The Bradley Method® — Not just another birthing method.

Wow!  I’m still recovering from the amazing response to the last post in this series:  Unmedicated Childbirth – Our Choice.  While it’s not everyone’s choice, and while it simply doesn’t work out for some, I strongly believe that it’s beneficial to educate yourself and prepare for a natural birth. I can’t imagine anything scarier than going into labor and not having a clue what’s about to happen.    

I say prepare for natural childbirth because I know very few people who are able to ”let’s see how it goes” and end up birthing without medication.  (My mom is one exception.  She rolls her eyes at the idea of birthing classes.  “You just go in and push out a baby!”  Ok, mom…)  ;)  The pain is intense.  The hospital protocol is overwhelming.  The “oh, whatever – just get this baby out of me!” temptation is there.

There are countless methods of preparing for natural childbirth. Because my husband and I are graduates and promoters of The Bradley Method, I’ve asked Dee Anne, a Bradley instructor, to share a bit about the classes.

My husband and I were first introduced to The Bradley Method® (aka Husband-Coached Childbirth®) by friends in Seattle, WA. The knowledge and support we received from our instructor and classmates was well worth the 1.5 hour drive to and from class each way. After a healthy pregnancy, we were blessed with a healthy labor/birth, healthy baby and healthy mother…and a natural birth. The Bradley® classes had completely prepared us for just about every situation that presented itself.

Soon after birth, I felt led to become an instructor myself because we desperately needed the choice for natural birth in my community. There were no other Brand X natural birth options. I have been teaching The Bradley Method® now for two years.

What is so special about The Bradley Method®, and how is it different from Brand X methods?  Bradley® classes provide preparation for natural childbirth while cultivating acceptance of all outcomes. It presents a consumer-oriented, woman- and family-centered approach that emphasizes meeting challenges and nurturing yourselves and your baby for the best possible start in parenthood.

The key to The Bradley Method® is relaxation. In classes you will recognize that confidence and relaxation are the determining factors in perception of pain. By replacing the unknown with knowledge, fear and tension can be lessened and replaced with intentional relaxation. Focusing on your slow, deep breathing (abdominal breathing), as well as spontaneity (different positions) and inventing your own methods can help you to meet the intensity and pain of labor. Having the support you need and the ability to communicate your needs to your support person/people as well as to your attendant(s) are also keys to actively giving birth.

In addition, the classes cover the following:

  • Trains husband/partner as coach
  • Philosophy and benefits of natural birth
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • Cultural influences on birth
  • Prenatal care, testing and options
  • Physiology of birth
  • Hospital procedures and options
  • Relaxation and comfort techniques
  • Complications and unexpected outcomes
  • Breastfeeding, newborn care, parenting

Reading is a great way to help prepare for birth…especially a natural birth. Several books that I recommend to my students are as follows:

The primary goal of The Bradley Method® is not natural birth…it is a healthy mother, healthy baby. Sometimes that means the need for interventions.  Labor and birth are intense, hard work, and each is unique. Through these classes you will learn the tools to work with your body and the process of giving birth, and you will have the knowledge to make the best choices for you and your family at each point along the way.

As for me and my husband, we found our Bradley Method classes to be incredibly informative and empowering.  We went into our first labor with confidence, and it’s a good thing… because things don’t always go as planned!  (More on that when I tell my birth stories.)

My next post will explore other methods of preparing for a natural birth. If you have posts written on that topic, please send me links!

Do you have questions about The Bradley Method?  I’ll do my best to answer them (we’d love to be class instructors someday).  Please share your experiences with the method, too.  What was most beneficial for you?

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Comments

  1. Kathryn says:

    Our doula, who also does homebirths as a certified professional midwife, uses the Bradley method with all her “ladies.” I was already familiar with relaxation breathing from my college days, so I took to it really well. It turned out to be the ideal method for us. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I developed preeclampsia and other serious complications at the end of my pregnancy, but my rockin’ doctor was all for a vaginal birth without pain medication as long as my vital signs remained stable. Bradley breathing was the key tool that helped me keep my blood pressure out of C-section territory. The entire Bradley mindset, that the pain of labor is helpful and productive pain, was also a tremendous help. I was induced and was required to stay in a side-lying position throughout labor, both of which really intensified the pain. While the breathing helped me manage the pain physically, silently saying, “Your body was designed to do this. This is good pain. This means everything’s working,” to myself over and over gave me the mental stamina I needed.

    • “Labor is helpful and productive pain.” Oh my… how many times have I repeated that phrase in labor?! ;)

    • I know it’s been 2 years since you posted this, but thank you so much for your comment. My husband and I have been preparing for our Bradley birth for months now and it seems that all our hopes of an unmedicated birth are about to be shattered by the nasty preeclampsia. I will probably be induced next week, 4 weeks early. I have been trying to find someone out there who was able to avoid pain meds using Bradley techniques with preeclampsia and I found your post. It has really encouraged me, so thank you!

