Since our new students did not present us with any questions last night, I thought I would talk a little more about what we try to achieve as instructors and why we are advocates of The Bradley Method®. I am going to give you our personal insight on the stated goals of The Bradley Method® classes:
Natural childbirth – As in a vaginal, unmedicated, intervention free birth. Dr. Bradley knew that as intelligent human beings, we had to be able to do as well or better than our mammalian counterparts in nature, and by applying his observations of perspiring mammals giving birth, he came up with the core principles of “how” to give birth using The Bradley Method® that we teach in class. Dr. Bradley’s proven, evidence-based principles are helping families achieve an 86% vaginal, unmedicated birth rate.
Active participation of the husband as coach – Dr. Bradley discovered something surprising in his clinical trials, taking place at a time when husbands had been relegated to pacing in the waiting rooms: women were calmer in the loving presence of their husbands! Having a father present happened quite by accident during one birth, and he observed how calm the mother was in the presence of her husband, and how she became more agitated when he left the room. He wondered, “Could a loving husband be human nature’s anesthetic?” So he started inviting more husbands in to the labor rooms with the same result, and hence the term “Husband-Coached” was coined. He saw the value in training a couple to give birth naturally, and he relegated himself to the role of “life-guard”, stepping in only when needed, and lending his expertise as an obstetrician at the moment of birth.
In this day and age, some Bradley instructors have adopted the word “Coach” when we talk about the loving support person in classes. Expecting couples are not always married these days, and not all couples having babies are husband-wife pairs anymore. There are also cases where the husbands are not comfortable with childbirth, so moms will opt to bring another loving support person with them to be their Coach during childbirth.
Excellent nutrition, the foundation of a healthy pregnancy – “You are what you eat” rings even truer when a woman is pregnant. Not only is she feeding her body, she is also providing the building blocks for an entirely new, independent human being. The Bradley Method® teaches the pregnancy nutrition program developed by Dr. Tom Brewer, which specifically addresses the needs of the pregnant body and the growing baby. His well-balanced, high-protein eating plan ensures that a mother’s food intake is full of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that the body needs for proper function, and protein – the building block of human cells. To have Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcomes, you have to build Healthy Moms and Healthy Babies to begin with.
Avoidance of drugs during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding unless absolutely necessary – As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Drugs, “No drug or chemical – whether prescription, over-the-counter or food additive – can be regarded as having been proven to be entirely free of potential harm to the fetus.” (Pediatrics, Vol. 51 No.2)
Regarding the development of the blood-brain barrier: “The cerebral capillaries are much more permeable at birth than in adulthood, and the blood-brain barrier develops during the early years of life.” (Review of Medical Physiology, 16 edition, 1993)
Given these two findings by credible medical sources, Bruss and I took it to heart that we were ultimately responsible to ensure our children were chemical-free to the best of our knowledge. We made changes in beauty and health care products to eliminate metals and unregulated ingredients. We consciously evaluated our food choices and learned to eat more whole foods instead of foods full of additives and preservatives. We educated ourselves in the process of labor so we could embrace it and work with it free of anesthesia, and to the best of our ability, free of other drugs as well.
Training: “early bird” classes, followed by weekly classes starting in the 5 or 6 month, continuing until birth – It is never to early to learn about the process of childbirth, relaxation is a great “life” tool, and the nutrition and exercise component of the classes make for a healthier overall pregnancy. The more time coaches have to prepare an athlete, the better the athletic performance.
In the mother-coach-birth dynamic, this holds true as well. The more the mother can trust that her coach is knowledgeable and ready to coach her, the more relaxed she can be during the labor and birth process. The better nutrition she practices, the better prepared she and her baby are for the course of labor, no matter how long or short it may be. The better physical condition she is in, the more capable and ready she is to work with her body and get into a variety of helpful positions that aid in baby’s progress during labor.
Relaxation and natural breathing – Relaxation is the key to The Bradley Method®. Abdominal breathing is conducive to relaxation because it works with the body’s natural rhythm, and we strive to teach couples to break the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle.
