10 Best Childbirth Books To Read For A Better Birth Experience

10 Best Childbirth Books To Read For A Better Birth Experience

Choosing the right childbirth books to read is so very important.

Not only can the books you choose provide you with factual information, but they can influence crucial decisions you make about birth.

It can affect how you feel about birth and how you actually give birth.

A book can either make you feel more worried and uncertain, or it can provide you with the confidence you need to birth the way you dream of.

You won’t find some of the more well-known and most marketed childbirth books on BellyBelly’s list, but it’s for very good reason.

It’s because this list has been compiled with you, your partner and your baby in mind. I want to help to give you the best start possible so you can have the best birth possible.

The below childbirth books are fantastic books that myself and others in the birth industry think are worth more than their weight in gold. I recommend them to clients, friends and family — in fact anyone who is after a great book. While all these books are amazing and offer something different, it may leave you wondering which one(s) to pick.

For someone who is just starting out or only going to buy a couple of books, the top two books are my bare basics — the must have’s for the woman starting out with childbirth education.

10 Best Childbirth Books

So, here they are, my 10 recommended childbirth books for birth. If you’ve read any of these, let us know what you thought in the comments section at the end of the article!

#1: Birth With Confidence By Rhea Dempsey

As one of Rhea Dempsey’s students in 2005, I am ecstatic that Rhea has finally written a book. Her work is amazing and unique.

Make this one of your staples for your pregnancy – no matter where you live in the world.

In Birth with Confidence: Savvy Choices For Normal Birth, one of Australia’s foremost thinkers on the subject of childbirth explains why normal birth is almost impossible in our current birth culture”and what women can do to beat the odds.

In this straight-forward book, Rhea Dempsey draws on over thirty years’ experience to show how a woman’s choice of caregivers, support team and birthplace, as well as her life experience and personal attitudes to pain, will affect her birth outcomes.

Featuring real-life stories, the latest Australian statistics and opportunities for guided personal reflection, Birth with Confidence provides the knowledge and practical advice that women need for the best chance of normal birth in today’s birth culture.

Birth With Confidence will:

  • Outline the benefits for mothers and babies of a normal physiological birth
  • Help you understand how our current birth culture can undermine your attempts at normal birth and the steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t
  • Explain how the various ‘circles of influence’ around you – from your friends and family to the wider culture ” can support or sabotage your birthing potential
  • Help you identify your own attitude to pain (your ‘pain type’) and what it will mean for your birth
  • Provide practical and emotional steps you can take to raise your pain threshold
  • Give you a framework for deciding on the best caregivers and support people to help you work through any ‘crisis of confidence’ during labour

#2: New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas

The book I wish I read before I had my own children. There are huge benefits in having an active birth, and you’ll learn all about how to have one in this essential reading book.

New Active Birth contains a forward by the late Sheila Kitzinger, and an introduction by world famous obstetrician, Doctor Michel Odent. Three birth all-stars in one book!

New Active Birth will help you and your partner prepare for and experience an active birth.

Naturally, throughout time and the world over, women have chosen to walk, stand, squat, lie – to move their bodies freely and actively to find the most comfortable positions for labour and birth. It is only we in the west who have the extraordinary notion that a woman should lie on her back in a position that defies the laws of nature and gravity.

With this book you can learn to develop all your body’s resources to deal with the instinctive experience of childbirth. It is also for partners, teachers, midwives and everyone involved, to help mothers get up off the delivery table and to bring back some of the common sense which has been overlooked by modern obstetrics.

#3: The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth by Henci Goer

Henci Goer, award-winning medical writer and internationally known speaker, is the author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. Her previous book, Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities is a highly-acclaimed resource for childbirth professionals, and she is an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care. The book is now a little dated, but nonetheless, has some empowering information.

In her book, Henci Goer covers the following topics and more:

  • Breech babies
  • Epidurals
  • Inducing labour
  • Episiotomy
  • IVs
  • Vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC)
  • Electronic fetal monitoring
  • Doulas / birth attendants
  • Rupturing membranes
  • Deciding on a doctor or midwife
  • Coping with slow labour
  • Choosing where to have your baby

“With the help of this book, any intelligent person can obtain the information necessary to make informed choices. This unique book will provide the tools and confidence to have the best possible birth experience.” — Don Creevy, M.D., FACOG obstetrician/gynaecologist, Clinical Assistant Professor, Stanford University Medical School

“The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth puts the power of the latest scientific research of childbirth into the hands of women to help them discern the facts from the myths and make informed decisions about their maternity care.” — Maureen P. Corry, M.P.H., Executive Director, Maternity Center Association

#4: Birthing From Within by Pam England

This is the book of the moment for midwives, childbirth educators and pregnant women/couples.

Said to be an extra-ordinary guide to childbirth preparation, England provides us with a challenging and empowering book: there’s lots of practical advice for first-time pregnancies including positive discussion on the benefits or otherwise of birth plans and support people.

Pam England makes good use of art therapy and creative visualisation. The book is also full of photographs and fascinating art work and illustrations.

#5: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

What you need to know to have the best birth experience for you. Drawing upon her thirty-plus years of experience, world’s most famous midwife, Ina May Gaskin, shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience.

Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth gives expectant mothers comprehensive information on everything from the all-important mind-body connection to how to give birth without technological intervention.

