The best childbirth books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about childbirth and why they recommend each book.

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Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin,

Book cover of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

I love this book because the first part of it is filled with wonderful birth stories that show how world-famous midwife Ina May Gaskin and her midwifery colleagues at the Farm learned how to attend births by helping the birth energy to flow untrammeled. And the second part is an excellent guide to navigating the over-medicalization of childbirth in the US. Drawing on her 30+ years of experience, Ina May shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience. Based on the women-centered Midwifery Model of Care, this book gives expectant mothers comprehensive information on everything from the all-important mind-body-spirit connection to how to give birth without technological intervention.


Who am I?

I am a medical/reproductive anthropologist, and my passion for this topic stems from my own two birth experiences: one was an unnecessary cesarean which left me with PTSD, and the other was a vaginal birth at home, which left me feeling empowered—if I could do that, I could do anything! After my first birth, I started asking other women about their birth experiences, and came up with the question that guided my PhD research and became the subject of my first book, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Given that birth is so unique for every woman, why is it treated in such standardized, non-evidence-based ways in US hospitals? 


I wrote...

Birth as an American Rite of Passage

By Robbie Davis-Floyd,

Book cover of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

What is my book about?

This classic book, first published in 1992 and again in 2003, has inspired three generations of childbearing people, birth activists and researchers, and birth practitioners such as midwives, doulas, and even obstetricians to take a fresh look at the "standard procedures" that are routinely used to "manage" American childbirth. It was the first book to identify these non-evidence-based obstetric interventions as rituals that enact and transmit the core values of the American technocracy, thereby answering the pressing question of why these interventions continue to be performed despite all evidence to the contrary. This third edition brings together Davis-Floyd's insights into the intense ritualization of birth and the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth with new data collected in recent years. 

Baby Catcher

By Peggy Vincent,

Book cover of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

I could not put this book down. Vincent is a licensed home birth midwife in California, and Baby Catcher represents her accounts of many of her clients’ births. Her stories capture the diversity of experiences, the fears and joys of each mother who has opted for an out-of-hospital birth, and the beauty of bringing new life into the world. I have assigned this book in college courses and students love it; they come out angry at how broken our system is when it comes to maternity care.


Who am I?

I am a history professor at Purdue University and the author of several articles and three books that focus on controversies surrounding women’s reproductive health. I have also appeared on national television and radio, most recently on the PBS documentary, American Experience (the Eugenics Crusade), as well as the Vox/Netflix documentary “sex, explained.”


I wrote...

Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth

By Wendy Kline,

Book cover of Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth

What is my book about?

By the mid-twentieth century, two things appeared destined for extinction in the United States: the practice of home birth and the profession of midwifery. Who were these self-proclaimed midwives and how did they learn their trade? Because the United States had virtually eliminated midwifery in most areas by the mid-twentieth century, most of them had little knowledge of or exposure to the historic practice, drawing primarily on obstetrical texts, trial, and error, and sometimes instruction from aging home birth physicians to learn their craft. While their constituents were primarily drawn from the educated white middle class, their model of care (which ultimately drew on the wisdom and practice of a more diverse, global pool of midwives) had the potential to transform birth practices for all women, both in and out of the hospital.

Make Room for Daddy

By Judith Walzer Leavitt,

Book cover of Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room

I was torn between this and Walzer’s earlier book, Brought to Bed: Childrearing in America, 1750-1950. They are both wonderful books on the history of childbirth written by a leading historian. I chose Make Room for Daddy because it fills an important gap in our understanding of the transformation of birth. Here, we learn about the changing role of fathers (and expectant fathers), and their influence on hospital birth practices. She draws on a rich array of sources (letters, journals, interviews, and popular media) to illustrate how fathers became more involved in the birth experience between the 1940s and the 1980s.


Who am I?

I am a history professor at Purdue University and the author of several articles and three books that focus on controversies surrounding women’s reproductive health. I have also appeared on national television and radio, most recently on the PBS documentary, American Experience (the Eugenics Crusade), as well as the Vox/Netflix documentary “sex, explained.”


I wrote...

Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth

By Wendy Kline,

Book cover of Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth

What is my book about?

