Whether this is your first baby or your second or third, pregnancy is a time of heightened sensitivity for any woman.
Concern over the health of the fetus, the physical changes you are experiencing, and occasional feelings of doubt about the awesome responsibility undertaken all make this an impressionable time.
For this reason, it is important to choose books on pregnancy and birth with care. The expectant mother needs to be well-informed without having to wade through irrelevant or unnecessarily upsetting material. In the last few years, some excellent books have been written on birth. Here are the best of them.
"Childbirth With Love" by Niels H. Lauersen, M.D. (Berkley, $9.95 paperback.)
Lauersen's book lives up to its name. It is reassuring and comprehensive, giving complete information on all aspects of fertility, pregnancy and childbirth.
For example, many women become alarmed when they do not get pregnant within a few months. Lauersen reports on the average time to conceive by age group, and we learn that for women in their late 20s, six months is average but for women in their early 30s the average is nine months; women in their late 30s can expect the average time to conceive to be a full year.
"Pregnancy, Birth and Family Planning" by Alan F. Guttmacher, M.D.; revised and brought up to date by Irwin H. Kaiser, M.D., Dutton, $17.95 hard-cover; New American Library, $9.95 paperback.)
Updated continuously since it was first written in 1937, this 1986 edition has been revised by Dr. Kaiser, a colleague of the late Dr. Guttmacher. The result is a comprehensive, helpful guide containing all the latest information on topics ranging from certain types of in utero surgical treatment of a fetus to ovum transfer and surrogate motherhood.
This is a long book and is probably best used as a reference. The text is extremely detailed and at times tells you more than you probably ever wanted to know.
The strengths of the book are its depth, the breadth of coverage and the knowledge displayed, gained through medical experience and firsthand observation.
"What to Expect When You're Expecting" by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff and Sandee Eisenberg Hathaway, R.N. (Workman Publishing, $7.95 paperback.)
Because we live in a time when it seems almost impossible to avoid substances that might be harmful to the fetus, many readers will identify strongly with the basis for this book.
It was undertaken by a mother and her grown daughters when worries about such things as coffee and alcohol consumption and a fall in the eighth month overwhelmed one of the daughters during her pregnancy. True to their intention, the book is reassuring and thorough.
Line drawings are used throughout to indicate the development of mother and baby month by month and to demonstrate exercises and various positions for lifting during pregnancy or for getting through labor. Many lists and charts make for clear and interesting reading. The book also features a "Best-Odds Pregnancy and Nursing Diet," complete with recipes.
"A Child Is Born" by Lennart Nilsson, Murjam Furuhjelm, M.D., Axel Ingelman-Sundberg, M.D., and Claes Wirsen, M.D. (Delacorte Press, $17.95 hard-cover; Dell, $12.95, revised trade paperback with new photographs expected next spring.)
This book includes a chronological description of what to expect during pregnancy, but its true wonder is in the photographs that so richly illustrate it. Starting with early pictures of a sperm and an egg, the photos depict the changes that take place in the fetus during nine months.
In addition to photographs of the entire in utero fetus (obtained using innovative techniques), special pages are devoted to details such as comparison of the development of the hand and foot at 6 weeks, 11 weeks, and again at 5 months.
"Pregnancy and Work" by Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick. (Avon Books, $7.95 paperback.)
Fitzpatrick covers most elements of pregnancy, but primarily as they pertain to the working woman. For example, the discomforts of pregnancy are discussed in light of overcoming them to stay on the job. A section on exercise addresses the fact that many readers probably have sedentary jobs and recommends appropriate measures to be taken.
A chapter on maternity clothing opens with a discussion of how best to camouflage an expanding waistline if you do not want to share the news just yet.
In addition, there are chapters concerning job rights, stress, occupational hazards and the financial aspects of childbearing. Selecting appropriate child care and deciding when to return to work are also discussed.
Fitzpatrick also tells the working woman "who has got it all planned" that although most goals are achievable, the first ingredient in being a successful working mother may be flexibility.
"Having a Baby After 30" by Elisabeth Bing and Libby Colman. (Bantam, $3.95 paperback.)