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Best Birth Book

Melissa's Picks

Navigating either doula or birth books can be fun, inspiring and also a wee bit overwhelming. New doulas often ask where they should start and which are good first books. It is really difficult to gauge that without knowing the person or their knowledge base regarding pregnancy and childbirth. You can find all of the following books online (new and used), in book stores, libraries, midwives offices and from other doulas who will loan or sell. Personally, I would rather borrow a book and read it first before investing in it for my personal reference library or for books to loan to clients. I have found that some books just don’t resonate with me and I will never use them after reading them. I don’t find e-books particularly useful because I do loan some of these out but that choice is up to you.

The DONA International reading list is a great resource for all doulas. You will find that the following books will give you a good understanding of pregnancy, labour, birth, breastfeeding and being a doula. Being a birth professional is a continual learning process and there are some really awesome books out there for the more experienced doula. This list is the most basic of starting places.


Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn (by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, Ann Keppler, Janelle Durham and April Bolding) – If you have never read a book, cover to cover (though not necessarily as a linear read) then this is the book to start with. It is a good overview for someone who is looking for the whole picture with all possibilities outlined. Not to be missed are the comprehensive companion pages; a lot of doulas miss them and they are great resources and I often forward that information by text or email. I am fairly certain I have all the editions ever printed of this book; it is the ‘go to’ in the libary.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – World renowned author, speaker and midwife, Ina May Gaskin, has written her second anthology of positive birth stories. This may be a good first read if you have experienced birth or read birth books in relation to your own pregnancy. It is also a good second read for doulas. Further down the road, once you are well read in the basics, give her first book, Spiritual Midwifery, a shot. It is written very much in the same format. It is fairly psychedelic, tuned in and also marked the change in history where birth became less medical, more positive, woman centered and a natural.


The Birth Partner (by Penny Simkn) is a fabulous read with a bit of repeated information from PCN but with a different slant since the focus is more on total understanding from the perspective of “assistance”.

The Doula Book (by Klaus, Kennell and Klaus) is very labour support specific and because of this, may give a broader scope of the role of the doula so it could be the better pick, but it is a wee bit ‘drier’. I like it because these two docs are part of the "original five" founders of the entire modern doula movement.


Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding (by Dr. Jack Newman) is very definitely my go to book. I have read it, I have used it and it is my most loaned out book for clients. Period.

Reading two of these books before your workshop is the ideal place to begin. Certainly, if you can only get to one, it will help and know that the more you read, the more you figure out that birth is so much more than having a baby. Birth is a complex interplay of hormones and yet it is also quite simply life at its most primal.

Check out our resource page for more of our favourite picks!

Doula Reading Melissa Cow

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