By the mid-twentieth century, two things appeared destined for extinction in the United States: the practice of home birth and the profession of midwifery. Who were these self-proclaimed midwives and how did they learn their trade? Because the United States had virtually eliminated midwifery in most areas by the mid-twentieth century, most of them had little knowledge of or exposure to the historic practice, drawing primarily on obstetrical texts, trial, and error, and sometimes instruction from aging home birth physicians to learn their craft. While their constituents were primarily drawn from the educated white middle class, their model of care (which ultimately drew on the wisdom and practice of a more diverse, global pool of midwives) had the potential to transform birth practices for all women, both in and out of the hospital.

Birthing Justice

By Julia Oparah (editor), Alicia Bonaparte (editor),

Book cover of Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth

A crucial read not only for understanding the unique obstacles facing Black birthing parents but also for celebrating the work of organizers who have fought for our reproductive justice. This book explains how key moments in history have led to where we are today and fills gaps of understanding that many have when it comes to Black maternal health.


Who am I?

Anna Malaika Tubbs is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation. She is also a Cambridge Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a BA in Anthropology, Anna received a Master’s from the University of Cambridge in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. Outside of the academy, she is an educator and DEI consultant. She lives with her husband, Michael Tubbs, and their son Michael Malakai.


I wrote...

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

What is my book about?

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes.

These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers. These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.

What Makes a Baby

By Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (illustrator),

Book cover of What Makes a Baby

I have read a lot of sex-ed books because I used to be an educator for Planned Parenthood and I think this book is 100% perfect. It contains delightfully colorful illustrations about how a baby is made without ever making anyone feel that they are different for the particular way they conceived a baby.

Cory writes, “Not all bodies have sperm in them.” as opposed to “most men have sperm and most women have eggs, but…” like every other sex-ed book I have ever read, making trans, intersex, and non-binary folks feel that they are an exception to some rule. I love everything Cory Silverberg does very much! And not just because we had brunch once in New York City.


Who am I?

I think Mother Goose got it all wrong. I have been creating books and coloring books for LGBTQ families for over two decades. I believe we deserve stories about LGBTQ children that are jubilant and adventurous; that are about love, mystery, time travel, and all the things everyone else treasures in their favorite books without being lesson books about bullying or being “different.” I have closed many children's books as soon as I get to the part where they are beaten up and made fun of for being gender non-conforming. I am also a visual artist and I love well-written books that are beautiful to look at.


I wrote...

A More Graceful Shaboom

By Jacinta Bunnell, Crystal Vielula (illustrator),

Book cover of A More Graceful Shaboom

What is my book about?

A More Graceful Shaboom is a children’s book about a nonbinary protagonist named Harmon Jitney who finds joy and purpose in a magical satchel, leading to an extraordinary, previously undiscovered universe. This book features LGBTQ characters seamlessly woven into a delightful, imagination-sparking story, without overtly being a lesson book about gender identity.

Follow Harmon as they unlock the key to their own inner happiness and sense of community. You may even meet a Muffin Monster along the way! It’s a dash of Narnia, The Little Prince, and the town of Woodstock all rolled into one, plus there are disco balls. I always prefer if people buy books directly from my website. This is the best way to most straightforwardly support me as an author.

Making a Baby

By Rachel Greener, Clare Owen (illustrator),

Book cover of Making a Baby

This inclusive guide to how every family begins is exactly the book I was looking for to help my daughter understand such important topics. Covering everything from sex, IVF, adoptions, surrogacy, vaginal birth, cesarian, miscarriage, and more. I believe starting these conversations young helps to build trust and confidence in the parent-child relationship. To make a baby you need one egg, one sperm, and one womb. 


Who am I?

I’m a feminist author, illustrator, and UX designer who thrives on projects that help to improve awareness, healing, and community around marginalized identities. When I became a mother, I realized the importance of teaching and educating children around inclusivity and empathy. When we allow children to open their minds and question stagnant culture, we set the stage for real and meaningful collective growth. I center my work around this goal and focus on inclusive themes, often from perspectives that are unexpected.


I wrote...

Feminism Is for Boys

By Elizabeth Rhodes,

Book cover of Feminism Is for Boys

What is my book about?

