The Bradley MethodTM
Bradley Classes & Other Natural Childbirth Methods
The Bradley MethodTM is probably the most well-known of the natural childbirth methods. And, for a long time, it was essentially the only alternative to the 'pant, pant, blow' approach offered by Lamaze classes.
Developed by obstetrician Dr. Robert Bradley, this method was first tested on his own patients. He was scoffed at by his contemporaries with his idea that women can and should give birth naturally. During what he calls the "knock-em-out-drag-em-out" days, when women were regularly strapped down, heavily sedated or unconscious and their drugged, lethargic babies were pulled out by forceps, Dr. Bradley saw a better way.
Thoroughly described in his classic book Husband-Coached Childbirth, The Bradley MethodTM highlights the following principle components:
- Exercise: Understanding that overall fitness and stamina are essential for the work of giving birth, regular exercise as well as special pregnancy exercises, which target the birthing muscles, are recommended.
- The Brewer Diet: According to The Bradley MethodTM, this diet based on whole foods and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals keeps women strong, healthy and at low risk for complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
- Relaxation and natural, abdominal breathing: Based on his observation of other mammals giving birth without apparent pain or distress, Dr. Bradley recommended women assume a sleep-like state of relaxation with abdominal breathing. This allows the body to work optimally without the resistance and tension that causes unnecessary pain.
- Fully prepared and participating partner: Dr. Bradley is credited with leading the movement to bring fathers back into the delivery room. After many years of being left to smoke and pace the hospital waiting room floor, this was a huge step in re-humanizing the American birth culture.
But he didn't stop there: Dr. Bradley felt fathers should be highly knowledgeable about the birth process and trained to "coach" and support their partners through it.
The late Dr. Bradley was truly a pioneer and his work has helped many couples worldwide have healthier, easier and more satisfying births. He himself boasted a career ~3% Cesarean section rate, clearly demonstrating the success of his method and his own commitment to it.
So what about Bradley classes today and how do they stack up against other natural childbirth methods and classes?
Bradley classes remain comprehensive and effective. Many couples have and will continue to benefit from these classes. But as a childbirth educator trained by and formerly affiliated with The Bradley MethodTM organization (a.k.a. The American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth), I have been disappointed in their dated materials and approach. I'm afraid their reach and influence has been severely limited by their reluctance to market a Bradley birth to today's couples in a way that's fresh, modern and relevant.
Since Bradley, I've pursued continuing education with several worthwhile organizations and done much independent research. I've determined there are several birthing methods and experts offering approaches consistent with Dr. Bradley's timeless natural birth principles.
What's important is that you find an instructor who is knowledgeable, passionate and experienced with natural childbirth. In reality, there is no one "method" for giving birth. An instructor's work is helping a woman and her partner rediscover and tap into their own inherent power and wisdom that all of the modern birthing methods point to.
Should You Take Birthing Classes?
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