7/6/2018

10 Incredible Books for A Holistic Pregnancy + Birth

I’ve been researching pregnancy and birth for the last five years to support my clients and to eventually prepare for my own pregnancy. As you can imagine there is so much conflicting information out there it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Pregnancy and birth choices are also often very polarized which can leave you feeling like you don’t know where to turn.

I am fortunate to have an incredible doula and CEO of LOOM, Erica Chidi Cohen, as one of my closest friends and I’ve taken extensive prenatal yoga trainings over the years. Having access to such invaluable resources and the time to devote myself to them is a privilege that I am acutely aware of. Just a few Google searches on the standard level of care for pregnant women in the U.S. is terrifying, and it only gets worse for women of color and trans men wanting to carry children.

Making the decision to have the least invasive pregnancy and birth possible has been one where I have felt somewhat isolated. Even in the holistic minded circles I spend much of my time in, the desire for as close to a natural pregnancy and birth as possible is rare. I recently attended a pregnant mamas gathering in L.A.. Before the yoga class the teacher had us go around the circle and share our name, how far along we were and where we planned to deliver. Out of nearly twenty women I was the only one who planned to birth at home. It was such an odd experience saying that aloud as many of the women looked at me completely shocked. I had a brief moment of thinking, Oh god, is this a bad idea? Thankfully, I have enough practice working with my body and my intentions that I was quickly able to let their shock go and enjoy the rest of the class.

And there are my parents who believe that I need a ‘real doctor’ and not a midwife team. One of our midwives graduated with a nursing degree from Yale and Ivy league schools carry serious weight in our family. That fact coupled with the reality that women have been pregnant and delivering babies for eons wasn’t enough to calm their nerves. I love my parents, this isn’t about that at all. Throughout this pregnancy the choices I am making around this particular type of pregnancy and birth experience are often viewed as hippie or unsafe in my family. This is where having a solid birth team (I’ll journal about that soon) and foundation of supportive and factual literature has proven to be a huge assistance to this process of becoming.

Before I diving into the books, I want to share that there are many ways to have a natural pregnancy and birth. Natural birth is a widely used term that means something different for each mother or parent. I like to think of it more as lifestyle choices than the nitty gritty of a specific diet or birth plan. Pregnancy and birth are intensely personal for the individual and there is not a one size fits all plan.

There are many approaches in the books I’ve recommended and different types of suggestions to help you navigate each humbling and rewarding experience that is part of becoming a mother or parent. My go-to advice when reading is take what you like and leave the rest. Some of the books have food suggestions that will feel more aligned with you and some will seem over the top. Being pregnant is a time of honing your intuition and connection to your body, spend time cultivating those relationships and allow them to guide your process. My motto with everything during my pregnancy has been soft, softer, softening. This has been key to keeping me present for everything that has surfaced and given me room to dismantle the judgment around my experiences and simply be in them.

Also, there is frequently a missing piece in our culture around the actual babe that is growing inside of us and how that sentient being is on their own journey. We can plan as much as we want to and it is imperative that we stay open and flexible for whatever reveals itself. We are co-creating here and the more time we spend tuning into the little one in our bellies the stronger that connection will develop once they are out in the world.

My biggest takeaways from all of these books is that pregnancy and birth can be a time of profound change, deepening intuition, psychic and physiological reorganization and empowerment provided we have the necessary support to do this life altering job with as much love, care and grace as possible. Being pregnant has brought me to my knees, especially in the first trimester and simultaneously been the most healing and grounding experiences of my life.

There is no way to know what our experiences will be during pregnancy or birth. What I am sure about is that having substantial and nurturing education is a key piece for supporting ourselves through this massive transition and upgrade.

Spiritual Midwifery

The classic on home birthing, natural childbirth and birthing stories. It takes the mystery out of birth while keeping in heavy doses of hippie. It is on the mystical side which of course I love. If you’re considering a home birth or are just curious about it I highly recommend this book. It was one of the first birthing books I read years ago and still stands to be one of the best. The stories in the book are very empowering to read and there is a plethora of collective wisdom in its pages.

The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition and Other Holistic Choices

Another one of the first books I read about natural pregnancy and it still stands up today. It’s a classic handbook if you’re seeking a safe, organic, eco-friendly and integrative approach to pregnancy. It’s full of medical, herbal and nutritional information that is presented in a clear way. It is also a great resource for natural solutions to many common pregnancy symptoms.

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

A book that speaks my language. It’s a beautiful blend of research backed wisdom and intuitive guidance for every stage of pregnancy and the birth process. Nurture is an all-in-one book for mothers and parents seeking approachable information on fetal development, making choices for a hospital, home or birth center birth, the basics of breastfeeding and tips on what to expect postpartum. It also has recipes, remedies and exercises for each stage of pregnancy as well as tools for getting you and your partner prepared to become parents. Also, the feelings wheel in the communication section of the book is beyond life changing.

