If a pregnant woman is reading books about pregnancy, chances are she's reading What to Expect When You're Expecting. Since its initial publication by Workman in 1984 (first printing: 6,700 copies) the book has been a mainstay on both the PW and NYT bestseller lists. It is the house's bestselling book and has more than 14 million copies in print. What to Expect has spun off a mini-industry of themed books, journals, planners, gift sets, Web sites, DVDs and seminars, and its author, Heidi Murkoff, keeps a rigorous schedule of lectures around the country. A fourth edition is due out in April. But throughout nearly a quarter-century of publishing, America's pregnancy bible hasn't been without its share of controversy, criticism and competition.

What to Expect has had the same editor, Suzanne Rafer, over its 24-year life. Rafer has steered the book through four revisions (the most recent overhaul before this one was in 2002), but explained the book is actually being revised all the time, with each reprinting. “If something important breaks, we'll make room for it,” she said. “It's always current.”

Yet when the amount of changes that need to be made reaches a critical mass, it's time for a full-fledged rewrite. The fourth edition carries expanded sections on working during pregnancy, “expectant beauty,” preconception and fatherhood. The chapter on eating while pregnant is “more realistic than ever,” Rafer maintained. And the new edition sports an updated jacket, with a hip-looking mom-to-be replacing the older editions' more matronly pregnant woman. Rafer said many things have changed since the last revision—“even the way women get pregnant today is different”—and that the new version is “completely right for its time and its readership.”

In recent years, What to Expect has been criticized for promoting paranoia and fear among pregnant women by focusing on what can go wrong during pregnancy, and Rafer acknowledged that criticism. “You can't please every single person with everything you write,” she said. “When you're pregnant, every twinge, ache and tingle is magnified. You get nervous and you ask questions. The idea is to try and answer those questions as thoughtfully as possible. The book does that beautifully. As for parts that make women think, 'Why am I reading about this?'—we have moved all that to the back. There should be no reason for anybody who feels fine to read anything they don't have to. But it's there if they want it.”

The title of the chapter on complications has been changed from “When There's a Problem” to simply “Complications.” It addresses common difficulties such as miscarriage, gestational diabetes and premature labor, as well as uncommon ones, with an introductory note stating, “read this section only if you need to—and even then, read just what applies to you.”

Workman is supporting the fourth edition with a $250,000 marketing campaign. Murkoff will appear on TheTodayShow on April 7 and tour to 12 cities.

Source: Nielsen BookScan
1 What to Expect When You're Expectingby Heidi Murkoff(Workman) 355,000
2 Belly Laughsby Jenny McCarthy (Perseus) 105,000
3 Your Pregnancy Week by Weekby Glade B. Curtis (Perseus) 85,000
4 The Pregnancy Journalby Christine A. Harris (Chronicle) 69,000
5 The What to Expect Pregnancy Journal & Organizerby Heidi Murkoff (Workman) 38,000
6 I'm Pregnant!by Lesley Regan (DK Publishing) 38,000
7 What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expectingby Heidi Murkoff (Workman) 27,000
8 The Pregnancy Bibleby Keith Eddleman (Firefly) 26,000
9 Great Expectationsby Sandy Jones (Sterling) 24,000
10 Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancyby Mayo Clinic (HarperCollins) 19,000