Many books about prenatal care and birth are sentimental and cloying, filled with clichés the miracle of life and the wonder of caring for a new baby. Not so Allison England's remarkably sensitive and useful guide to aromatherapy and massage for pregnant women and new mothers. England provides a comprehensive analysis of essential oils, massage and aromatherapy baths, never claiming that her caring techniques will work miracles but still making a strong case that they can help ease the physical and emotional strain of becoming a mother.

The book is also distinguished by England's realistic description of the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy. The sanp-shots of the women who have sought help from England--some who are thrilled to be pregnant, others who want to use essential oils instead of painkilling drugs in labor, and those who are deeply ambivalent about their pregnancies or depressed after birth--offer a reminder of the immense complexities involved in giving birth. When England writes, "Pregnancy is one time in a woman's life when she needn't feel guilty about occasionally indulging herself," one can't help but give thanks for her gentle understanding that many women might have mixed feelings about doing exactly that. Forget about the lavender oil; this kind of sympathy is the best therapy of all.

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