As my due date fast approaches I’m scrambling to find time to relax and do lots of prenatal yoga. Not only that but I’m also reading up and preparing myself mentally for a natural, un-medicated birth. I’ve found that my Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth class has provided my husband and I information that is absolutely indispensible and a lot more informative than anything I’ve read about in the pile of books now collecting dust on my nightstand.
Also known as “husband-coached childbirth”, the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth was developed in 1947 by Robert Bradley, an obstetrician and popularized by his book Husband-Coached Childbirth.
Bradley entered into the practice of obstetrics in 1947, an era when mothers were restrained due to the effect of medications they were administered. He famously termed the era as “knock-em-out, drag-em-out obstetrics,” a time during which general anesthesia was common during deliveries. Unsatisfied with the practices, he decided to develop his own method aptly dubbed the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth.
Having been raised on a farm and witnessing many animal births as a part of farm life, Dr. Bradley believed that women, like the animals he had observed growing up, could give birth without drugs or distress.
Based on observations of mammals during labor and birth, he developed a childbirth method to teach women to do the things that animal mothers do instinctively. Soon after starting to implement his new childbirth method with pregnant nurses, Dr. Bradley began to believe that the presence and support of the father during labor and birth was important to the mother’s success in achieving a natural birth. He became a pioneer in including fathers in the birth process and eventually expanded his childbirth method to include extensive instruction of the father as labor coach.
The Bradley Method emphasizes that birth is a natural process: mothers are encouraged to trust their body and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy. The method also teaches couples how to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach.
The primary goal of The Bradley Method is healthy mothers and healthy babies. The method holds the principal that in most circumstances, a natural (drug-free) childbirth is the best way to achieve that goal. Supporters of The Bradley Method claim that 86% of Bradley mothers have vaginal births without drugs.
The “Method” itself is what Dr. Bradley termed “the six needs of the laboring woman,” most notably deep and complete relaxation and abdominal breathing, including quiet, darkness and solitude, physical comfort, closed eyes and the appearance of sleep.
Relying heavily on training fathers to be labor “coaches” or partners, the Bradley Method educates participant’s techniques on variety of labor positions and comfort measures.
The program generally lasts 10-12 weeks and is thought to be more intensive than other childbirth education classes. A good time to begin the program is around the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
We are currently in our 6th week of classes and I honestly could not be more grateful to have found information about the method and our wonderful instructor who also happens to be a doula (birth coach) – Gilliam Foreman from Uptown Birth. She is extremely knowledgeable, personable with a great sense of humor, which definitely helps to take the anxiety out of the whole birth preparation process.
While I’ve been told by just about everyone I know that I will want/appreciate an epidural I am more than confident in my own body, my husband and the information we are armed with to want to pursue a natural childbirth. I’m fully aware that things may change during the course of labor and interventions may be necessary but for now I am only focusing on having a positive birth experience in a hospital setting.
For more information about Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth classes in your area, check out their website http://www.bradleybirth.com/.
And for additional information on natural childbirth, check out Ricki Lake’s documentary “The Business of Being Born” and the following books, which I’ve personally found to be the most informative:
Natural Hospital Birth: the Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel
- Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
- The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Patti Simkin
I’d love to hear from you regarding your birth experience. Did anyone take the Bradley classes? Did you find them beneficial? Anyone use a doula or midwife? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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