Books on Books, Lists & Roundups

What Should Expecting Black Mothers Read?

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child in 2014, I was given a copy of the popular how-to manual, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I wasn’t sure I’d find anything useful within those pages because I often heard this advice shared widely: when it comes to motherhood and parenting, there is no manual. However, at that time, I appreciated the small nuggets I gathered from that book and was truly grateful because I literally had no clue what to expect. 

Like many families, pregnancy and postpartum can be quite taboo. In my life, discussions might have included practical needs and expectations for entering motherhood, but I rarely ever received a brutally honest depiction of all things expecting and new motherhood. I heard plenty about weird food cravings, fluctuating weight, and nursery and baby shower themes. But no one talked about vaginal discharge. No one discussed Hyperemesis. No one talked about libido. No one discussed microaggressions. No one talked about the smells in the delivery room and pooping during active labor. No one talked about postpartum depression. Aside from inundating my healthcare providers with questions, I was left with no choice but to seek much of my desired information from the pages of books (and Google, of course). 

I read novels. I read essays. I read listicles. I read picture books. However, in 2014, I had a difficult time finding books that specifically addressed the unique needs of Black mothers. As my belly grew rounder, I knew that my experiences — both expecting and already in the throes of new motherhood — were things that only other Black mothers could identify with. But where were these experiences in books? 

By the time I was pregnant with my second child (nearly 7 years later), there were more choices – from memoirs to scholarly texts and even board books for babies. In publishing, there was finally a lane being created for our unique birthing and postpartum experiences.

If you’re wondering what books you should read as an expecting Black birthing person, check out this comprehensive list of books (and card decks) written by us and with Black mothers top of mind:

Pregnant While Black: Advancing Justice for Maternal Health in America, Monique Rainford, MD (2023) – In this important read, Dr. Monique Rainford explores key issues of Black maternal and infant health in America. With more than twenty years of OB GYN experience as well as personal stories of success, Rainford offers generous advice for how to achieve optimal care while pregnant. 

Whoa, Baby! What Just Happened? A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (And Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened), Kelly Rowland, Tristan Brickman MD et. al. (2017) – A wondrously hilarious overview of what happens during the postpartum period, this book answers all the questions you didn’t even know you needed to answer. Told through the lens of vocalist/actress Kelly Rowland (we know, Kelly…that’s our girl!) and her gynecologist of over 14 years, there is no topic too taboo for this one. Did my nipples just change colors? Is sex supposed to hurt after a c-section? Yes, new mamas want to know this stuff too! 

Body Belly Soul: The Black Mother’s Guide to a Primal, Peaceful, and Powerful Birth, Nicole Bailey (2019) – This book unveils over 40 common scenarios that Black mothers may face throughout the entirety of their pregnancies (and after). With each scenario, there are useful checklists, interventions, and affirmations to help guide Black mothers and their families in creating empowering birthing spaces. 

Natural Pregnancy Guide: Empowering Moms to Make Healthy Choices, Laurena White, MD, L.aC. (2020) – A research-backed informational tool to provide birthing people with the most complete advice and approach to preparing the physical body for the journey of pregnancy and postpartum. Nutritional and breastfeeding support in addition to many other health tips to make the most of your pregnancy. 

Black, Pregnant and Loving It, Yvette Allen-Campbell and Dr. Suzanne Greenidge-Hewitt (2016) – A month-by-month pregnancy guide which includes recipes, questions to ask your healthcare providers, and delivery options. 

“Whoa, Baby! What Just Happened? A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (And Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened)”, Kelly Rowland, Tristan Brickman MD et. al. (2017), “Pregnant While Black: Advancing Justice for Maternal Health in America,” Monique Rainford, MD (2023), “Ain’t That a Mother: Postpartum, Palsy, and Everything in Between,” Adiba Nelson (2022)

Mama’s Little Baby: The Black Woman’s Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby’s First Year, Dennis Brown MD and Pamela A. Toussaint (1997) – An oldie, but definite goodie, this book is a great guide book with advice that spans all the way up through the parents and child’s first year. 

Birthing Black Mothers, Jennifer C. Nash (2021) – If you’re into scholarly texts, feminist theorist Jennifer C. Nash really deep dives into what makes Black motherhood so political. Through interviews and commentary, the complexities of Black motherhood are on full display. You will leave these pages feeling empowered – and committed to the work of motherhood as a reflection of our unyielding contributions to this society past, present, and future. 

My Black Motherhood: Mental Health, Stigma, Racism and the System, Sandra Igwe (2022) – Sometimes, we just need to know that we are not alone. In this book, Igwe’s vulnerability in sharing her own journey through motherhood and postpartum depression is a catalyst for how Black mothers address mental health before, during, and after pregnancy. 

Ain’t That a Mother: Postpartum, Palsy, and Everything in Between, Adiba Nelson (2022) – We love a great memoir, don’t we! Nelson’s firsthand account of being thrown into new motherhood, having a newborn with high medical needs, and deconstructing the relationship between her and her own mother gives readers a look at the non-linear nature of motherhood and postpartum. 

     >>>Read an excerpt here: “This Wasn’t A Black Woman Thing”

Nine Months: Black, Pregnant, and Beautiful Women, Yeafro Publishing (2022) – A gorgeous coloring book filled with positive affirmations for expecting mothers, this is a lovely additional way to up the zen during pregnancy. Color while waiting at midwife or doctor’s appointments or for a few minutes first thing in the morning. The affirmations make you feel extra special on your journey. 

Positive Affirmations for Black Moms to Be, Sophia Leach – Mindfulness, anyone? For those wanting audio to listen to at home or in your car, these positive affirmations are a stress-free way to manifest a healthy pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting experience.

Filed under: Books on Books, Lists & Roundups


Tonya "T.T." Abari is a multigenre storyteller – author, independent journalist, editor, and book reviewer for both children and adults. Her words and reviews can be found in Publishers Weekly, AARP’s Sisters Letter, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, ZORA, and many more! She also has published and forthcoming children’s books with The Innovation Press, Mudpuppy, HarperCollins, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. As a Hurston-Wright Writers Week and Carnegie Hall/Roots.Words.Wounds. creative nonfiction alum, her writing often centers on her multifaceted life. You can find her hanging out on Instagram/Threads at @iamtabari.