What is a “Guide to Childbirth” Anyway?

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It seems to come in various forms.

There is the “Your pregnancy week by week” or month by month…

Or the “Knowing your Informed Choices”

The “The Ultimate Guide to everything you need to know” and the “Holistic Guide to A More Natural Childbirth” and even ones that imply you are a Thinking Woman, they are a Spiritual Guide or that this book will give you a Home Birth In the Hospital.

In other words, they are whatever they want to be.

Here’s some thoughts on how to narrow down what you are looking for in the Birth Library and the greater world of birth media.

Exposés on Childbirth

These books are the ones writing about historical context. How did we get here, after all? What is the state of childbirth or obstetrics or pregnancy as an expression of culture or political climate. These books (or videos) can inform you on what policies look like in specific facilities, states or provider situations. These books are often to provide a wake up call for women to make different decisions and to allow the general population to see a different view of what so many find acceptable practice. Often backed up with facts and figures, they have still done very little to change the obstetrical climate but have significantly impacted the reestablishment of home birth with midwives and family birth without a medical care provider present as viable options for women not wanting to be a part of the obstetrical care system unless medically necessary.

Some good examples are:

Pursuing The Birth Machine by Marsden Wagner

The American Way of Birth by Jessica Mitford

Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulies

“The Business of Being Born” with Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein (video)

The In-Betweener

These are books offering a bit of the exposé while offering choices and more well-rounded discussion of how to personalize your birth and get what you want. These books are often found by moms who want to be more informed and in the meantime are also looking at how to make better choices about their care. The in-betweener guides are for those who aren’t sure why they aren’t comfortable or are looking to be a little bit more actively involved with their pregnancies and care decisions.

Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper


These books help in guiding you towards your personal goals. Want a vegetarian pregnancy? Waterbirth? Holistic Pregnancy with more access to alternative practices? Planned Cesarean?

Method Manuals

These are guides to pregnancy put out by specific childbirth or other “methods” of pregnancy care/labor planning designed to get the outcomes that the program touts as their specialty.

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon

Milestone Manuals

The week-by-week pregnancy books, journals, etc. are designed to give you interesting trivia to keep up with your baby’s development and also toss out tidbits of what is probably happening with mainstream care. There are fewer options in these books and they are even handed out by hospitals and care providers in order to help shape your expectations of what your pregnancy and birth will look like. You will learn that your baby is the size of a peach and has lanugo but also that “everyone” has an ultrasound at 20 weeks.

These are some basic ideas of what is being offered. I’ll update more as I come across new niches in Guides to Pregnancy.

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