Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: The Healthy Pregnancy Book

Note #1:  My original review of The Healthy Pregnancy Book was written for San Francisco Book Review and appears on their website.  I have expanded that review for this post.

Note #2:  The opinions in this post are just that: my own opinions, for better or for worse.  No one paid me to write any of this.

Countless numbers of people look to Bill & Martha Sears for advice about pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. The newest addition to the Sears Parenting Library is The Healthy Pregnancy Book, which replaces their previous pregnancy book (called simply The Pregnancy Book). This new volume contains almost everything you need to have a healthy pregnancy!

They start with some of the basics on healthy living while pregnant:
  • Food: how to eat (grazing and sipping are fantastic options) and what to eat (superfoods, important nutrients, organic foods, and more), plus a few recipes such as the Pregnancy Supersmoothie
  • Weight Gain: what's healthy for different people, where the weight goes, and why gaining too much can be bad
  • Exercise: how it's beneficial, precautions and types of exercise to avoid, types of exercise to try, and how exercise can lead to a better birth
  • Stress: why it's bad for mom and baby, and how you can reduce it
  • Sleep: why pregnant women often don't sleep well and why they need more, plus ways to help get more
  • Green Living and Lifestyle Changes: why tobacco, alcohol, and drugs should be avoided; concerns about caffeine; food chemicals to avoid; and personal care products that are better for mom and baby
The book then progresses to a month-by-month study of pregnancy.  Each month's chapter talks about how baby is growing, how you may be feeling (physically and emotionally), and concerns; the concerns span everything from physical (spotting during early pregnancy, hemorrhoids) to lifestyle (traveling, thinking about maternity leave from work) to relationships (helping Dad be more engaged, mothering other youngsters while pregnant).

I love how the book brings up choice of care providers and birth places early on; so many "mainstream" pregnancy books take for granted that you will be birthing in a hospital with an OB, and if they mention midwives and birth centers (and homebirth!) it is in a little sidebar that can be easily overlooked.  But even as The Healthy Pregnancy Book advocates a more physiological style of care (often called the midwifery model of care), it is written in such a way as to appeal to readers across the spectrum, no matter what your plans are for birth (or even if you haven't really thought about any plans at all).  The author team, along with Dr. Sears and his wife Martha, an RN, includes both an obstetrician and a midwife, to give readers a balanced perspective.  The book covers doulas, chiropractic care, prenatal testing, childbirth classes, delayed cord clamping, birth plans, VBAC, cesareans, and so much more.

Each chapter also contains pregnancy journal pages; if you're interested in journaling but at a loss for what to write about, here are ideas!

There is an entire chapter devoted to how hormones affect labor and birth, which is pretty neat.  This chapter also includes information on how medical interventions (such as induction and epidurals) can affect the "hormonal symphony" that is birth, which is a fascinating contrast for those who have never thought about it before.

The chapter on the ninth month covers labor and birth itself (although the Sears' The Birth Book covers that topic in much more depth).  Readers will learn about labor stages, labor/birth positions (with illustrations), ways to help your labor progress, and more.  Perhaps one of the best parts about this book is how up-to-date and evidence based most of the information is.  Mothers are encouraged to eat small amounts of food during labor if they desire (since recent studies have provided firm proof that hospital policies of "nothing by mouth" do not improve birth outcomes), to discuss whether electronic fetal monitoring should be continuous or intermittent, to consider delayed cord clamping if possible, to use "self-regulated pushing" instead of "staff-directed pushing," to refuse an episiotomy without a valid medical reason, and to keep upright and mobile.  A chapter also touches on the immediate postpartum period and breastfeeding, with tips on healing yourself and easing your transition into motherhood.

Only after the information about a normal, healthy labor and birth does The Healthy Pregnancy Book turn its attention to special circumstances and medical complications.  I like that the book does not focus undue attention on everything that can go wrong; the focus on normalcy and what you can do to stay healthy is a breath of fresh air compared to so many other mainstream pregnancy books the seem to reiterate in every chapter the things that you should be concerned about and when to call your doctor.  These things are not left out of this book completely (and nor should they be), but are just put at the end where readers can easily find information about their particular situation.  And the well-organized index makes it easier to locate specifically what you are looking for!

I don't think there will ever truly be a "complete" pregnancy book, as there are just so many little things that no book can cover it all.  That being said, The Healthy Pregnancy Book does a fine job of it anyway, and will definitely be going onto my recommended reading list.  With its friendly, conversational writing style, this book is sure to be well-received by expecting parents everywhere.

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