What to Expect When You’re Expecting is, by far, the most popular pregnancy guide on the market in terms of sheer number of copies sold. It is useful to so many women because it gives clear descriptions of everything you typically encounter during prenatal appointments and birth. It explains your options in exactly the same way your doctor or midwife are likely to explain them, which minimizes confusion. The book is also packed with tips for how to anticipate and handle the discomforts and challenges that you may experience, and it thoroughly covers pregnancy safety.
No one wants to realize that they didn’t know that XYZ was risky for their baby and no one wants to be blindsided during a prenatal appointment with a decision to make or a test to take that they didn’t know was coming. What to Expect When You’re Expecting appeases the desire to feel educated and makes the entire pregnancy process less confusing. It will help you know everything you are “supposed” to know. It also provides 1000’s of tips for managing pregnancy discomforts.
That being said, I don’t recommend this book. Here are some of my major reservations:
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting does just what it claims, prepares you for what to expect from mainstream maternity care. Unfortunately, the mainstream, status quo birth experience in the U.S. isn’t so hot. You probably know someone who had a horrible birth experience and, on top of it, felt unsupported and alone. By talking to new families (or through the unsolicited stories you may be being told in line at the grocery store), you will discover women who felt disrespected, fathers who felt scared and helpless, and families who experienced unnecessary complications. Looking to statistics, you can also see that United States birth outcomes are not as safe as you might expect. This does not need to be the outcome for you and your family! Effective preparation and involvement make a difference! There are books that teach effective preparation, but this one teaches very standard typical preparation. What to Expect When You’re Expecting will pacify your drive to be informed and ready, but doesn’t actually empower those changes because it is promoting everything typical in birth practices rather then helping you see what can truly make a difference. By reading it, you will learn a lot about how to be a simple patient who doesn’t require a lot of education and doesn’t rock the boat. That may increase your ease, but it likely will not optimize your experience.
- It’s not always accurate. In fact I was pretty shocked at how much misinformation it contains.
- It is strongly biased towards a view that pregnancy is an ordeal and birth a burden.
- It perpetuates fear by emphasizing risks and medical problems.
- Its missing crucial components: What to Expect When You’re Expecting does nothing to acknowledge women’s strength or capabilities, nothing to foster connection to the universal, nothing to ignite a deeper understanding of early life experience and the foundations of strong parent-child relationships. These are things that spark vision and enliven bravery, which will serve you well! They aren’t to be found here.
My advice would be to leave this book on the shelf. While it covers a lot of useful tips and information, there are many others that cover the same stuff while also being more accurate and much more empowering. There are a host of amazing books that will really help you prepare yourself for birth and your baby. This is not one of them, so I recommend spending your reading time elsewhere.
That being said, if you are going to get it anyhow because everyone else has it, here’s my advice on how to best use What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Enjoy the descriptions of your baby’s amazing development month by month. Other than that, don’t read it cover to cover. Instead, use the index to find answers to your questions. Otherwise, it causes anxieties you didn’t even know you should have.
However you read it, do not view it as a comprehensive solution, becoming the one book you read while pregnant. Many women do this because of the book’s popularity. For most, What to Expect When You’re Expecting totally appeases the emotional desire to feel knowledgeable and prepared. While this might relax you, you would be selling yourself short. There is simply more to be gained from other books.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s Authors, Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel
Heidi Murkoff is a mom who discovered during her first pregnancy that she wanted a straightforward pregnancy book. She approached her mother, a medical freelance writer, about a collaboration and What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the books that followed were born. She has two children and lives with her husband in Southern California. She continues to be involved in growing the What to Expect brand and also runs the What to Expect Foundation, which publishes and distributes Baby Basics, low-literacy pregnancy book, to low-income mothers.
Sharon Mazel is a journalist and author. She works with Heidi Murkoff on her What To Expect book series and has written for Parenting Magazine, Baby Talk Magazine, and The Washington Post. She is the mother of four girls.