  2. My husband and I took Bradley classes for our first son’s birth and then were able to use it again with the second although we weren’t able to take the classes again. Both boys were born in hospitals but without interventions, medication, or IVs. I had a doula at each birth as well. Two of the best experiences of my life. I’d never do it any other way. And since I now have three children under the age of four I’ve found the relaxation tips to be really useful again! I can lay on the floor, relax, and ignore anything!!

  3. As I wrote last week, I delivered both of my girls at home. I spent my entire first pregnancy mentally and physically preparing for the home birth. We took The Bradley Method course. It was so helpful in so many ways. The husband-coaching aspect, the diet, the breathing and kegel exercises were so helpful. The class walks you through the stages of labor and that was so helpful. When I was in labor, my husband (a little nervous) grabbed our Bradley workbook and said, ‘honey, your in active labor now’.

    When I started pushing, my husband was my rock. The class definitely helped him understand how much I would need him as a coach.

    I highly recommend even if you are not planning a home or natural birth. We also made some life-long friends with the other couples and our instructor.

    • Hilarious comment about your hubby! :) I agree, the Bradley classes are so informative, even if you don’t plan on a natural birth… it’s just good stuff to know!

  4. I really liked this post’s focus on intentionality. This line particularly struck me: “I know very few people who are able to ”let’s see how it goes” and end up birthing without medication.” I would say the same for breastfeeding. Most people who say, “I’ll try and see how it goes” end up throwing in the towel (because it’s hard and can be painful at first).

    Thanks for providing these resources for new mamas. Support and encouragement from other moms makes such a huge difference.

  5. My sister used the Bradley method, so I was very familiar with it when I was pregnant with my son. I wanted to see what other methods were out there since I had the Bradley method down, so Xon and I took a Hypnobirthing class. They were very similar and knowing both worked beautifully for us.

  6. I took a more generic “prepared childbirth” class before my first baby that basically just outlined everything that could happen with no real focus… it was fine, but not particularly enlightening. I think a Bradley Method class would probably have been more empowering to me. I was one of those women who said, “We’ll see how it goes…” and that worked fine for me. I labored and birthed without medication. Wouldn’t work for all women or all situations though, I know… preparedness can pay off!

  7. Oh I am so glad you shared this, I am hoping to use the Bradley method one day, the biggest challenge for us will be getting my hubby to the classes due to his crazy work schedule, eek.

  8. I was so lucky with my first baby. My friend lent me her copy of Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way a few weeks before my due date. I did a quick read-through and practiced some relaxation. I ended up being induced (although with what I know now hope to never be on Pitocin again), but the simple relaxation, calm breathing and visualization of the Bradley Method made it possible for me to get through labor without any pain medication.

    I actually went through the first few hours very easily. I relaxed so well that I almost fell asleep between contractions! It was wonderful! Then a nurse checked me, I was at 5 cm, and she told me that a cm an hour was normal. My contractions were really starting to pick up, and I didn’t know if I could handle 5 more hours, so I asked for an epidural. (I was also “I’ll see how it goes” going into labor.) In the 20 minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to get there, I had completely gone through transition, was at 10 cm, feeling pressure, and ready to push. Those 20 minutes were incredibly hard, but I kept using the same techniques and never felt out of control with my body.

    The anesthesiologist told me I could still get the epidural, but would have to wait to push until he got it in and working. By that point, I wanted to push! And, without anything interfering with what my body wanted to do, my son was born 45 minutes later.

    Giving birth the first time without pain medication was wonderful because of how it’s influenced my way of thinking about the entire labor and birth process. It was much easier to have the same kind of birth with my second child, because I already knew I could do it!

    • I’ve never experienced it, but can’t fathom birthing without pain medication while on pitocin. I hear that is so much more traumatic on the body. Sounds like you are an “expert relaxer.” :)

  9. I was very interested in using the BRadley method, but classes were not taught in my area. I did however read Husband Coached Childbirth and it was very helpful; it provided my husband and I several talking points and make us think thru scenarios we wouldn’t have considered on our own. We were able to find something that worked for us, and I was able to have our first baby naturally. The more preparation the better in my opinion; I had my baby two weeks ago – while there were still some things that surprised me! I felt fairly confident and prepared going into labor and delivery.

  10. My third baby is due in two weeks. I had epidurals with my first two, but I’d really like to try a natural birth. The problem is I started thinking about it way too late. Do you have any suggestions on how I can try to prepare in the next couple weeks to do a natural birth, or is it too late?

    Thank you for this series. I’m really enjoying it.

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