With the release of tension, labor won’t necessarily be “pain-free”, however, it will be less painful than if a mother holds her breath and adds more tension on top of the contracting muscles.
A mother that is able to let the tension out of her body can let the uterine contractions work efficiently to bring about the birth of her child. Mothers and coaches learn to work with nature’s process and take one contraction at a time, embracing them with the knowledge that each contraction brings them closer to the birth of their baby. We also teach normal, abdominal breathing. It’s what we do when we sleep, and what most women do when they are relax instead of holding their tummy in for various and sundry reasons.
“Tuning in” to your body – In a state of relaxation, a mother is able to “tune-in” to her baby’s needs – I think of it as finding the “frequency” for the universal baby channel. Dr. Bradley observed that a culture had lost the memory of childbirth. Personally, we found that our instincts do not change. When we were completely relaxed, we could draw the “tools” out of our “birth tool-box” as we needed them in labor. What kind of things would relax me? What kind of comfort measures did I need? Which position did I need to be in to accommodate our baby’s changing position in my body? In a state of complete relaxation and the help of a doula, the answers came to both of us and we were able to do what we needed to do to make our labors progress without anesthesia.
Immediate and continuous contact with your new baby – Babies want their mothers. I had a moment of clarity when I heard this statement at Birth Circle, “Every minute apart from the mother is 100% longer than the baby has ever been apart from the mother before.” More research is showing that human mothers and babies imprint on each other just as we know it happens in other animals: separate a baby from it’s mother and she will literally kick it out of the nest. When mother and baby have a natural, unmedicated birth without complications, there is no reasonable explanation for the separation of a mother from her child.
Breastfeeding beginning at birth – Breastfeeding is another “natural process” that is in reality, a learned behavior. Many hospitals have lactation consultants on staff now, and they are there to coach mothers and babies on their first steps to a successful breastfeeding relationship. We dedicate a portion of every series to lessons about breastfeeding. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League International is one of our suggested texts; and we encourage every couple to attend at least two La Leche League meetings throughout the 12-week class series. When it comes to breastfeeding, there is no such thing as too much education. Every nursing relationship is different according to circumstance, and we encourage our students to have the contact information to a variety of breastfeeding resources – you just never know who or what is going to click with your learning style or particular needs.
Consumerism and positive communications – Birth is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the safety and well-being of your child. It is important to learn questions to ask of people who want to “do something” or “try something” on your child – just because they are unborn doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be affected by decisions you are making or the “something” that well-meaning friends, family or care providers suggest.
We take time every class to talk about positive communication – communication that leads to a mutual understanding and a positive interaction. This is important when we convey our wishes to our care providers and our birthplace. We found it was important to know how to communicate with each other during labor: early on I could talk, later I didn’t want to be touched, let alone talked to sometimes. Bruss needed to learn how to read my cues and help me anyway.
As we discovered, these little people we bring into the world do much better when we are a united front, and they try to “divide and conquer” even when they lack the words to state their purpose. Our marriage has been enriched by the communication exercises we practiced in class, and as we like to say, we have had four honeymoons throughout the course of our marriage. Each birth has made me fall even more in love with the person I was completely in love with on the day we got married. For us it has been true that we “grow in love” every time, more love for each other and more love in our hearts for our children – love is infinite!
Parents taking responsibility for the safety of the birthplace, procedures, attendants and emergency back-up – As parents, we our the first line advocates for our children. It is up to us to give them a voice when they can’t speak for or defend themselves. If something does not “feel” right, then be proactive and do more research, ask more questions – it’s okay! Chances are that if you offend someone, they probably are not the best fit for your circumstances or needs.
Educate yourself on the procedures done during pregnancy, labor and after the baby is born: where did they come from? Why are they necessary? Are they really necessary? What do you want done now? What can wait? I phrase these as questions because there is no right or wrong answer – each family needs to decide together what is best for their child.
