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The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion: A Week-by-Week Guide to Everything You Need To Do for a Healthy Pregnancy Paperback – 2009
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THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED PREGNANCY COMPANION is a very good resource. I very much like that it is divided into the week format. Yet, by far, what pleased me most about this one is that unlike the majority of pregnancy related material out there this one is very second (and beyond) pregnancy friendly. There's nothing I've found more frustrating with this second time than everything catering to first-timers. That said this would be an excellent one to pick up whether this is your first or not.
So what does this book focus on each week?
Each week has its own section which is broken down into parts. A checklist for the week begins each chapter. The checklist is essentially an overview of what you will learn about and want to likely focus on. For example, I am on week 30 and my checklist includes ordering a home birth kit (if I were choosing to have a home birth) and purchasing a breast pump (if I am choosing to breastfeed). As I have gone through the book I have found that some of the checklist items aren't relevent to me but those that are tend to be well timed and useful reminders.
From there the chapter moves on to what to watch for each week. These generally include physical changes in your body such as nausea, back aches, swelling, fetal movement and bleeding. Some weeks these will be the same as the previous and I found that most were a bit more timed toward a first timer but weren't that far off for me with this second pregnancy.
Next the chapter moves on to body basics which is usually a rundown of what changes your body is likely going through and often includes some simple ways to relieve discomfort. A good example of this is my current week's discussion of stretch marks and having an itchy belly as the skin stretches due to shifts in position the baby is going through. For this a good moisturizer is recommended to sooth the itching and keep the skin moist as it stetches.
But the chapters aren't just about your body! Baby data features a photo of a fetus at this week and provides information about the latest changes in the baby's growth and development. If you enjoy knowing when your baby should have eyelashes or info about lung development these sections in each week can be really helpful and comforting.
From here the chapter is broken down into Pregnancy Particulars and small sections about the checklist items follow. These often include lists and information about things you'll want to do. My week right now has a breakdown of what I would need for a home birth kit including a rough cost estimate. It also includes information I found very helpful for purchasing a breast pump comparing manual and electric ones and discussing cost. Other weeks might focus on questions you should considering asking your practitioner, how to get dad involved, preparing pets and older siblings for a new baby, when to tell your family or boss and many other practical items about body changes and soothing discomforts.
Other items the weekly chapters include are a Pregnancy Affirmation and a Hot Mama section. The affirmations can be seem a bit repetative but are definitely well meaning. Many seem to be focused on reminding the mommy that her body is beautiful, strong and doing exactly what it should be. These positive messages certainly do not hurt, especially when body size and shape begins to cause self esteem issues. The Hot Mama section is also pretty useful in discussing ways to keep your self esteem over your changing body and wardrobe in check. Suggestions for what types of maternity wear to buy and ideas for other ways to feel pretty might seem less important than all the medical stuff but please trust me when I say this stuff is just as important! Being comfortable, looking put together and attractive are no less important during pregnancy because when you feel good about yourself you will feel good about the other changes you're going through. And that is pretty much the message the Hot Mama section seems to share. In addition to these two sections you may find little mini articles that often relate to the previously mentioned Pregnancy Particulars or may be just generally informative.
Beyond the chapters focusing on the weeks you will find the Labor and Birth section and a Postpartum section. These are pretty beefy chapters with a lot of info to digest and they seem to cover almost every base I could think of. I plan to read and reread these sections frequently and I think any mom-to-be who is nervous about things such as the use of pain medications, c-sections, or being induced could benefit from these sections of the Labor and Birth chapter. The Postpartum section is equally useful with topics about everything from dealing with staples or stitches from a c-section and what will still be happening to your body to post partum depression and birth control options.
What about this book didn't work for or bugged me?
For one, this book isn't quite illustrated exactly. There are lots and lots of beautiful pictures of pregnant women, fetuses and such but if you're looking for a book that shows you in diagrams where your baby is, how your organs may look at different stages of your pregnancy or if you are having multiples how they may be positioned and just general stuff like this... this book just doesn't have it. You may want to ask your OB or physician for recommendations of the best books for this kind of information, especially for your male partner as they may be clue-less as to how all that works and in my experience many really do want to know.
The other issue I had with the book is a smaller one. Occasionally a section of a chapter will discuss things such as people giving unsolicited advice, telling horror stories about labor or how to deal with comments about your body size and shape at different stages. These are really good topics because they are real situations that come up! What bothered me with this book was the attitude they tend to suggest you present these people with. In my experience most people who are offering advice or commenting on how you look really mean well or are simply curious. Some of the more snotty and snippy ways to counter-act these situations that the book presents seem unneccessarily rude or nasty. Just because we're pregnant doesn't mean we're given free reign to treat others badly even if we could easily blame it on hormones and get away with it. But every reader may feel differently about this subject and some may love the snarky comment suggestions. Afterall... someone telling me I look like I swallowed a beach ball would certainly hurt my feelings even if they were only teasing!
As a resource for pregnancy, labor and your body post-partum this is a really good guide that I would certainly recommend to any pregnant woman looking for something informative, positive and organized. I would suggest adding a book about the baby after birth though as this book doesn't cover much beyond the birth and hospital stay. And if you don't mind my unsolicited advice from one mommy to others I would suggest getting at least three different pregnancy/childbirth books to round out your information. With my first pregnancy and birth experience I was very glad I had read a variety of books about it all because they helped me feel prepared when things got scary and stressful. Best wishes for a happy, healthy pregnancy and your baby (or babies as the case may be)!
Now, if only Robin could get the fashion industry to understand that hormonal women who are already carrying around 25 extra pounds DO NOT want to wear butt-ugly maternity tops with huge flowers on them....
Aside from the usual medical doctor the other author is a doula and child birth educator and it really reflects in the tone of the book which more like a calm, reassuring birth coach than a doctor popping in to dump the facts on you. Still there is always a little sidebar, courtesy the perinatologist/author on things to watch for with a brief description. We had one scary child birth and this book had well placed exactly what we would have needed to watch for exactly when we would have needed to know it. There's also a small post-partum section that while brief has a good primer on what you need to know. My wife recommends Breastfeeding Made Simple as a must have for this time period along with a good "First Year" book such as those by Dr. Spock or Dr. Sears. We also both found The Holistic Pediatrician to be an excellent reference.
Overall an excellent book: well organized, well written, and just enough detail to make it informative but not too much to make it unreadable.