The Bradley method is a childbirth education approach based on the philosophy that with preparation, education, and a supportive coach, childbirth without drugs or surgery is possible for most women. This method is named for its founder, Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (1917-1998), who has been credited for getting fathers back into the delivery room.
Your hospital or community center may provide many different types of childbirth education classes for you and your partner. These classes help prepare both of you for the many decisions ahead: How can I tell if something's wrong? Is it OK to exercise or have sex? How will I know when I really go into labor?
Though each approach varies, the general goal of childbirth education is to empower you with knowledge so that your fears diminish, your confidence increases, and you can make informed decisions. Many approaches teach you drug-free techniques, such as paced breathing, that you can use to minimize the pain and discomfort of late-stage pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
The Bradley method is a natural childbirth approach that involves prenatal education, relaxation techniques, and partner participation. The goal of Bradley method training is to ensure a safe birth with reduced pain and anxiety. The Bradley method organization claims that over 86% of couples trained in the Bradley method have un-medicated vaginal births. Critics point to the absence of controlled studies showing that it works, a sense of distrust in health-care professionals in the teachings, the for-profit nature of the organization and the reliance on extensive coaching from the partners as weaknesses to this method.
What Will I Learn?
Parents who wish to participate in this method are encouraged to take initial "early birth" classes, followed by weekly classes beginning in the sixth month of pregnancy. The course covers:
- The Bradley method's history, goals, and philosophy.
- Prenatal nutrition.
- Physical changes and discomforts associated with pregnancy.
- Natural techniques to minimize discomfort and pain.
- What to expect during labor and delivery.
- Pushing techniques.
- The coach or father's role.
- Planning your birth.
- Pregnancy complications.
- Bonding with your baby.
- Preparing for your new family.
Where Can I Find A Class?
Your obstetrician, primary physician, or health care provider may have information on Bradley method or other childbirth education classes in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What if I change my mind and want to have childbirth, with medication or an epidural block?
A: Many women who plan for natural childbirth have these thoughts during labor. The choice to use medications or anesthesia is always available for you, and felt to be safe. However, first try to talk about these feelings with your nurse, labor coach, partner, and midwife or doctor. Support from these people and suggestions about other methods to help you cope with the pain and discomfort can often help you continue without medicines or epidural blocks.
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.