Once pregnancy is confirmed, the browsing and shopping for baby things begins. It is hard to know what to buy, what's helpful and what is just going to be a waste of money and effort.
I'm ready to admit that I don't know what to expect in my first pregnancy. If you're the same, you might find my review of the following five pregnancy books helpful.
Expecting: Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy, Labour and Birth - Anna McGrail & Daphne Metland (2009)
This practical, sensible, matter of fact book is excellent for women hoping to avoid sentimental or judgemental advice.
The editors run www.babycentre.co.uk and have clearly drawn on their website users, including queries and situations I haven't seen covered anywhere else such as breastfeeding with nipple piercings, sunbeds, tattoos, recreational drugs and anti-depressants during pregnancy.
It is text-heavy with few illustrations or graphics, but nonetheless easy to navigate, with a glossary and index.
The week-by-week format from conception to birth makes a great companion throughout pregnancy; there are no lapses into judgemental, sentimental or coy pregnancy talk.
While frank and no-nonsense, the tone remains warm and encouraging throughout and I found this to be the best book out of all those that I sampled for building confidence in my personal choices and keeping me aware of what to expect.
Pregnancy: Your Questions Answered - Dr Christoph Lees and Grainne McCartan, RGN (2012)
This straightforward book is arranged in eight colour-coded sections, starting from preparing to conceive to baby's key stages of development in utero, then through the first six weeks after birth.
Sections are in question and answer format, which is useful for finding specific queries, and also all the things you hadn't thought about. There are many photos and illustrations, but while the text has been updated for this edition, the photos are dated and looked to me like they come from 1980s women's magazines. They are still informative though, in particular the photos charting a woman's body through the weeks, a sequence taken during an actual birth and the stages of bathing a newborn.
The writing is careful not to be judgemental but still reads as quite prescriptive and inflexible. It's thorough and comprehensive and a useful, quick, visual resource for the length of pregnancy and just beyond.
Pregnancy for Dummies - Dr Sarah Jarvis, Dr Rober Henderson, Joanne Stone MD, Keith Eddleman MD, Mary Duenwald MD (2012)
A distinctive yellow and black 'Dummies' book for pregnancy is off-putting: no one likes being a dummy, especially a newly pregnant woman or expectant father.
This big book has many chapters and sub-sections, from preparing to conceive through to labour and how to breastfeed. The text is marked with symbols alerting readers to technical/medical detail that can be safely skipped, things that require a doctor's advice, when there's nothing to worry about no matter how alarming it seems and what is most relevant for the dads and partners.
Plenty of visual and graphic design elements make navigation through the book easy and enjoyable, but it really is for dummies as it assumes readers knows nothing at all, and are not looking for, or cannot handle, in-depth pregnancy advice.
Let's Panic About Babies! - Alice Bradley & Eden M. Kennedy (2011)
A humorous, rude, frank and mocking book full of swear words, cartoons and amusingly captioned photos. It ostensibly talks pregnant women through the stages from getting conception to giving birth, but doesn't give much concrete medical or practical advice, focusing on infuriating, funny and ridiculous things that occur in pregnancy instead.
Irreverent lists and made-up 'real life' stories allow readers to take pregnancy, themselves and their partners less seriously - it is a good book to keep among the useful, practical guides but is not the one to turn to when there's a serious question to be answered.
The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide: Everything You Need To Know - Rob Kemp (2010)
This enjoyable book frankly and directly addresses the baffling, puzzling and anxious things that arise when fatherhood looms.
The writing tends to stereotype male readers as pub-going, automotive and gadget geeks who don't like talking about feelings; it occasionally reads like a generic lads' magazine.
However, there are insightful moments such as why not to have an affair during this time, a father's employment rights and how to cope with becoming a dad as well as cope with the woman about to become a mum.
The text is well organised with no intimidating illustrations or photos, and a few first-person stories break up the pages with warmth and humour. It is not an indispensible, comprehensive guide to becoming a dad, but is a useful, friendly, encouraging book that will see dads-to-be through some bewildering times.