Most of the review of the various types of birth classes (hospital classes, Lamaze, Hypnobabies,Bradley Method) are written post-birth, which makes perfect sense. But I thought it would be kind of fun to split up my review of Bradley Method classes into two posts – one before birth and one after birth. After all, even if the method ‘works,’ I’m sure my takeaway thoughts will be completely different post-baby!
I thought it would be most helpful to share my thoughts in response to some FAQs that I’ve received…
What is Bradley Method? The Bradley Method is a 12-week course that teaches natural childbirth techniques and specifically focuses on the ‘husband-coached’ childbirth philosophy. Just an FYI, ‘husband’ can also be interchanged for boyfriend, girlfriend, same-sex partner, mother, father, and friend. One of the women in our class was coached by her mother, for example. Bradley Method was developed in 1947 so some of the terminology is a little old-fashioned; personally, I think the term should be updated to be inclusive. Anyway, the classes teach nutrition, relaxation techniques, pain management techniques, and post-birth baby care (with an emphasis on breastfeeding). The bulk of the courses is focused on learning about the stages of labor, what the mother can do to manage pain, and what the partner can do to successfully coach her through the pain.
What does a typical Bradley Method labor look like? If you’re going to the hospital or a birthing center, you’re taught to labor at home for as long as you feel comfortable doing so; the very general guideline that we were taught is to labor until your contractions are one minute long and three minutes apart, but if you show certain other emotional or physical signposts earlier, you may go in earlier. Laboring at home is a huge part of Bradley because this greatly reduces your odds of medical interventions. You learn a variety of active techniques to assist in calming yourself and having a healthy labor and delivery. Some of these techniques include: laboring in certain positions, moving around during labor, staying hydrated and fueled during labor, etc. (Side note: Gina from Fitnessista.com had a hospital Bradley Birth – here is her birth story: part I and part II.)
Why did we choose it? The Husband and I are hoping for a natural, drug-free childbirth. If it doesn’t happen for medical reasons, that is totally okay because, of course, the safety of BabyHTP comes first. But I recognize that in order to have a relatively intervention-free childbirth at a hospital, I need to specifically plan and prepare for one; most hospital births include a variety of interventions. Hoping for a drug-free childbirth may not be enough. I imagine childbirth to be quite the feat and didn’t really think I could just wing it – I wanted to feel equipped and prepared. The Bradley Method boasts a 86 – 90% ‘success’ rate of non-medicated vaginal births. I liked the emphasis on understanding the physical and psychological changes a laboring mother goes through; I think of myself as a very practical person – if I can say, “This is hurting now because my cervix is doing X, Y, Z,” it may help me deal with the sensations. I looked into Hypnobabies but didn’t think it was for me; I think you really need to completely buy into it for it to work and didn’t think I could go there (I’ve had friends use it with much success, though).
This ‘Husband-coached’ childbirth thing sounds a little weird. Shouldn’t you be in charge? I’ve gotten this question a lot! It’s not that the laboring mother isn’t in charge or has the ultimate say; it’s that the partner is trained to respond to her emotional and physical needs. He is also educated in common interventions so he can intelligently discuss non-emergency interventions with the birth team. In Bradley world, when the partner has this knowledge, he can support the mother through labor and help reduce the risk of interventions (the need for interventions can – but not always, of course – be triggered by fear and anxiety). Delivery isn’t just about me and the baby; to me, Kristien is just as involved, especially emotionally. I know it helps him to feel like he has a clearly defined roll.
For more information, including how much time we spent at class, how much class cost, and whether I think it’s worth it, check over the original post on Healthy Tipping Point.