Book Review – ‘Expecting a Baby?’, Dr Penelope Law

Dr Penelope Law

Kindle version £10.80, illustrated hardcover £12.00

I am a massive reader so as soon as I found out and we’d decided (well… ‘decided’) to keep the baby, I got on     Amazon and found some books to read. I have also subscribed to various forums and websites for advice, but noticed that a great deal was tailored to a US audience. When it comes to medical advice and information about hospital procedures, this is obviously pretty important, so I needed specific information about what to expect in the UK.

I chose Expecting a Baby? as my first purchase over What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which I know is more famous and is the one I had heard of. When I looked up reviews however, they were definitely mixed and it seemed to me that it wasn’t the sort of book that I would find helpful. I’m the first to admit that I am very headstrong, reasonably scientific minded, but open to new ideas. I’ve never liked being condescended to or told what to do, so I wanted some actual objective information that would let me make up my own mind, and this book was perfect for that.

The book focuses mostly on pregnancy and labour, although there is a section about the immediate aftermath and the first few weeks of newborn care. Dr Law writes with authority, in a way that is caring but without that sickly sweet tone that really gets on my nerves after a while. There’s a lot of really practical suggestions in here, such as good stretches to do while pregnant, diet suggestions, techniques for labour and more. Dr Law also does a great job of comparing different approaches without appearing biased. To my delight, she does not bother to sugar coat the fact that there is no proof at all to certain ‘medicines’ like homeopathy, but (I think) also avoids being insulting about methods she clearly does not support. This, I think, is the most helpful approach – it bothers me that some authors feel the need to use tentative language rather than just coming out and saying that there is no evidence at all for something, and that effectively it’s up to you if you try it but it’s going to do about as much good as taking a load of Smarties, except without the deliciousness and exciting colours.

The book takes you through advantages and disadvantages of the various options you have for your care, like location of birth (home birth, birth centre, hospital ward) and pain relief options, in a really clear and easy to understand way. Although it’s less common in the UK I have seen a lot of books/websites that seemed really really against having a baby anywhere but a hospital, this one is definitely not and gives you the pros and cons in an honest way. It also changed my mind about certain things like water births – I fully admit that not having read much about them, I assumed it was a sort of fad-ish, hippy thing to go for and that I’d feel uncomfortably even bringing up the idea, even though I knew my sister had one with her second child and loved it. After actually reading about them and seeing there was quite a bit of support for the method, beyond the kind of ‘it’s so natural!’ thing, it’s something I’ll actually consider, assuming it’s an option.

There are also some very sensitive chapters on dealing with miscarriage, stillbirth and postnatal depression. I’ll admit I skimmed them because I felt like it wouldn’t do me much good at this point to dwell on any of those topics, but I know they’re there if the unimaginable happens.

I admit I haven’t watched much of One Born Every Minute, but perhaps if you have you’ll like the fact that it’s connected in some way I haven’t quite figured out. It’s got the title on the cover, anyway.

I bought the Kindle edition because I don’t like waiting for post, and I can definitely recommend it, though perhaps only if you have a Kindle Fire rather than the original with an e-ink display. The book hasn’t been reformatted for digital display so what you’re seeing as far as I can tell is direct copies of the pages of the book, complete with little colourful insert boxes and full-page images. These look lovely on my Kindle Fire HD and the touchscreen means it’s not too annoying to zoom in and out or scroll through the pages. I don’t think this would work terribly well on the original though, but perhaps there is a different version of it? I’m not sure.

I’d definitely recommend this as a basic guide to what to expect through pregnancy and while in labour. It’s made a good complement to the advice I’ve had from friends and family, and also the hospital’s video series my midwife recommended.