If someone says “pregnancy”, what’s the first book you think of? I’m going to guess nine out of ten people will say What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It has sold over 14 million copies worldwide and has been around for 25 years. In the States they like to call it “the pregnancy bible”. But is it any good – and is it worth your money?
There are pros and cons to this book that may help you make a decision.
If you’re a first-time mother and you’re in early pregnancy, then this book might have something for you. It’s a weighty tome, mainly because it goes into huge detail of what’s happening with you and your baby every week of your pregnancy. A lot of first-time mothers will find this reassuring, because it can sometimes easily explain away little niggles, aches, or new sensations you’re feeling that might be stressing you out. There’s lots of information on the changes to your body and why they’re happening, what your baby is doing, and how it’s growing, usually equating it to the size of a fruit, which is ridiculously cute when you’re pregnant. It’s a good reference guide for the biology of pregnancy.
There are a number of negatives about it, though. Even though we have a “UK edition” on this side of the pond, the content of the book is still quite American in tone and subject matter. A disproportionate number of pages and paragraphs are given over to your diet and exercise during pregnancy, to the point of obsessiveness; which would appear to be a uniquely American concept. Obviously, diet and exercise are a hugely important part of pregnancy, particularly in preparation for birth, but this is really OTT. I’m willing to wager that if you’re reading a pregnancy book in the first place, your diet is probably fine – and if it’s not, you already know it’s not and feel sufficiently guilt, with great intentions to buy more vegetables tomorrow.
Another aspect that doesn’t sit well with me is the book’s almost morbid focus on pregnancy and birth complications and rare occurrences. While again it’s important to be prepared, in this book it’s a bit like watching a plane crash while waiting to board a flight. There are other much better books that can prepare you well for labour and birth. Don’t buy this book for birth preparation!
In the later chapters, geared towards the end of your pregnancy, the book errs on the side of “doctor knows best” to the detriment of providing important information on evidence-based care and informed decision-making. You’ll read a lot of “At your antenatal appointment, your doctor might do…” or “Your doctor might suggest…” without giving any details on other options or the risks and benefits. The breastfeeding advice is also abysmal and best ignored!
So would I recommend this book? If your sister or your friend has a copy, by all means borrow it and read it to your heart’s content. As a first-time mum, you’re likely to devour the first half and then probably fling it across the room at around 32 weeks because you can’t read another pregnancy-related factoid. It’s a good reference guide for some times but please don’t let it be the only pregnancy book in your arsenal. Every woman needs at least three, I reckon, with a good breastfeeding book thrown in for good measure!
You can buy What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel for approximately €24, either online or in most large bookshops.
This review first appeared on Parent.ie