Boys can play sports with girls, wear dresses, cook, play with dolls, express emotions, be friends with all genders, and believe in equality. Feminism is not just about equal rights for all genders, but also about the pursuit to eradicate gendered stereotypes - allowing everyone to be their truly authentic selves. Boys are some of the most important allies in the movement for gender equality. Feminist boys should not be the exception, but the norm. Feminism is for everyone, including boys!

Giving Birth with Confidence

By Judith Lothian, Charlotte DeVries,

Book cover of Giving Birth with Confidence

This is the only pregnancy and childbirth guide written by Lamaze International, the leading childbirth education organization in North America. I love this book because it provides clear information for pregnant women. The authors present: information to help expectant women choose their maternity care provider and place of birth; practical strategies to help them work effectively with their care provider; information on how pregnancy and birth progress naturally; and steps childbearers can take to alleviate fear and manage pain during labor. Previously titled The Official Lamaze Guide, this 3rd edition has updated information on: how vaginal birth, keeping mother and baby together, and breastfeeding help to build the baby’s microbiome; how hormones naturally start and regulate labor and release endorphins to help alleviate pain; and obstetric practices that can disrupt the body’s normal functioning.

I love this book because, unlike the popular book What to Expect When You're Expecting…


Who am I?

I am a medical/reproductive anthropologist, and my passion for this topic stems from my own two birth experiences: one was an unnecessary cesarean which left me with PTSD, and the other was a vaginal birth at home, which left me feeling empowered—if I could do that, I could do anything! After my first birth, I started asking other women about their birth experiences, and came up with the question that guided my PhD research and became the subject of my first book, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Given that birth is so unique for every woman, why is it treated in such standardized, non-evidence-based ways in US hospitals? 


I wrote...

Birth as an American Rite of Passage

By Robbie Davis-Floyd,

Book cover of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

What is my book about?

This classic book, first published in 1992 and again in 2003, has inspired three generations of childbearing people, birth activists and researchers, and birth practitioners such as midwives, doulas, and even obstetricians to take a fresh look at the "standard procedures" that are routinely used to "manage" American childbirth. It was the first book to identify these non-evidence-based obstetric interventions as rituals that enact and transmit the core values of the American technocracy, thereby answering the pressing question of why these interventions continue to be performed despite all evidence to the contrary. This third edition brings together Davis-Floyd's insights into the intense ritualization of birth and the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth with new data collected in recent years. 

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

By Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, Ann Keppler, Janelle Durham, April Bolding

Book cover of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide

I love this book because it puts parents in control and because it's based on the latest medical research and recommendations. It provides the information and guidance that pregnant families need to make informed decisions that reflect their preferences, priorities, and values. Throughout, the presentation is crystal-clear, the tone is reassuring, and the voice is empowering. And the language is inclusive, reflecting today's various family configurations such as single-parent families, blended families formed by second marriages, families with gay and lesbian parents, and families formed by open adoption or surrogacy. From sensible nutrition advice to realistic birth plans, from birth doulas when desired to cesareans when needed, from reducing stress during pregnancy to caring for themselves and their babies after birth, this pregnancy guide speaks well to the needs of parents-to-be.


Who am I?

I am a medical/reproductive anthropologist, and my passion for this topic stems from my own two birth experiences: one was an unnecessary cesarean which left me with PTSD, and the other was a vaginal birth at home, which left me feeling empowered—if I could do that, I could do anything! After my first birth, I started asking other women about their birth experiences, and came up with the question that guided my PhD research and became the subject of my first book, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Given that birth is so unique for every woman, why is it treated in such standardized, non-evidence-based ways in US hospitals? 


I wrote...

Birth as an American Rite of Passage

By Robbie Davis-Floyd,

Book cover of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

What is my book about?

This classic book, first published in 1992 and again in 2003, has inspired three generations of childbearing people, birth activists and researchers, and birth practitioners such as midwives, doulas, and even obstetricians to take a fresh look at the "standard procedures" that are routinely used to "manage" American childbirth. It was the first book to identify these non-evidence-based obstetric interventions as rituals that enact and transmit the core values of the American technocracy, thereby answering the pressing question of why these interventions continue to be performed despite all evidence to the contrary. This third edition brings together Davis-Floyd's insights into the intense ritualization of birth and the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth with new data collected in recent years. 

