After going through my very first pregnancy with Finn, I wanted to share my favourite resources that taught me everything I know about pregnancy, labour and childbirth. Without these I don’t know that I would have felt as prepared, educated and empowered as I did. These are my top resources for a healthy pregnancy, labour and birth.
If you don’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I’m an information junkie. If I’m interested in a topic, I want to read everything about it. I’m especially fascinated by the human body; there’s just something so magical and special about knowing the details of what happens inside of you, that keeps you alive!
My interest in the human body extended into pregnancy and birth. Before I found out I was pregnant, I began preconception planning. During this time, I bought some books on hormonal health for pregnancy. I won’t go too much into detail on this because my nutrition background already gave me a good head start. But I made sure I had some key books on hand for when I did fall pregnant.
Once I was pregnant I overdosed on information. In addition to reading several books, I consumed podcast after podcast, hired a doula, joined Facebook groups, and got access to the The Birth Lounge for both education and community.
My Top Books for Pregnancy, Labour and Birth
Depending on how much free time you have, you may not have the opportunity to read as many books as I did. Hopefully the small explanations/recaps help you decide if these are books you want to include on your list!
- Pregnancy Day by Day (Canadian Edition): I loved this book for giving a daily recap of what is happening in your body and how your little babe is growing. Although I found some of the information a little outdated, I still appreciated knowing how my body was changing on a daily basis. It also has a basic guide towards the end for labour prep and the first few weeks postpartum.
- The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy by Genevieve Howland: I LOVED this book; although similar to the one above, it covered a more natural approach to pregnancy and childbirth. Although it is more “natural”, I didn’t find it off-putting for those who still plan to have conventional hospital births.
- Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols: A great resource for optimal nutrition during pregnancy. It’s an awesome resource to have, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not eating 100% “perfectly”. Cravings are real, and while I loved this book, the ‘ideal diet’ felt unattainable for me throughout most of my pregnancy. Especially in the first 20 weeks or so when I experienced nausea and couldn’t eat more than 1 or 2 vegetables a day. That being said, it’s an amazing resource for information about fuelling your body optimally in pregnancy.
Labour and Childbirth Prep:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin: For those mamas who want to empower themselves with birth stories – largely unmedicated, vaginal births. The first part of the book is dedicated to birth stores only, while in the second part, Ina May goes into more detail about labour prep and what to expect in childbirth.
- The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: A fantastic read for you and your birth partner. This one goes into detail about preparing for labour, the stages of labour, positions that can help, pain management, medications in labour and more. It’s written to educate birth partners on how to best support the labouring mama, but I found the information useful for both my husband and myself.
- Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz: I found this book a little crunchy (aka granola or.. hippie), so I only recommend it if you’re preparing for an unmedicated, vaginal birth and are open to a different way of thinking. The book is more of a journey of self-discovery, uncovering fears about childbirth, and empowering you in your labour with coping mechanisms.
- Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan: While I didn’t take a hypnobirthing course, I spent some time learning the basics of hypnobirthing. This book covers several different pain management techniques through visualization, breathing, relaxation and more. I highly recommend this book or further reading on hypnobirthing techniques if you are hoping for an unmedicated, vaginal birth.
BONUS! Postpartum Prep:
- The Breastfeeding Book by Martha Sears, R.N., and William Sears, M.D.: It’s super important to educate yourself on the basics of breastfeeding if you are hoping to breastfeed your baby. In the first minutes of the baby’s life, they latch onto your breast and the journey begins quickly. A bad latch, or poor positioning, can cause huge amounts of pain and discomfort in what should be a relatively positive experience. Knowing what to look for (good vs. bad latch, etc.), and how to support your body in breastfeeding is super important. Don’t wait until after baby is born to read this!
- The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson: The fourth trimester refers to the first 3 months postpartum with a newborn. This is a time filled with many adjustments and changes that touch not only your day-to-day life, but your relationship, your mental health, and so much more. This book gives you a good starting point to begin thinking about how your life may change, so you can prepare to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.