Filled with inspiring birth stories and practical advice, this invaluable resource includes:

  • Reducing the pain of labour without drugs — and the miraculous roles touch and massage play
  • What really happens during labour
  • Episiotomy — is it really necessary?
  • Common methods of inducing labour — and which to avoid at all costs
  • Tips for maximising your chances of an unmedicated labour and birth
  • How to avoid postpartum bleeding — and depression
  • The risks of anaesthesia and caesareans — what your doctor doesn’t necessarily tell you
  • The best ways to work with doctors and/or birth care providers
  • How to create a safe, comfortable environment for birth in any setting, including a hospital
  • And much more

Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth takes the fear out of childbirth by restoring women’s faith in their own natural power to give birth with more ease, less pain, and less medical intervention.

#6: Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean

The reviews for Silent Knife speak for themselves:

  • “The bible of caesarean prevention,” – Wall Street Journal.
  • “A landmark event, which will change the course of obstetric care by giving parents the information they need to make the decisions that are best for their own families. Comprehensive, highly readable, sensitive… should be read by everyone who cares about someone,” – Marian Tompson Director, Alternative Birth Crisis Coalition American Academy of Medicine.
  • “Required reading for all childbirth professionals and prospective parents”, Journal of Gynecological Nursing.
  • “Clearly the most important book on childbirth available today, Silent Knife should be read by everyone connected with childbirth, consumers and professionals. No other book on the market today offers the complete help to cesarean prevention, including VBAC information and support One of those few books that has the power to change a person’s life.” – Justine Clegg, Council for Cesarean Awareness

#7: Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read

If you’re feeling fearful of birth, this one is for you.

In an age where birth has often been overtaken by obstetrics, Dr Dick-Read’s philosophy is still as fresh and relevant as it was when he originally wrote this book.

He unpicks every possible root cause of western woman’s fear and anxiety in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and does so with overwhelming heart and empathy.

Essential reading for all mothers-to-be, midwives, doulas and anyone else working in birth.

#8: When Survivors Give Birth

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse, this book is a must read before you give birth.

When Survivors Give Birth is written for a mixed audience of maternity care professionals and para-professionals, mental health therapists and counselors, and women survivors and their families. The authors expertly and compassionately address the unusual and distressing challenges that arise for abuse survivors during the childbirth experience.

The first section informs the reader of the impact of early sexual abuse on children, adults, and on all aspects of childbearing. The second section teaches skills in communication, self-help skills, counseling and psychotherapy techniques. The third covers clinical challenges and solutions for doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and others. Case histories throughout the book clarify and apply the content.”

#9: The Birth Book by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears

Prepare for a safe and joyful birth, with the help of America’s foremost baby and childcare experts. Since women enjoy more birthing options today than ever before, the path toward a safe and satisfying birth can be fraught with important decisions.

Planning, understanding the resources available to you, and developing your own birthing philosophy can make all the difference. In this comprehensive, reassuring, and authoritative guide, Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, the paediatrics specialists whose books on pregnancy, babies, and parenting have become widely praised bestsellers, thoroughly explore the abundant choices couples face when anticipating the birth of their child.

The topics covered in The Birth Book include:

  • Selecting the right birthing environment and team
  • Preparing physically and emotionally for childbirth
  • Using prenatal tests and technology wisely
  • Defining the father’s role
  • Selecting a childbirth class
  • Lessening the discomfort and speeding the process of labor
  • Choosing or avoiding anaesthesia
  • Finding the birthing position that’s best for you and your baby
  • Decreasing your chances for a caesarean birth
  • Turning a surgical birth into a rewarding experience

As the parents of eight children and as medical professionals with nearly three decades of experience, Dr. Bill and Martha Sears are uniquely qualified to answer virtually every question you might have about the birth process. Their one-of-a-kind guide, rich in information as well as inspiration, enables you to plan and create the birth you want.

#10: The Waterbirth Book by Janet Balaskas

This book is harder to get your hands on, but well worth it if you’re interested in waterbirth. Written by the founder of the active birth movement — world renown natural childbirth pioneer10 Best Childbirth Books To Read For A Better Birth Experience — Janet Balaskas.

The waterbirth book is a comprehensive book on the ins and outs and benefits of waterbirth. Everything you need to know, from the temperature of the water to how a baby breathes under water is covered.

Even if you’re undecided on waterbirth, its a great book to help you make an informed, confident decision.

You can purchase these books from:

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Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.


  1. Im 8 weeks pregnant and ive had two premature babies. I want to be more informered about premature babies… About what can be the causes Of premature labor, if it can be prevented and what are my choices for a non premature labor. Can u please provide me some books to read. Thanks in advance.

  2. I would add “Birth Skills” by Juju Sundin as a worthwhile read. I found it empowering and comforting in her explanation of birth, why things feel the way they do and what tools we as women can utilise during birth to facilitate a great labour. By wiping away the mystery and fear I faced my birth with the knowledge and power to dominate those contractions and trust in my body.

    1. Birth Skills is a great book and mostly written by an Australian physiotherapist. As a midwife, a lot of women in my caseload have said they found the tips and visualisations very helpful. The book explains the physiology of birth and offers ‘tools’ to help through labour eg the mantra of ‘healthy pain’.

  3. Penny Simkin and her books have added much to the improvement of birthing practices for a generation. The Labour Partner Handbook and Pregnancy, Birth and Newborn Care grace many bookcases of birth educations and providers. Thanks for providing such a great list….

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