The Bradley Method – Natural Childbirth Classes

One of the most important choices a new mother can make is the way she chooses to give birth to her child. Of course there can be emergencies and unexpected events, such as c-sections, but for low risk, healthy pregnancies there are more choices available. If you believe in being an informed consumer in other parts of your life, you might be interested in the Bradley method. These childbirth classes, originally developed by Dr. Robert A. Bradley M.D. over 40 years ago, give the mother, father and baby the best tools for a successful natural childbirth.

When the average person thinks of childbirth, they most likely picture a woman breathing irregularly, contorting her face and screaming at her husband. Although childbirth is not without pain, utilizing the Bradley method can help reduce the pain and anxiety for the mother without the use of dangerous drugs. The Bradley philosophy is that any woman with the proper education, preparation and the support of a loving coach can give birth naturally. The rate of drugged deliveries in the U.S. today is about 98%. For Bradley “graduates” that rate is 10%.

Why is it important to have a drug-free birth? Almost 20 years ago, reports were surfacing linking teenage drug addiction to childbirth drugs. If that’s not enough reason to avoid a drugged birth, consider that using drugs during childbirth is not a guarantee of pain relief. In many cases, the drugs interrupt the body’s natural ability to react and respond to pain. Women were made to give birth, and nature has provided them with the tools to get through the birthing process. The Bradley method teaches that the type of pregnancy, labor and birth that children experience has a lifelong effect on their mental, emotional and physical health. Having a natural childbirth gives the baby the best possible start, and the mother the best chance of a quick recovery.

It is a myth that childbirth drugs are completely safe for the mother and the baby. Everything that is given to the mother during labor affects the baby. Some women spend nine months avoiding harmful substances for their unborn baby (including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine) and then willingly take potentially harmful drugs during childbirth. They believe that they need these drugs and that pain medication is an absolute necessity. The Bradley method emphasizes that generations of women have given birth without pain medication, and the best course to follow is a drug free labor and birth.

There is a need for medical interventions in some cases, but they should be the exception and not the norm. Bradley teachers seek to educate women and their partners about the risks associated with medical interventions so they can become informed consumers in the labor process. The goal is to have a majority of safe, natural and drug-free births in the nation, rather than the outrageous amount of unnecessary drugged labors that occur in this country currently.

The Bradley method is also unique in that it emphasizes the husband’s (or coach’s) role just as equally as the expectant mother’s. Both the woman and the coach play an active part in the preparation for labor and delivery. The coach is most often the husband and father of the baby, but an expectant mother can also use a family member or trusted friend as her coach. Throughout the classes, the coach and expectant mother explore how to best relax the mother and practice different labor positions. This preparation helps the coach know what to do and what to suggest to the mother during labor. The couple comes up with a list of techniques to use (including music, dimmed lights, temperature change and applied pressure) to help reduce the mother’s pain and keep her relaxed and focused. They also practice natural breathing, which actually is more effective in relaxation than the irregular Lamaze style breathing that many people think is necessary.

Education in prenatal nutrition is also covered to help the mother stay low risk. Good nutrition during pregnancy helps avoid toxemia, premature rupture of membranes and hypovolemia. The guidelines can also help prevent gestational diabetes. The emphasis is on a well-balanced diet with 80-100 grams of protein per day. Since protein is the main building block in our bodies, it follows that a pregnant mother should be consuming plenty of protein to help her baby grow.

One of the keys in the Bradley philosophy is taking responsibility for your pregnancy, labor and birth. This means gaining the information necessary to make informed decisions if there is an unexpected event during labor. Although the emphasis is on natural childbirth, the classes cover the most commonly used labor and birth drugs and procedures. This way the couple can be informed consumers when these procedures are suggested by the medical staff during labor and understand exactly what is being suggested.

The Bradley method is taught in a series of 12 classes by professionally trained teachers. Generally, a couple starts taking the class during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy and continues until birth. Class size is limited to 3 to 8 couples so the you and your partner can get lots of personal attention. The twelve weeks of instruction come with a workbook and loads of information about preparing for childbirth and newborn care.

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