21 books directly related to childbirth 📚

All 21 childbirth books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin,

Book cover of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Why this book?

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.


Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950

By Judith Walzer Leavitt,

Book cover of Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950

Why this book?

It is a sign of our shocking historical amnesia regarding American women’s reproductive lives that this remarkable book is out of print. Leavitt discusses the long history of American women’s childbearing lives, moving from colonial times through the twentieth century and charting along the way women’s loss of control over their reproductive lives as they moved away from births at home, attended by friends and neighbors, and toward birth in hospitals where their freedom of choice was increasingly restricted. To understand the dark side of the ‘twilight sleep’ procedures depicted in The Crown or Mad Men, read Chapter 5 on the growing use, by the early twentieth century, of drugs that rendered women so passive that their babies could be pulled roughly from their bodies with metal instruments.


Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

By Peggy Vincent,

Book cover of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

Why this book?

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.


Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room

By Judith Walzer Leavitt,

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

Why this book?

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.


Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth

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

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

Why this book?

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.


Giving Birth with Confidence

By Judith Lothian, Charlotte DeVries,

Book cover of Giving Birth with Confidence

Why this book?

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, it answers all the questions that pregnant women could have about how to choose the right care provider for them, how to decide what kind of birth they would like to have, and how to achieve that birth. It also provides clear information on possible complications of pregnancy and birth and how to deal with these in the most evidence-based and effective ways. It is written clearly and lovingly in language that is easy to understand. And it is written by two of the best childbirth educators in the US, who freely share their wisdom and experience.


Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide

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

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

Why this book?

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.


Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

By Jennifer Block,

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

Why this book?

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. 


What Makes a Baby

By Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (illustrator),

Book cover of What Makes a Baby

Why this book?

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.


Making a Baby

By Rachel Greener, Clare Owen (illustrator),

Book cover of Making a Baby

Why this book?

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. 


Birth and the Dialogue of Love

By Marilyn A. Moran,

Book cover of Birth and the Dialogue of Love

Why this book?

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.


Unassisted Childbirth

By Laura Kaplan Shanley,

Book cover of Unassisted Childbirth

Why this book?

Unassisted Childbirth shows how birth can be straightforward and relatively painless if we remove technological and psychological interference. Laura is considered the pioneer of “UC,” Unassisted Childbirth, also known as Freebirth. She states that fear is a main culprit and the body’s reaction is commonly fight or flight, sending women into long, difficult labors and deliveries. 

My husband and I appreciate Laura’s work in the unassisted birth area because it is inspiring and logical. She has encouraged thousands of couples for over 35 years in the pursuit of an unhindered, natural birth.


Emergency Childbirth: A Manual

By Gregory J. White,

Book cover of Emergency Childbirth: A Manual

Why this book?

When my husband and I were preparing for our unassisted homebirth, we had two books by our nightstand: Birth and the Dialogue of Love, and Emergency Childbirth. Emergency Childbirth was originally published by the Police Training Foundation and was used by emergency medical technicians for unexpected childbirth situations. One part of the book explained what to do if a baby is coming quickly and stated that any normal eight-year-old could handle it. 


The Midwife's Apprentice

By Karen Cushman,

Book cover of The Midwife's Apprentice

Why this book?

This book was a Newberry Award winner and it’s easy to see why. It is hard not to love Alyce and root for her as she grapples with the difficulty of learning midwifery under the not to tender tutelage of Jane the Midwife. The story is at times funny, poignant and fascinating. I was moved by the courage and persistence Alyce shows. This book transported me to another era and left me wanting more. 


Spiritual Midwifery

By Ina May Gaskin,

Book cover of Spiritual Midwifery

Why this book?

I love this book because it was the very first to talk about spirit and energy in the birth process. In it, world-famous midwife Ina May Gaskin describes how she learned about births from attending them, later studying with a doctor. She describes many births on the farm in which she and her midwifery colleagues learned that birth is a spiritual process that is deeply affected by the energy in the room. They learned to "suss out" that energy and to send people with negative energy out of the birthing room. And they learned that if you change the energy in positive ways, you also change the outcome of the birth in positive ways. In other words, change the energy = change the outcome!


Breastfeeding…Naturally

By Jill Day,

Book cover of Breastfeeding…Naturally

Why this book?

If you are intending to breastfeed, then it is important to pick up a book on breastfeeding. Don’t make the mistake of being so focused on pregnancy and birth that you forget about lactation. There are several good options for breastfeeding books. As an Australian mother, I turned to the Australian Breastfeeding Association and I made sure I read Breastfeeding…Naturally. It gave me the knowledge I needed to know.


Home Birth On Your Own Terms

By Heather Baker,

Book cover of Home Birth On Your Own Terms

Why this book?

This book is comprehensive: it describes self prenatal care, what to do if you encounter complications during labor and birth, and discusses postpartum care. Photos and birth stories can put a couple at ease as they plan for their upcoming birth. My daughter birthed her first baby unassisted and this was her favorite book during pregnancy.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By Lisa See,

Book cover of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Why this book?

The beauty of the novel is like a fan, folded, layered, and fragile in its quiet storytelling of the transience of life and poignancy of how women were quickly forgotten and tucked away. Set in a remote, secluded town in nineteenth-century China, where foot binding was a tradition few could escape, the novel tells the affection between two women and their secret love. Nu Shu, the women’s script highlighted in the story, was especially fascinating to me–I have come across it during my research and learned that it was once a popular communication method for educated women in ancient China. I wish there were more novels about the secret language!


Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in Seventeenth-Century England

By Lucinda McCray Beier,

Book cover of Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in Seventeenth-Century England

Why this book?

Originally published in 1987 this book is a classic text for those studying health and disease in this era. Drawing on diaries and printed materials it explains what people died of in the era and what conditions they lived with. It describes how people responded to ill health both spiritually and medically and it provides a series of case studies to illuminate different aspects of health, including women’s health. Using practitioners’ casebooks, it thinks about the differences between an urban surgeon and the practice of rural physicians. It thus moves beyond generalizations to show that practitioners worked alongside each other to heal patients drawn from different socio-economic backgrounds and that the practice of medicine was supplemented and relied upon interventions by friends, family, and community.


Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth

By Robert A. Bradley,

Book cover of Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth

Why this book?

The public tends to put more credibility when they see a doctor approve childbirth information. The Bradley Method is a proven and universal method that encourages and teaches natural childbirth – and, includes the father of the baby. While I believe that giving birth should be initiated and orchestrated by the baby, the mother and father are primary participants in the event. 

The Bradley Method helps couples prepare for a drug-free childbirth, discusses natural solutions for challenges during pregnancy, and focuses on bonding between mother, baby and father. This book is one of the most respectful books for couples planning to give birth.


The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be

By Armin A. Brott, Jennifer Ash Rudick,

Book cover of The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be

Why this book?

I highly recommended The Expectant Father because it’s packed with month-to-month essential emotional and even physical changes that fathers-to-be may experience. One of the most outstanding features of this book is that it incorporates the knowledge of expert OBs, parent educators, and researchers in the field. This wonderful book also covers all issues regarding infertility and various birthing methods.