Pushed

By Jennifer Block,

Book cover of Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

I highly recommend this book because it is an excellent exposé written by a well-known journalist on what is wrong with childbirth and maternity care in the US. As I do in my book, Block shows that in this country, more than half of laboring women are unnecessarily given drugs to induce or speed up labor, and one-third have cesareans. Block poignantly asks, "When did birth become an emergency instead of an emergence?" She examines childbirth as a reproductive rights issue, insisting that women have the right to an optimal birth experience, and that right is not being upheld. Block's research reveals that while emergency obstetric care is essential, we are overusing medical technology at the expense of maternal and infant health. 


Who am I?

I am a medical/reproductive anthropologist, and my passion for this topic stems from my own two birth experiences: one was an unnecessary cesarean which left me with PTSD, and the other was a vaginal birth at home, which left me feeling empowered—if I could do that, I could do anything! After my first birth, I started asking other women about their birth experiences, and came up with the question that guided my PhD research and became the subject of my first book, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Given that birth is so unique for every woman, why is it treated in such standardized, non-evidence-based ways in US hospitals? 


I wrote...

Birth as an American Rite of Passage

By Robbie Davis-Floyd,

Book cover of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

What is my book about?

This classic book, first published in 1992 and again in 2003, has inspired three generations of childbearing people, birth activists and researchers, and birth practitioners such as midwives, doulas, and even obstetricians to take a fresh look at the "standard procedures" that are routinely used to "manage" American childbirth. It was the first book to identify these non-evidence-based obstetric interventions as rituals that enact and transmit the core values of the American technocracy, thereby answering the pressing question of why these interventions continue to be performed despite all evidence to the contrary. This third edition brings together Davis-Floyd's insights into the intense ritualization of birth and the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth with new data collected in recent years. 

Birth and the Dialogue of Love

By Marilyn A. Moran,

Book cover of Birth and the Dialogue of Love

This classic and groundbreaking book is an exploration of the “interpersonal aspect of childbirth for husband and wife and its effect on their growth and development in two-in-oneness," says author Marilyn A. Moran, the first advocate for husband and wife unassisted homebirth. “Childbirth is a dialogue, not a monologue…It is imperative that couples abandon the doctors’ quasi-pathological approach to birth…When an obstetrician steps in between the lovers at the moment of birth to catch the baby, the cyclic giving and receiving of significant genital gifts is shattered.”

Women are the main connoisseurs of childbirth books, but when my husband opened this book, he devoured it within three days and was completely convinced of planning a husband and wife homebirth. The book made so much sense to us. After four hospital births, we went on to have two unassisted homebirths, and Birth and the Dialogue of Love was pivotal.


Who am I?

After giving birth in the hospital four times in what I experienced as “assembly-line obstetrics,” I decided that my fifth child would be intentionally born at home with just me and my husband present. It forever changed our lives and I’ve been an advocate since 1998, with the publication of Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love. I’m considered a pioneer in the unassisted birth community. Women are disappointed and disillusioned with their birth experiences and I help put to rest the idea of a painful, discouraging birth experience, replacing it with the manifestation of your inner desires. A satisfying and successful birth is within reach.


I wrote...

Take Back Your Birth: Inspiration for Expectant Moms

By Lynn M. Griesemer,

Book cover of Take Back Your Birth: Inspiration for Expectant Moms

What is my book about?

“Is this procedure absolutely medically necessary?” and “What do I want for my childbirth experience?” are two questions to ask while preparing for birth. Take Back Your Birth ignites the heart, the mind, and the emotions. 

Will you make decisions and take actions based on your inner yearnings? Do you have a vision for your birth experience? Do you want complete freedom for your birth or do you prefer a system that helps shape it? If you’re educated on the birth process and make decisions that you are comfortable with, then your birth can be the beautiful experience it was meant to be. Take Back Your Birth emphasizes inner preparation and goal setting for your birth, something which is sorely lacking in our culture.

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