BIRTH BOOKS | the essentials

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

My list of books I recommend every pregnant client + their partner to read.

(c) Elenore Bendel Zahn

When people come to me for pregnancy, birth and postpartum support as their doula, and they like reading, one of the first things I do is recommend them a few books to get on their shelf. Most clients who are pregnant for the first time usually ask for resources. I always recommend books as outer resource that can be helpful, but to balance it out I suggest to consult the inner resources of the body as well, and staying attentive to what is happening in there. In this information-driven world, it is easy to go look for answers and tips and resources outside of ourselves, but especially during pregnancy, the body already teaches so much all the time as it constantly moves through changes of growth.


Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin


This was the first book ever I read about birth and it blew my mind. Ina May has over three decades of experience practicing, learning and teaching as a midwife. The book takes physiology as a starting point and helps understand the process of unmedicated natural birth. Ina May lays out how to support pregnant people holistically, and how this can optimize their chances to birth naturally, boost confidence and trust the process of labor and birth. For most of my clients, Ina May's words feel empowering. The book gives valuable information that finds its foundation in science and empirical research and experience. Ina May shows birth as it is when we do not unnecessarily interfere.


“We are the only species of mammal that can doubt its capacity to give birth”

Apart from research, confidence and knowledge grounded in experience, this book also provides birth stories, where real birth stories from Ina May's clients are shared.


Here you can find more information on Ina May, her center The Farm. Here is also one of my favorite TED talks by her.


Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood -- and Trusting Yourself and Your Body - Erica Chidi Cohen


I'd say this is the perfect comprehensive, easy-to-understand and straight-forward book for first time parents that is on the market. Erica is a doula and I immediately noticed this throughout the book. As doulas, we find it extremely important that people can make informed choices regarding their bodies. Erica lays out the various options that are available regarding pregnancy, birth and beyond; explains what each choice means and how to safely and confidently make these choices. The book does not only focus on the 3 trimesters of pregnancy, but also mentions the postpartum period after the baby has arrived, and how to also here make choices that fit your life and body. Apart from the practical and informational chapters, the book also gives tips on nutrition, movement and mindfulness exercises, and on how to communicate your needs with caregivers. The book is also available as an online course with Erica herself, that you can do on your own pace. Erica is the founder of LOOM in Los Angeles (that I'd love to visit one day to have a chat with her on her very important work!).

The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality - Kimberly Ann Johnson

This book! Oh this book! Over the last 2 generations postnatal care has changed -- and disappeared on many levels too.. The focus now lies a lot on having the mindset to get back to work after 3 months of maternity leave (at least here in the Netherlands); yet the practices to help and support bodies to heal properly on all levels seem to be fading.. While what bodies actually need after birth, hasn't changed much. In fact, our modern-day computer-adjusted bodies might even need more support! When I talk to my grandmother about her postpartum time, the stories she shares are so different from what I so often see with my own clients. This book does so much justice to the lost art of postpartum care. BIG time.

Kimberly sheds an honest and no-nonsense light on the time after birth, and how you can consciously prepare for this time during pregnancy already. I carry this book around almost anywhere I go (no joke!) even when I teach regular breath & movement or yoga classes, there always might be postpartum folks (whether that is 6 months or 20 years) joining (which I usually immediately see on their posture).  This book, to me has been the missing link in pregnancy and birth care, because it focuses on the most transformative time of the whole cycle: early parenthood in the postpartum period and beyond.  Kimberly is the founder of Magamama.



Are you pregnant and curious about how a doula could help you prepare for birth? Book your free intake with me here.

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