions for partners to learn more about their own and each other’s experiences, values, and hopes and discover where both their challenges and strengths may be. Couples can pick it up, open it to any page, and have conversation prompts as well as an action item that can help them to move forward. I can imagine couples revisiting these conversations again and again over time to see how they’ve progressed and where any sticking points might still need to be worked through.

Best for: expecting couples or those who are thinking about having a baby with good self-awareness and for professionals to recommend to expecting couples with good self-awareness.

By Stephanie Dueger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Preparing for Parenthood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can anyone really prepare for parenting?


Couples often spend surprisingly little time getting ready for this huge rite of passage. They may paint the nursery, but neglect discussing how their roles may change. They may have a car seat ready, but not a will.

The first of its kind, this interactive book provides couples with essential conversation-starters and action items to complete before becoming parents. In Preparing for Parenthood, you’ll discover how to transition to parenting in ways that best align with your own beliefs and values by:
• Learning the biggest concerns couples face when becoming new parents…

Book cover of Happy With Baby: Essential Relationship Advice When Partners Become Parents

Why did I love this book?

I love Catherine’s sense of humor. Even the contents page makes me laugh out loud! Catherine shares anecdotes from her own relationship with her husband Rick and examples from other couples that make this book really relatable and easy to digest. Happy With Baby provides concrete, real-world advice, lots of compassion, and inspiration for some specific topics not covered by other books including: overcoming a hard pregnancy, three questions to ask daily for better communication between partners, what to say when mom needs to take self-care and handling unwanted parenting advice that can sometimes create conflict between parents. There’s plenty of empathy in here and also some good laughs.

Best for: new parents and friends of new parents to recommend to them.

By Catherine O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Happy With Baby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Less sleep, stressful life changes, and even postpartum depression are things most new parents know are possible when baby comes home.

Sudden relationship and personal challenges might come as a big surprise though! Navigating life as a family can be harder than expected. Between unwanted parenting advice and no time for self-care, good communication with your partner can halt to a standstill. Your once-steady partner suddenly feels like part of the problem.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Catherine O’Brien and her husband lay out the communication skills and relationship strategies that new moms and dads need during baby’s first year…

Book cover of Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents

Why did I love this book?

As a relationship counselor, I really appreciated Stan Tatkin’s previous books, so it was great to see this one for new parents. Co-author Kara contributes to this relationship survival guide with personal stories from her own little family and a variety of relatable examples from an inclusive and diverse range of couples. Kara also has a novel way of conceptualizing parents’ attachment styles, which underpin how partners relate to each other. This insightful and reassuring book provides 10 key guideposts and tools for couples to work with.

Best for: couples who want to understand what’s going on underneath and therapists.

By Kara Hoppe, Stan Tatkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Baby Bomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before you succeed at parenting, you need to succeed as a couple! Baby Bomb is the resource you need when a new baby turns your life-and your romantic relationship-upside down. A baby is a blessing-and also a completely life-altering event. If you're like many new parents, nothing could have fully prepared you for the exhaustion of late-night feedings, the explosive diapers, the evaporation of your free time, the pure joy, and the moments of pure terror. In the midst of these hazy, early months, it's normal to feel overwhelmed. And when you're overwhelmed, it's easy to put your romantic relationship…

Book cover of And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives

Why did I love this book?

Learning from the Gottmans that 67% of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction in the first three years of parenthood sparked a new generation of counselors and therapists who wanted to make a difference for expecting and new parent couples, including me! This seminal book focuses mainly on communication skills and conflict management with examples from distressed couples, and is less inclusive of LGBTQ parents and partners, but remains relevant and helpful for those in more traditional relationships.

Best for: couples to manage conflict and relationship therapists working in the perinatal field.

By John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked And Baby Makes Three as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Congratulations! You have a new baby.
Don’t forget you also have a marriage.

Having a baby is a joyous experience, but even the best relationships are strained during the transition from duo to trio. In And Baby Makes Three, Love Lab™ experts John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman teach couples the skills needed to maintain healthy marriages, so partners can avoid the pitfalls of parenthood by:

• Focusing on intimacy and romance
• Replacing an atmosphere of criticism and irritability with one of appreciation
• Preventing postpartum depression
• Creating a home environment that nurtures physical, emotional, and mental health,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in pregnancy, couples, and parenting?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Quiet, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, and Touchpoints-Birth to Three if you like this list.