The Bradley method is a more intensive natural childbirth course than the typical hospital sponsored Lamaze classes. This method was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Robert A Bradley. Proponents of this method view birth as a natural experience and empower couples to take an active role in the decision making process for labor and childbirth. You attend classes once each week for 12 weeks. The thinking is that preparing for childbirth is like preparing for a marathon.
Bradley instructors go through a one year training program that includes academic learning, teacher workshops and student teaching components. The method is very effective at reducing the need for interventions and pain relief medications. According to The American Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth, which is the Bradley organization, 86% of people who finish the course go on to have drug free, vaginal births. After 3 births that were full of interventions, my husband and I have decided to look into this option for our 4th pregnancy.
Bradley classes address more than the typical childbirth class. Pregnancy, labor, birth, the post partum period, breastfeeding and newborn care are all discussed. Students of this method are taught how to avoid pain medication and many of the interventions that are seen as “routine” in many hospital births. You learn how to communicate your wishes to medical personnel and take responsibility for your own childbirth experience. The class also prepares you for unexpected situations, such as a c section or emergency situations during the birth.
Some of the topics covered in the 12 week course:
* Exercise in pregnancy * Nutrition for a healthy mommy and baby * Pregnancy: changes in your body, development of the fetus, how to handle the typical discomforts of pregnancy * Choices for labor and birth * The role of the coach and the importance of the father’s role in pregnancy, birth and beyond * The stages of labor, the role of the coach in each stage of labor * Later classes are devoted to each stage of labor and how to cope with pain during each stage. This includes role playing and practicing for each stage. * Positions during labor and birth * Basic hospital procedures during childbirth * Creating a birth plan, what to include in your plan, choices and decisions to be made in creating a birth plan * Communicating with medical personnel about your plan and during each stage of the birthing process * Complications in birth and how to handle interventions if they should become necessary * Pain relief options are discussed, although you are taught how to avoid these * Relaxation and breathing techniques to help relieve pain naturally, “Tuning in” to your body * Emergency Childbirth: what to do if the baby comes in the car on the way to the hospital * Postpartum recovery * Newborn care, adjusting to life with a new baby * Breastfeeding
In general, the Bradley method seeks to build confidence in the mother about her ability to give birth naturally. Also emphasized are continuous contact with the newborn and breastfeeding soon after birth.