The Bradley Method for natural childbirth prepares expecting mothers (and their coaches) for childbirth through education, breathing, relaxation, nutrition, and exercise.
When I became pregnant with my first son, I honestly had no clue what to expect from childbirth. I had seen extremely unrealistic TV sitcom portrayals of labor yet had never witnessed a real live birth or read any birth stories. After some research, and deciding I wished for an unmedicated childbirth, my husband and I chose to take Bradley Childbirth preparation classes. I am extremely grateful that we did, as we both felt empowered, informed, and ready for the big event ahead.
For those considering the Bradley Childbirth Method, here is my interview with our teacher, Sarah Pikett Carter:
Q 1: What distinguishes the Bradley Method from other childbirth preparation methods?
A. I think the primary factor that makes the Bradley Method unique is the comprehensive approach to childbirth preparation. Classes are around 24 hours of instruction packed full of information! Other childbirth classes might cover one specific technique or the more general process of labor and birth. The Bradley Method has the ability to teach various techniques for approaching each stage of labor. Not one technique will work for everyone! We also review potential labor complications and elements of writing a detailed birth plan.
The other very significant difference between the Bradley Method and other classes is the extra focus given on the mother’s partner or “coach.” I have had many mothers without a support person attend class, but there is a lot of information in the class that involves a dedicated support person to be there for her pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period.
Q 2: What are some recommendations for mothers following the Bradley Method as far as nutrition and exercise?
A. The Bradley Method strongly encourages following the Brewer Medical diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Brewer diet is often known as a protein-rich diet, which also makes recommendations such as eating eggs (choline), adequate hydration, and consuming plenty of healthy fats and oils. I like to point out that the goal is a well-balanced diet for the health of mom and baby! We go over all the food groups in detail and discuss how they benefit you during pregnancy and beyond.
The Bradley Method encourages specific exercises that are designed to help moms feel more comfortable in pregnancy, build strength, and prepare for birth. Some examples are pelvic tilts, tailor sitting, and squats.
Q 3. The Bradley Method offers several relaxation and pain management techniques. What are a few that you have found most helpful?
A. My personal favorite relaxation technique is using progressive relaxation. This is done with a partner or the mom can do on her own. I love practicing in class with a mom’s partner prompting her.
During this relaxation practice, a mom mentally relaxes certain areas of her body based on the verbal prompts given to her. It is lovely for mom to start at the top of her body (head, neck, face) and progressively relax down throughout the entire body to her feet. During this time the partner can say things like, “feel your shoulders and back become warm and relaxed. Take a deep breath and exhale all of that tension from your shoulders”.
My favorite technique for physical relaxation or coping with labor discomfort would be positioning and massage. Bradley students learn many positions that are common for a mom to benefit from in labor. During my 8 years as a doula, I have seen some positions be the most “popular” and make sure my students try those out. One of these positions is a mom on her knees while her chest is resting on an exercise ball. Then, the partner or doula can provide counter pressure or a massage on mom’s lower back.
Q 4. What are a few ways that a mother’s birth partner can best support her and create a positive birth environment?
A. This is so important! One thing that people do not realize is that a successful birth environment starts before labor/birth begins! It is so helpful for a mother’s birth partner to attend classes and prenatal appointments with their care provider. The partner will hear and learn so much information and feel more informed and confident when labor does start.
Then, in labor, it is their job to protect mom! They can turn the lights down in the room, turn phone’s on vibrate and handle all communication. They can make the environment a happy place with music, soft lights, and aromatherapy. Ultimately when a birth partner has a calm and confident attitude, it leads to a peaceful environment and gives a birthing mom the ability to solely focus on what her body is doing.
Q 5. Where can one learn more about the Bradley Method and find local teachers/classes?
A. I would suggest visiting this website: http://www.bradleybirth.com.
About the Expert:
My journey to doula work started before my first daughter was born. I was able to see other women in my family have natural births and home births. So, when I found out I was pregnant in 2008, I knew I wanted a natural birth. After my husband and I took The Bradley Method Childbirth Education Class and had a wonderful birth experience at a birth center, I decided I would like to do more in the “Birth World”. I had the opportunity to become a certified childbirth educator (The Bradley Method), certified Professional Doula (toLabor), train as a placenta encapsulator and learn and practice sacred belly binding. I’ve enjoyed working with families and specifically love helping them identify their goals for labor, birth, and newborn care and support them in those goals!