My Top Podcasts for Pregnancy, Labour and Birth
I feel like there are new podcasts being released every single day, so this list is relevant for when I had Finn in early 2020. I listened to podcasts mostly for the birth stories. I found that hearing people’s birth stories helped reduce my fear of birth, and also helped me imagine the many different paths that my labour could possibly take. In addition to birth stories, some of these podcasts include expert interviews on various topics related to pregnancy, labour, and even postpartum. These helped me better understand my body, different approaches to birth and prepared my mindset.
Here are my favourite podcasts I listened to:
- The Birthful Podcast with Adriana Lozada: Great resource for both birth stories and expert interviews. Adriana is a doula and uses her years of experience to interview mamas and leading experts on everything pregnancy, labour and birth. Her birth stories are also super interesting and most seem to have something unique about them.
- The Birth Hour with Bryn Huntpalmer: Birth stories from all over! That’s all this podcast focuses on and it was perfect for my drive to and from work – where I didn’t want to think too hard, but still wanted to learn.
- Happy Homebirth with Katelyn Fusco: A podcast that focuses on homebirths! While I wasn’t planning for a homebirth, I was hoping to have an unmedicated, vaginal birth. Women who have homebirths are able to achieve this exact experience, in the comfort of their own homes. I loved listening to their stories of strength and courage, and it made me feel like an unmedicated birth was possible.
- The Birth Lounge Podcast with HeHe Stewart: I love HeHe’s The Birth Lounge, and her supporting podcast is a mix of quick tips and longer episodes surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Created to support parents from conception to childhood. While she doesn’t focus on birth stories, she shares educational information to empower women to have the childbirth experience that they want. Fun fact: I was interviewed for one of her very early episodes about hormones, nutrition and infertility! Check it out here!
Other Important Resources
Lastly on my top resources for a healthy pregnancy and birth… I can’t stress enough the importance of doulas and community. Books and podcasts are great for education, but they’re not the only source of support on your pregnancy journey.
Hire a Doula
I hired a doula immediately when I found out I was pregnant. A friend of mine from nutrition school is a practicing doula (if you’re in the Ottawa area, I HIGHLY recommend Jennifer Cameron with National Capital Doulas!) I knew from that moment I wanted her support. I didn’t know how Mike was going to react during labour (he is super squeamish), so I wanted someone who could support both myself and him during the process. Part of the doula package included labour preparation and childbirth education, which supported everything that I had previously learned in my educational journey. It was a great opportunity to ask questions where I needed clarity.
Join The Birth Lounge
If you can’t hire a doula, or you simply want support without an actual doula at your labour, you might be the perfect candidate for The Birth Lounge. HeHe Stewart, a doula herself, created an online portal with tons of key information that you need to know during pregnancy, labour and childbirth. As she says, it’s like having a doula in your pocket! Her goal is to help pregnant women not feel rushed and feared into making decisions about their childbirth. The Birth Lounge comes with exclusive access to her private community of moms, where you can also ask HeHe questions herself.
Bonus! Save $5/month on your membership when you use the code KELLY5.
Join Facebook Groups
I don’t usually recommend Facebook Groups for education, simply because anyone can post, comment or make claims that are simply untrue. However, depending on what you’re going through, Facebook groups may help give you a sense of community amongst others going through similar experiences.
I quickly joined a March 2020 babies group, as well as a cloth diapering for beginners group and a safe sleep group. I wanted to passively absorb what these people were experiencing and discussing, which then helped me do my own research about certain topics. Even though some of these “mom” groups can be a little dramatic, I found the sense of community super helpful when I had questions or simply wanted to see if anyone else was feeling the same way I was. I will say that my March 2020 babies group has been very helpful in navigating my postpartum journey and experience.
That concludes my top resources for a healthy pregnancy and birth! I would love to hear from you if you have any other resources you felt were essential in your journey. If you found this list helpful, I’d love to know.
Thanks for reading, as always.