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What to Expect When You're Expecting

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Language  English
Genre  Advice (non-fiction)
Media type  Paperback
3.7/5 Goodreads

Country  United States
Subject  pregnancy
Publication date  1984
Originally published  1984
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Authors  Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel
Preceded by  What to Expect Before You're Expecting
Followed by  What to Expect the First Year
Publisher  Workman Publishing Company
Adaptations  What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012)
Similar  Heidi Murkoff books, Pregnancy books

What to Expect When You're Expecting is a pregnancy guide, now in its fifth edition, written by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel and published by Workman Publishing. Originally published in 1984, the book consistently tops The New York Times Best Seller list in the paperback advice category, is one of USA Today's "25 Most Influential Books" of the past 25 years and has been described as "the bible of American pregnancy". As of 2008, over 14.5 million copies were in print. According to USA Today, 93 percent of all expectant mothers who read a pregnancy guide read What to Expect When You're Expecting. In 2012, What to Expect When You're Expecting was adapted into a film released by Lionsgate.



The book presents advice in a question-and-answer format. It proceeds chronologically from the time a woman first begins to suspect pregnancy, through each of the nine months (with one chapter devoted to each), and into the postpartum period. The beginning of each chapter succinctly lists common physical and emotional changes and symptoms a woman may be experiencing, and gives information on what a woman can expect when visiting her doctor or nurse midwife during checkups. Also included early in each chapter is a section entitled "A Look Inside" which displays pictures of the changing female anatomy and the growing embryo then fetus. Additional information in sections titled "What You May Be Concerned About" and "What It's Important to Know" is designed to address a wide range of concerns, problems and life trends.

Each edition includes substantial nutrition information discussing caloric intake, maintaining balanced meals and provides sample recipes. Recent editions include a complete nutrition plan.

The book's appendix lists additional sources of information and resources including government organizations, associations and foundations.

Origin of the book

Author Heidi Murkoff cites her own quest for reassuring information during her first pregnancy as being the motivation for developing What to Expect When You're Expecting. Murkoff collaborated with her mother Arlene Eisenberg, a freelance journalist and her sister Sandee Hathway, a nurse when developing the pregnancy guide.


What to Expect When You're Expecting has been criticized for promoting paranoia and fear among pregnant women for focusing on complications and for its extremely strict dietary guidelines. Murkoff also has no medical training and has been further criticized for stating she asks obstetricians to comment on manuscripts only late in the writing and editing processes. With the first publishing of the book being in 1984, one reason it is considered problematic is due to the many old and unrevised printings in public circulation. Although wording is revised with each new edition to respond to critiques, older copies are passed down by women to their pregnant peers.

The author went on to develop a What to Expect series:

  • What to Eat When You're Expecting (1986)
  • What to Expect: The First Year (1989)
  • What to Expect: The Toddler Years (1994)
  • What to Expect at Bedtime (2000)
  • What to Expect When the New Baby Comes Home (2001)
  • What to Expect: Pregnancy Planner (2002)
  • What to Expect: Babysitter's Handbook (2003)
  • What to Expect at Preschool (2003)
  • What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby (2004)
  • What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expecting (2005; follow-up to What to Eat When You're Expecting)
  • What to Expect: Pregnancy Journal & Organizer (2007)
  • What to Expect Before You're Expecting (2009)
  • What to Expect: the Second Year (2011)
  • Additional education efforts

    In 2000, the author, and former publishing executive, Lisa Bernstein, founded the What to Expect Foundation whose stated mission is to help low-income families expect healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries and happy babies. The Foundation reports that millions of impoverished women do not have access to free comprehensive pregnancy guides which led to the development of "Baby Basics" a book and education program delivering prenatal health literacy.

    Film adaptation

    Even though the book does not contain a storyline, Lionsgate adapted What to Expect When You're Expecting into a film of the same name directed by Kirk Jones. It features an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Chris Rock, Brooklyn Decker, Rodrigo Santoro, Rob Huebel, Chace Crawford and Matthew Morrison. The film was released on May 18, 2012.


    What to Expect When You're Expecting Wikipedia