Admit it, the last time you attended class was in a lecture hall — decades ago. But you’re so not done with that whole learning thing, and if you’re like many of us, you’re yearning for a little intellectual stimulation between the diaper changes and late-night feedings. Of course, nothing can replace reading a riveting nonfiction book, but as a sleep-deprived parent, reading books is like a soothing lullaby for a baby — they put you right to sleep. I’ve found that TED Talks condense the educational milieu and offer the best information, fast.

Embrace the back-to-school season and check out these 7 TED and TEDx Talks spanning topics on pregnancy, birth and parenthood that you shouldn’t miss.

Pregnancy and Birth

Annie Paul Murphy is a renowned science writer and the acclaimed author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives. Her TED Talk “What We Learn Before We’re Born” unveils the importance of a healthy intrauterine environment and explores the impact of the external world on babies before they’re born. She gives a glimpse into the new and complex study of fetal origins. Murphy discusses what babies learn in utero, such as the sound of their mothers’ voice and their preferred taste in food. But beyond these scientific facts, Murphy gets us thinking about the responsibility we have to teach our children – starting as young as during gestation.

Quote: “Learning is one of life’s most essential activities, and it begins much earlier than we ever imagined.”

Renee E. Coover, an employment lawyer, explores the discriminatory practices against pregnant women in the United States in her TEDx Talk “A Message for Women: Taking Back Your Pregnancy Rights.” She claims that stereotypes, discrimination and inconsistent policies contribute to our country’s dismal accommodations for pregnant and working mothers. Coover’s talk motivates expectant and working mothers to learn their legal rights; the first step to dismantle unjust policies in the workplace. She explains that employers and employees alike have a responsibility to defy discriminatory practices and create a culture that not only supports pregnant and working mothers but that will inherently reduce attrition and boost productivity.

Quote: “It’s going to take a lot more understanding, compassion and education before we can change the current biases and stereotypes and really get to a place of acceptance. We have rights, but we need to use them.”

Bonus: For an informative talk on Paid Family Leave, check out Jessica Shortall’s TEDx Talk The U.S. needs paid family leave — for the sake of its future.

Midwife Bettina Breunig explores the importance of how we enter into this world in her TEDx Talk “Why It Matters How We Are Born.” In less than six minutes Breunig challenges our perception of birth. She compares scheduling birth (e.g., induction, cesarean section) to the idea of scheduling death. This brief but powerful talk expands our understanding of the exceedingly high rates of scheduled births.

Quote: “Birth, love and death are not diseases; they are the three major elements of our destiny.”

Parenting and More

Education activist Reshma Saujani discusses bravery in the face of perfection in her TED Talk “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.” Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, which teaches girls coding in a supportive, nurturing environment. Coding is a discipline, like many, dominated by men. Saujani explains that girls, from a very young age, are socialized to be perfect. She argues that regardless of ability, girls’ achievements are stifled by their fear of failure. Saujani suggests that we build resilience in young girls and teach them to face fears and take risks in order to reach their potential and become future leaders.

Quote: “We’re raising our girls to be perfect and we’re raising our boys to be brave.”

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Bring On the Learning Revolution!” challenges the educational system and proposes a learning revolution. Worthy of the standing ovation he receives, Robinson’s eloquent speech is delivered with comedic timing while discussing the grave concerns about education. His lyrical quotes and vivid analogies illustrate the devastating educational system and advocate for a better way to teach young minds.

Quote: “[Human resources] are often buried deep. You have to go looking for them. . . You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”

Brené Brown, vulnerability researcher and popular speaker, offers insight into improving how we live, love and parent in her TEDx Talk “The Power of Vulnerability.” Brown’s colloquial and candid approach makes her talk about abstract concepts of human nature almost palpable. Based on quantifiable data, Brown explains human behaviors and emotions, such as numbing and shame, and provides lessons for self-improvement. Her exploration of vulnerability ultimately teaches us that in order to be the person we want to be, we must start by accepting ourselves as we are.

Quote: “Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what — you’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle — but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think we see today.”

Psychologist Guy Winch’s TEDx Talk “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid” explains the importance of taking care of our emotional health. In a society committed to improving physical health (even toddlers know how to apply a bandage to a cut, he says), Winch explains that we’re deficient in our ability to heal from emotional wounds. He insists we must learn to recover from emotional wounds (e.g., failure, rejection, loneliness) to avoid their devastating physical and emotional effects. Winch argues that by breaking bad mental habits with healthy distractions to recovering from failure with positive self-talk, we can improve our quality of life and teach our children how to practice emotional hygiene.

Quote: “It’s time we close the gap between our physical and our emotional health.”

Molly England earned her master’s degree in social work at the University of Edinburgh. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three children, where she is a freelance writer and natural childbirth educator. She’s on Twitter @Bluebonetbabies and blogs at 

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