We’ve all seen the dramatic “hee, hee, hoo, hoo” breathing techniques in the movies or heard about the newer method of hypnobirthing. While natural birth may not be for everyone, if you want to do it, it helps greatly to have a plan in place and a method to get you through it. One effective natural childbirth method that hovers modestly below the radar is The Bradley Method®.
Pioneered by Dr. Robert A. Bradley, obstetrician and author of Husband-Coached Childbirth, The Bradley Method® is a no-drug approach to labor. Dr. Bradley sought to recreate the peaceful births of laboring mammals he had observed on his childhood farm within his obstetrical practice. Disparaged by the prospect of a fourth medicated and traumatic birth, Marjie and Jay Hathaway gave birth to their fourth child naturally under Dr. Bradley’s care, then started teaching “husband-coached” childbirth techniques as The Bradley Method®. Now there are workshops across America and Certified Bradley Method® teachers all over the world.
Here are 7 reasons you might want to consider the Bradley Method® for your childbirth education.
- You want your partner actively involved. Pregnant women’s bodies are changing, their emotions are ebbing and flowing and partners can often feel left behind. The Bradley Method® is founded on partner involvement. Dr. Bradley was one of the first obstetricians to invite fathers into the labor and delivery room (Bradley, 2008). He found that doctors and nurses were displaced in their responsibility of supporting mom. The one person who knew mom best was excluded from the birth. Involving partners prenatally and during labor and delivery ensures mom gets support from her partner and confidant.
- You’re looking for a deep childbirth education. Unlike driving, childbirth requires no exam or license. But, becoming a parent is the greatest responsibility you’ll ever endure. When you decide to have a baby, you’re in it for life. The Bradley Method®’s 12-week course is intensive, preparing you for an optimal pregnancy, labor and delivery. 12 weeks may seem like a big commitment, but it’s worth investing in education prenatally to enhance the well-being of your child’s life.
- Relaxation is key to your birth experience. Our lives are inundated with daily stressors, thus relaxation could not be more crucial. Relaxation is a vital technique used during natural childbirth. Throughout the course, couples learn and practice a variety of relaxation exercises in order to prepare for labor. Partners tune in to mother's needs and learn to identify areas of tension. They become experts in alleviating mom’s stress and facilitating deep relaxation.
- You place a high value on nutrition during pregnancy. The placenta is a commonly misunderstood organ. Rather than its perceived role as a barrier, protecting the baby, it’s actually more of a “bloody sieve,” claims Dr. Kelsey, a leader in strengthening legislation to protect fetuses from harmful drugs (as cited in Bradley, 2008). Thus, nutrition and the eradication of harmful substances is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the fetus. The Bradley Method® encourages moms to eat healthy, well balanced diets, high in protein and free of harmful substances. Excellent nutrition during pregnancy is essential to maintaining a healthy, low risk pregnancy and labor.
- You prefer a drug-free pregnancy and birth. Most likely your obstetrician gave you a list of “safe” medication to take during pregnancy. However, Annie Murphy Paul, renowned learning expert and author of Origins (2010) writes, “But some scientists say we don’t know nearly enough about how drugs work during pregnancy, including those commonly regarded as safe.” The Bradley Method® course teaches alternative ways to manage discomfort and pain in pregnancy and labor. From prenatal exercises to movement during labor, there are a variety of healthy ways to cope with common prenatal and labor discomforts.
- You’re hoping to reduce hospital intervention during birth. When you consider buying a car, most likely you invest hours of time and energy researching types of cars, reading reviews, asking friends and overall becoming an educated consumer in the car market. But, in the birth market, few parents invest this same time and energy in educating themselves on what to expect. Like the high pressure environment of car sales, delivering in a hospital can feel disempowering if you’re not equipped with knowledge. The Bradley Method® students learn potential interventions and procedures commonly administered in hospitals. Parents master the ability to slow down the process of interventions. If, during labor, mother and baby are doing well, parents take a step back, reflect, ask questions and gather information. Partners learn to advocate and be the much needed buffer between mom and potentially unwanted, unnecessary interventions.
- You want to breastfeed, and are looking for education prior to birth. Support is one of the best safeguards of breastfeeding. Bradley Method® students not only learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, partners learn how to support mom and couples learn where to access support. The La Leche League International’s leading breastfeeding resource, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (2010) explains, “We’re not like bears, happy to live alone in our caves; we’re a lot more like elephants, who crave the company of other elephants.” Through education and building a supportive network, breastfeeding is demystified and more manageable.
I urge all pregnant women and partners to explore their childbirth education options and opt for what best fits their needs, not what’s most trendy or convenient. Find out where you can find a Bradley® course near you, visit bradleybirth.com.
Written by Molly England. Molly is a devoted blogger, freelance writer and a passionate Certified Bradley Method® Natural Childbirth Educator. In 2015 Molly founded Bluebonnet Babies, a virtual hub providing products and resources based on evidence, research, experience and love to parents making healthy and informed choices. She currently lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband and their three children. Visit www.bluebonnetbabies.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Bradley, Robert A. (2008). Husband-Coached childbirth. (5th ed.). New York, NY: Bantam Dell. (Original work published 1965)
McCutcheon, S., & Rosegg, P. (1996). Natural childbirth the Bradley® way. New York, NY: Plume.
Paul, Annie M. (2010). Origins: How the nine months before birth shape the rest of our lives. New York, NY: Free Press.
Wiessinger, D., West, D., & Pitman, T. (2010). The womanly art of breastfeeding. (8th ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. (Original work published 1958)