Sunday, 15 June 2014

Book Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting: Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel

What to Expect When You're Expecting  Book Cover - Australian & NZ Edition
What to Expect When You're Expecting Book Cover - Australian & NZ Edition
Who hasn't heard of this book??!!  Surely no one!  But is it any good?  Read on to find out what I thought of this book.

Prior to reading this book, I read the prequel - What to Expect Before You're Expecting.  I've also put up a review of What to Expect Before You're Expecting if you are interested.  One of the criticisms I had of that prequel is how it is a bit over the top with the cutesy just-wait-till-that-bundle-o-joy-is-in-your-arms-and-you-are-complete language.  But I am glad to say that while it is still present it this book, it isn't a problem.  I suspect this is because there is so much to cover in this book that they don't have the room for it. With the prequel it felt like they were using it to pad the book out a bit.  So it is well worth considering this book even if the prequel wasn't to your taste due to the cutesy embellishments.

There is also a bit of overlap between the two books - clearly they are attempting to cater for the "surprised" audience who never got the chance to read the prequel!  However I still do think the prequel has enough in it to justify reading it.  But it is a shame that they don't combine the two books together into one slick, all inclusive reference book - but perhaps that isn't so profitable!  So I found myself skipping over some of the earlier repeated content.  When I read this book I was pregnant and needed to get up to speed on the relevant chapters ASAP thank-you very much!

This book is designed to be a reference book for all - so there will be sections that just don't apply to your - for instance multiple births when you are only expecting one.  When I read the prequel I had all the time in the world and I was truly interested to know just what women with/who <insert disease/lifestyle> could expect to have happen.  But with pregnancy / labor / child-rearing ahead of me for the very first time I preferred to only focus on the relevant topics and skipped the irrelevant sections.  And it is here that I have to add a criticism of the book.  The book tries to be a reference book AND hold your hand as you go along. So it gives you a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect and adds a few extra topics it deems you may now want to know about at the end of each month.  But by doing so it puts reference material in hard to find places for you to read at the time it deems you should read them - which doesn't necessarily match up to your information needs.

The book covers labor in a very matter-of-fact style.  I came away from it feeling like I was still quite unsure about what I may want to do even though I knew what would happen in a labor.  For instance I had read about pain-management options - but was really no clearer on what I might like to use.  I also felt like there was a whole world around my mental state (e.g. Hipnobirthing) and birth positions that could perhaps help with my labor but again I didn't gain much information apart from the basics from this book.  I ended up having to look elsewhere for these topics to be covered.

I have since read some other books and have found that this book offers a very middle of the road opinion that is probably designed not to offend anyone - a good financial move perhaps?  For instance it will say that breast-feeding is best - but that formula feeding is very okay too.  Other books will tell you that breast-feeding is the absolutely best thing you can do and that formula feeding can never hope to be as good. What to Expect When You're Expecting goes to great lengths to ensure what it says wouldn't possibly offend anyone when other books aren't ashamed to put forward their point of view.

I purchased my copy of the book from iTunes.  By doing it through iTunes I was given the Australian and NZ edition because iTunes is smart enough to know I need the local edition - which was great because I ordered the prequel through The Book Depository and ended up with an American edition.  These books contain lots of references to local bodies to contact for more information / help so it really is a disadvantage to not be reading the one intended for your country.  So if you are purchasing online - do try to make sure you get an edition relevant for your country if it exists!  I assume if you are purchasing it from a physical bookstore they only stock the local edition if it exists.

Unfortunately there is a bit of an issue with the references in my iTunes copy - which is really bad for a reference book!  The page numbers in the index don't match up - if you try to look up any of the page numbers listed, you will be taken to a random spot in the book.  Perhaps this is just a fault with the iTunes version or just the Australian & NZ edition of this book?  Either way it is disappointing for something that cost ~$20.  You can still do a search for words in the book and find the matching pages - but it isn't anywhere near as convenient.  Also, these references are not links - you have to look them up by hand. And when there is a reference to another section only the title of the section is included - there is no link to follow. Perhaps consider the paper version if you want a book you can come back to reference after you have read it cover-to-cover.

All in all it is a pretty good book that covers a lot of ground to settle down the expectant mother with information.  It is not an exhaustive reference - should your health care provider tell you that you have an elevated / lowered level showing in XYZ pathology test then chances are you will be running to the internet to find out more.  But it is still a worthwhile read.  I give it 7/10 .. if you buy the paperback version!

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