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

An accessible and easy to read book full of herbal remedies for fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and newborns. This book is part of a series of herbal books for women and I recommend them all. It is packed with easy to follow recipes, information and loads of herbal allies for a range of issues including high blood pressure, morning sickness, emotional changes, anemia, muscle cramps, bladder infections, and preclampsia.

Birthing From Within: An Extra Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation

This is a great book about self-discovery and the rites of passage that take place as you become a mother or parent. It offers many insightful journal prompts, meditations and painting exercises to help you get clear and come to terms with this next phase of you life. Looking back I felt pretty clueless about how deep the transformation would be during pregnancy and to be honest was taken aback by how much came up for me emotionally. This book was really helpful in that area. It also offers techniques for techniques for coping with labor pain without drugs, baby basics and glimpses into the postpartum process.

The Female Pelvis: Anatomy and Exercises

This book is a must for learning about your pelvis and how it changes during pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve been studying anatomy for years and the explanations in this book are gold for seasoned teachers like me and for those who have little or no knowledge about their pelvis. The series of practices in this book are well written, very effective and gradually build on each other so that by the end you have increased flexibility, strength and coordination of your pelvis and how it functions.

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare

Prenatal nutrition is a huge topic and this book is a dense yet accessible reference guide. It walks you through nutrition for fertility/conception, each stage of pregnancy, postpartum and babies and children. It’s a fascinating read, especially the pregnancy sections. Learning when certain organs are developing and what to eat to support their growth is such a wonderful way to connect to your body, babe and overall experience. I will say this approach isn’t for everyone, I for one have had a great deal of difficulty eating organ meats while pregnant. I have however, gained tremendous insight from these pages and have implemented many of the suggestions including daily bone broth, extra fats (butter/ghee) and green veggies.

Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful: Experience the Natural Power of Pregnancy and Birth with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation

This is basically the text book for one of the prenatal yoga teacher trainings I took four years ago. Parts of it are very woo (which I love) and much of it is super helpful. There are loads of great yoga postures and poses that are very simple and effective to help prepare your body and mind for birth. There are also many beautiful meditations and songs for connecting with the growing babe in your belly and your partner.

HypnoBirthing

This is an invaluable book for explaining why it’s important to learn bring ourselves into a state of calm throughout the labor process. It is one of the recommended books for the child birthing class we’re taking and shares many tools to support you being calm at each different stage of labor. The tools in this book are a wonderful addition to any breathwork, yoga or meditation practices you already have in your back pocket.

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices

Fear of labor has been a big challenge for me to lean into. This book walks you through all of the choices available so that you and your partner and support team are clear that you are comfortable with . It has incredible depth and insight into understanding the labor process, sharing what the body does and why which I found very grounding. So much of my fear has been around the unknown and this book helped me settle into the fact that my body knows what to do and even if something difficult happens I have agency.

 

Photo x @mariellevchua

Comments

  • Shelby

    Great recommendations! Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering is the first book I recommend to women who ask me where to begin. And I love that you’ve chosen a home birth. My last birth (almost a year ago) was at home alone with only my partner present and it was such a beautiful experience. Keep on protecting your sacred space. Don’t let it anyone else’s fear. ❤️ Blessings & love!

    • ashley

      Hi Shelby! Thanks so much for being here and sharing a little about your experience. It is wonderful to connect around it. I love what you wrote about protecting our sacred space, that feels right and I am grateful for the support to do just that. Thinking of you and wishing you a beautiful summer. x

  • thefolia

    Don’t forget Back Labor No More by Janie McCoy King, words cannot express the gratitude I feel about this book, the lift made a world of a difference with my 2nd and 3rd birthing experiences. Happy birthing!

    • ashley

      Thank you so much for this wonderful recommendation! I’ll check it out later today. Looking forward to it! Wishing you a wonderful summer and grateful for your suggestion. x

  • Tessa

    Great recommendations. I only read Spiritual Midwifery and Birthing From Within, but they were great. I was also met with a fair amount of question for choosing a home birth and it took me by surprise. Even from my mother (I was born at home myself) and it was very isolating. My mother-in-law repeatedly asked how close is the nearest hospital is from our home. During my pregnancy it was important for me to remember that their fear was ultimately coming from a place of love.
    I’m so excited for you and yours! Also a good book that was recommended by my doula is The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin for all the companions out there.

    • ashley

      Hi Tessa!
      It is so wonderful to hear from you and thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. I really appreciate them. It’s super helpful to not feel alone in this process and I agree that the fears of my family are totally coming from a place of love. This is such a time of reflection and getting to the roots of things. I am grateful for your partner book rec too, I will get a copy for mine! He’s been reading so much, more than I have ;) Thinking of you and am over the moon to be in mama hood with you. xxx

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