Book Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting

Thursday, February 13, 2014

 What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel
Author Qualifications:
Heidi Murkoff is a writer and mother, not a doctor. Sharon Mazel also appears to be an author without a medical background. Information on their credentials beyond "author" very difficult to find. Murkoff has been criticized for having no medical training.

What I Think:
Ahh, the classic pregnancy book. Because there is just so much information in this book, I'm not going to write a detailed summary the content of this one like I did for Brain Rules. Essentially, What to Expect describes each week of an average pregnancy and gives brief answers to pretty much every question you can think of about pregnancy. It's more of a reference book, not something you generally read cover-to-cover. The final chapters discuss the realities of labor & delivery, what to expect six weeks postpartum, your partner's role, being sick while pregnant and pregnancy complications & loss. 

If you are an emotional person that is susceptible to "freak outs" during pregnancy, this book is not for you. You can so easily read something, diagnosis yourself, and think that your world is crashing down. However, for me, it's been a great reference guide. I have anxiety in my daily life, but for some reason, I feel very confident about my ability to handle pregnancy, labor & parenting, so the information didn't scare me. I enjoyed not only the "textbook" style for referencing quick questions, and the week by week details of how my baby grows.

If you're just interested in the week by week changes, I would suggest skipping the book and going straight to the What to Expect website, as it has all the same information. Also, you can research specific questions and use the website as a resource rather than feeling bombarded by all the other information you aren't ready for. My sisters-in-law both preferred The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, which I will review later in this series.

One of the problems I had while reading this book is that it doesn't say much about having a healthy or organic/non-toxic pregnancy. While I understand that the non-toxic lifestyle isn't mainstream, I wish a little more attention was paid to controlling negative environmental factors. There is one small section that basically says, "avoid toxic products," but doesn't give concrete solutions or info on which toxins are particularly bad in pregnancy (with the exception of lead).

For example, the book claims that microwaves are completely safe during pregnancy (p 78). Now I'm not saying you can't use the microwave, but back up 6 feet! Don't expose yourself to that radiation when its so easily avoidable. The book also says to avoid dying your hair in the first trimester only (p 144), but it's not good for you at all during pregnancy! I understand that its difficult for women to totally give up getting their hair & nails done, and I don't think its the end of the world. Its just something I would not personally do, so I take this type of advice with a grain of salt and get my non-toxic solutions elsewhere.

The Takeaway:
This book is a textbook that covers almost everything you want to know about pregnancy except living a non-toxic lifestyle. Take every piece of information with a grain of salt and ask your doctor about questions you are concerned about, don't just rely on the text as it is simplified and one-sided. I would only recommend the book to those who aren't prone to "freak outs" and who like the reference-style writing. For everyone else, stick with the website! The week by week updates of how you and your baby change are fun!

What do you think of What to Expect? Did it freak you out? Do you prefer the book or the website? Would you recommend it to a friend? Hope you're enjoying my new Book Review series! I'm trying to be helpful and critical, not judgemental. You definitely don't have to agree with me and I would love to hear your take!

xo kristen genevieve


  1. I had the same thoughts as you about this book. I read it pretty much cover to cover on my Kindle when I first bought it and then I didn't really touch it again. It was interesting to read the week by week things, but it wasn't anything I didn't already know. It was a good book to use as a reference or a jumping point for questions to ask your doctor or research further, but I wouldn't rely on that information alone. I think there are a lot of other pregnancy books out there that you could buy to supplement what you could read online, which is basically what this book was- a collection of what the website says.

    I think people still buy these books because everyone buys them, but they aren't really a necessity because of everything else that's out there now!

    I love that you're doing these reviews because there aren't many in-depth reviews of pregnancy books!

    1. Totally! The book was originally published in 1984 (before the internet!) so it's a little outdated for researching specific questions. I agree - there are so many other more worthwhile books out there.

      Thank you for reading and sharing what you think! I'm glad you enjoyed my review. :) I wish I had the time to read more pregnancy related books, because its just so fascinating. I debated whether to read books on breastfeeding, but with all the great information online, that may have to suffice for now. I don't know if I'll have much more time before my baby arrives! The majority of my reviews are going to focus on baby sleep & brain development/early learning books. Let me know if you have any recommendations! :)

  2. I'm reading this book as well and I do like it. I didn't feel like it would freak me out, I rather feel that it was reassuring when I had certain symptoms and I could look them up and feel ok, because it was part of pregnancy. I haven't even checked out the website and I also gave up on my pregnancy apps…I felt like there was too much to keep up with!
    I can't wait for your review on "The Girlfriend's Guide of Pregnancy"…that on the other hand did freak me out big time! :)
    Did you read Babywise?

    1. I agree on the pregnancy apps - it's just too much. And there are so many! I only really use the What to Expect website for the week by week updates. It's great that you felt reassured reading this book - I also agree that "Girlfriend's" was less, um, palatable for me.

      I have not read "Babywise." The next book review I have on deck is "Happiest Baby on the Block" and later I'll also review "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". While I'm not a Dr. Sears (attachment parenting) subscriber, from what I understand, "Babywise" seems to be extreme in the opposite direction. Was that your experience with it? I've read that "Babywise" was criticized for teaching parents to expect an 8 week old to sleep 7-8hours through the night. Not only does that seem unrealistic to me, but it doesn't sound like a healthy idea for those who plan on breastfeeding. Is that a valid criticism from what you've read?
      I'll definitely dig a little more into it, and please let me know what you think and if I have the wrong impression, but I'm not sure I'll read it (at least before baby arrives!) because it seemed more extreme than realistic. But maybe I will if you think its helpful! :)

  3. I love this series a lot! This book is probably the reason I haven't read too much on pregnancy. It turned me off completely. I think it is rather cheeky and too overwhelming. It really gave me a headache reading it and it just turned me off. I really haven't found much else, so I turn to online research for more manageable reads. I do like their website, but there are also other good ones. I wish the book didn't talk down so much. It's so hard to read this book after ten minutes because it's so dense. Overall, I do appreciate the broadness and insight.

    1. I agree that the authors of "What to Expect" talk down and that is a very dense read. I felt like it was better to consider it as a reference book rather than a pregnancy book that you'd read cover-to-cover. The internet has been such an amazing resource for me too - I really don't know what I'd do without it!!
      Thanks for stopping by, lovely! Hope you're having a great week! :)

  4. This helps a lot to know just what to do and what not to do!! pregnancy books


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