Friday, February 8, 2013

Review Round-up: Books About the Baby Making

It's a snow day here in my neck of the woods. A perfect day for lounging on the couch, catching up on reading and blogging. I am loving it!

In keeping with the tradition that I have inadvertently started, it's TTC Friday. As promised, below are reviews of the books I've read since we started trying to make a baby. Not as mini as I'd planned (ok, not mini at all) but hopefully just as useful. Feel free to share any of your own thoughts or recommendations in the comments.

The Mother of All Pregnancy Books (Canadian Edition), Ann Douglas

This book lives up to its title. Douglas covers everything from deciding whether or not you're ready to start trying, all the way through to a birth plan. It's been helpful through the TTC process and I like that I'll still be able to use it once we are expecting.

Given the scope of the book, Douglas doesn't go into great detail in most sections but that wasn't an issue for me. As a reference, this book is perfect. When I wanted more specific details about something, I looked into other books that focused on that particular subject.

There are a few sections that I've found particularly useful over the last few months. The section that covers nutrition while TTC and during pregnancy discusses all of the required vitamins and minerals, the RDA, and what  types of foods to find them in. I especially love the charts: there's one for early pregnancy/PMS sysmptoms and their causes, various medications and their effects on early pregnancy (helpful when I had a cold in November), and several more. Another section I refer to frequently is the week-by-week guide to pregnancy. Obviously I haven't gotten very far with that, but I like knowing what's going on in my body during the 2WW.

Finally, the fact that there is a Canadian edition is great. Statistics and medical information that is actually based on Canadian numbers and the Canadian health care system was very helpful.

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

The What to Expect books are not popular among my friends who have already had babies and my first impression of this one wasn't great. In fact, I wasn't even planning on finishing it at first. Eventually, I did pick it up again and read the whole thing. If you can get past the crappy writing style (think The Cosmo Guide to Getting Knocked Up, with a lot of puns that are not as clever as the authors think they are), there's actually some good information here. There are also sections specifically for men, which was different from the other books I'd read.

The format is very much like a magazine; it's split into chapters that are further split into shorter sections. This worked well for some sections, like the early chapters that cover some of the TTC FAQs. It seemed strange in others.

The portion of this book that stood out for me was the section on infertility and ART. It does a good job of describing the options available and what they entail. It even has a tutorial on how to correctly use a syringe for injectables. We're not at the stage where we need to worry about any of this but I do like having some basic understanding of the options.

Overall, this book wouldn't be my top recommendation for people TTC but it wasn't a complete waste of time either.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler
(Note: this cover photo is of an older edition not the current one)

When we first started out, I had no intention of charting. I will confess that I thought only the obsessed women did the whole temperature thing and I was determined not to become "one of those." Once I started reading about it, though, and learning how it works, I was onboard. Initially, it was meant to be more of a science experiment but as my cycles turned out to be irregular, it became a necessity. That's where this book came in.

TCOYF is the charting bible. It describes the Fertility Awareness Method for both pregnancy achievement and birth control. It is NOT the rhythm method, which is a common misconception. This is not about tracking dates and relying on averages. This is about learning to read and interpret the signs that your body is giving you. Frankly, this is information that all women should know, whether they plan to chart or not, planning to get pregnant or not. Sex ed doesn't cover it; instead, we get information that is incomplete at best and woefully incorrect at worst. It would be helpful if doctors were all properly informed but they are not, so it perpetuates.

Weschler doesn't just discuss fertile signs. She also covers reproductive health in general and the information she gives is good from puberty right up through menopause. I felt a lot better informed after having read this book and empowered to be more proactive about my own health. For example, I now make it a point to do a breast self exam around CD7 every cycle. Weschler explains why that time frame is ideal and provides step by step instructions.

One criticism is that I could have done without the constant digs at doctors and the testimonials about how charting is! I got it the first couple of times. After that, it set the wrong tone. Despite this,  the information is invaluable and should be required reading for all women.

The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant, Jean Twenge

I'll admit it. I loved this book. After reading the previous three, there wasn't too much information in it that was new but Twenge's approach was refreshing. She goes a little Mythbusters on a lot of the information presented in other books about TTC, looking at the actual research (or lack of it, at times) to find out what is accurate and what is not. For instance, if you're over 35, your odds of conceiving drop drastically, right? Nope. Unless you're living in medieval France, which is where those statistics came from. And sex in the missionary position is best, right? Maybe. But despite advocating it in all the books, no one has actually studied which position is best so no one really knows. Shettles method for gender selection? Totally backwards.

I loved getting the background on all of the things I'd been reading about in the other books and Twenge's sense of humour made it entertaining. It felt like the book was written for me. I have two favourite sections of this book. The first is the chapter on healthy eating for fertility. It's a more condensed and easier to remember version of the advice that is in The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. The other is the chapter called something like "If Someone Tells Me to Relax Just One More Time...." In that chapter, Twenge looks at the research on the effects of stress and anxiety on TTC and shows that mild to moderate levels of stress are perfectly fine. It is "ruminating" and depression that can cause problems. That was comforting to me because I have a tendency toward anxiety and during the school year, stress is unavoidable. An added bonus: I actually read that chapter to my mother and haven't heard a single comment about not "trying so hard" or "don't think about it" since. [FYI: if you are someone who likes to advise people TTC to relax, please stop. It is not helpful. It is irritating and can actually be hurtful.]

A caveat: Twenge has a research background, as do I. When she talks about studies and data analysis, she does mention the limitations that some of the studies have. In those cases, you cannot read too much into her interpretation, especially if you are not familiar with data analysis. And you have to remember that a lot of her analysis IS just her interpretation of someone else's data; there is always room for error. I think the book sometimes gets a bad rap (on The Bump, in particular) because someone has misread or misunderstood the results and then spreads information that the book does not actually contain. The nice thing is that all of her sources are listed at the back of the book so that you can look at the original work. Like with anything, really, you can't take it all at face value.


  1. I love TCOYF and think it should be required reading for every girl/woman. Like you said, we do not get good enough info about how our cycles work and why. If I read this when I was younger it would have saves me some stressful times. If I have a daughter, I'll be giving her this book!

    1. Absolutley! This whole experience has made me think a lot about how to raise a daughter who has a healthy understanding of her body and her sexuality. This book will definitely be a part of that legacy.

  2. I concur with both your comments here! TCOYF honestly changed my life in this whole TTC process. I agree it should be required reading for every girl/woman; the information you learn about your body is just invaluable! If I'm blessed with a daughter I will be having her read this book as well!