No matter where you are going to give birth or what kind of care provider you have, ask about their back-up plan. Not all providers are on-call 24/7. If they aren’t, how do you feel about their on-call partners? If you are having a homebirth, who does your midwife call in if/when she needs a break or a second opinion? Where does she transfer to in the event of an emergency situation?
All these are questions to answer before the emotion and intensity labor and delivery. Know all your options ahead of time so that you can ask for adjustments or changes when you have time to make reasonable, well-thought decisions. You will never regret asking for help or information – you will generally regret the lack of information that leads to an uninformed choice.
Parents prepared for unexpected situations such as emergency childbirth and cesarean section – Not too many childbirth methods cover these topics. It is assumed that all will go well, and generally, it does. As a general rule, a woman has to be in good health to achieve pregnancy in the first place. However, in the event that you leave too late for your birthplace, or you don’t call your midwife in time, we teach moms and coaches what they can do and what needs to be left up to the professionals.
In a time when statistically 1 out of 3 women will have a birth via cesarean section, I feel it is not just good practice, but our personal responsibility to inform our students of the after-effects of a cesarean birth, as well as how they can have the best postpartum experience under the circumstances. We do everything we can in class to teach our moms how to stay healthy and low-risk, and how to manage their labor with their loving coach so that the chances of a cesarean remain low. However, some students will choose to have an induction or an intervention, and once you start on this path the stage is set for what Bruss calls the “Schlitterbahn” effect, otherwise known as the “slippery-slope” where one intervention leads to the next…and the next…etc. We want to let couples know about all their choices so they are well-equipped to handle any twists and turns that may happen in the course of their labor.
I hope offers a little more information on The Bradley Method® and why we find it such a valuable and worthwhile way to spend our Monday nights! We were so honored to have three more couples choose our classes to help them prepare for the births of their precious sweet peas!
A little history on The Bradley Method®, in case you are interested:
The Bradley Method® was created by Dr. Robert Bradley who saw a need to bring birth back to it’s natural state as God designed in nature. Having grown up on a farm in the Midwest and witnessing a variety of perspiring mammals give birth peacefully and unassisted, he was surprised to discover that human mothers seemed to have forgotten that birth was a “natural” event in the circle of life. During his time as an obstetric resident, he was appalled by the practice of the “knock ‘em out, drag ‘em out” births: laboring women were heavily drugged in twilight sleep or with an epidural, tied to beds and immobile, giving birth via forceps or vacuum delivery because they were unable to push out their children with their own strength. Their babies were being born limp and apparently lifeless, literally having to be spanked to “wake” them up and take their first breath.
He asked himself these questions: “Why do all other animals peacefully and joyfully give birth unassisted? Why can’t the human animal do this? What makes the difference?" In his quest to discover the answers to these questions, he took a cue from the births he had seen growing up and applied those principles to his human patients, training them to give birth and prepare themselves for an athletic event at the end of a pregnancy: the unmedicated birth of their child.
As an aside, I have to say my personal experience as a person of color leads me to comment on Dr. Bradley’s apparent cultural ignorance. He assumes in his book, Husband-Coached Childbirth, that all women were suffering from the effects of a medically-managed, drug-riddled birth. He completely ignores the fact that there were other cultures in which midwifery care was common due to racial prejudice (not being allowed in hospitals), cultural practice, rural setting or economic circumstance that made a hospital birth out of the question.
Both of my parents were born during the time frame when Dr. Bradley was working and crafting his method as outlined in the book. Being of Latin-American descent, our culture was still homebirthing during this time, and both of my parents had unmedicated, midwife assisted births at home in Puerto Rico and Texas, respectively.
In the era of racial “equality” and with the rise of medical insurance, more people have access to hospital birth. Now hospital birth is considered the “normal” way to give birth across more cultures her in the United States. In that vein I am grateful for Dr. Bradley’s work, because without his method, my husband and I would have been left out on our own to figure out the natural birth “thing”. It wasn’t until my grandmother, who had eight homebirths, scoffed at the idea that I was being taught to give birth that I truly realized that birth IS a natural process and I had nothing to be afraid of. If she could do it, then so could I.
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.