Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Bradley Method for Natural Childbirth

I just finished reading two books on the Bradley Method: Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, MD and Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. My next doula clients are reading the Susan McCutcheon book. There are no Bradley classes in the country so they have to rely on the book. I don't believe that one book can substitute for a 12-week class, so I have been reading and consulting with my friend, Amy, who took the Bradley class in person to try to help them get as much out of the book as possible.

I checked out older editions of both of these books from the library. After reading them, I ordered the latest versions, but haven't received them, yet. I will start with Dr. Bradley's book.

I was really interested to read about Bradley Method because Bradley couples are often described as "militant" or "birth warriors". I saw a blog post last year about a doctor's office in Utah that had a sign explicitly stating,"No Bradley Method". I though,"Whoa, why all the hate for Bradley Method? What are they teaching?"

What is the essence of Bradley Method?

1. Birth is a normal, physiological process that is performed instinctively by other mammals.

2. Humans need to be trained for childbirth, just as they are for swimming, because we have lost touch with our instincts.

3. The best person to train/guide/coach a woman through the birth process is the man who loves her and got her into the situation in the first place.

4. A husband taking an active role in the pregnancy and birth, helps build a solid foundation for his family.

Doesn't seem so controversial at its essence. I don't think that the core messages are controversial. However, there is a VERY strong stance against using pain medication in pregnancy and labor. There is no sugar-coating, no laissez-faire attitude, but a very strong stance that the vast majority of women should be able to birth without pain medication or interference. There is also a sincere and aggressive belief that Bradley Method is superior to all other methods and that can be a turn-off for sure.

Dr. Bradley's book is written to the husband. I don't know why that surprised me since the title is Husband-Coached Childbirth. To be honest, I guess it surprised me because I can't imagine my husband reading it or any other book on childbirth. I do think there are probably more women than men who read the book, at least, at first. I can imagine my husband attending the classes and becoming the star pupil, though. However, as a woman reading this book, it would be easy to get offended by Dr. Bradley telling husbands how to "instruct and train their wives." However, Dr. Bradley tells husbands they need to "train themselves" as well. Also, if you are not married or not partnered with a man, the language of the book could be a little frustrating. But again, the title tells you that the book is addressing husbands.

I imagine that Dr. Bradley was quite a character in person. The whole book is like a lecture from a strong-minded man trying to condense a lifetime's worth of passion, work and discoveries for an audience of clueless fathers-to-be. After 23,000 births with a 94% unmedicated, vaginal delivery rate, no maternal mortality and only a 3% c-section rate, Dr. Bradley has a definite perspective. It would be easy to interpret the message of the book to be,"Just listen to me and you'll have a great birth." Well, it is hard to argue with success, however, many people do not like to be told what to do.

Dr. Bradley's book covers a lot of the history of the development of the method with case examples and opinions on everything from avoiding drugs, even in preconception to women going without underwear. A lot of time and energy is spent trying to convince the husband of the rewards of truly supporting his wife through pregnancy and childbirth. I don't know how the 5th edition has changed, but 4th edition that I read, would be a good introduction to the Bradley Method for those interested in taking a live, in-person class. There are no pictures and though some of the exercises are described, this is not the book to read if you are interested in Bradley but don't have access to a class.

If you are interested in the Bradley Method, but can't take the class, the McCutcheon book is the one to buy. The McCutcheon book has a lot more pictures, nice pencil drawings that show anatomy from various views to facial expression through stages of labor. It has relaxation exercises and a practice schedule. You would do well to supplement with some other form of childbirth education, but if you follow the practice schedule, I think you can get the essence to take you through labor.

So why bother taking the class at all, even if you have the option?

A 12-week class allows you to interact with others, including an experienced, confident teacher. Committing to learning and preparing over time, allows you to process the knowledge and integrate it. Relaxation is a body activity. Your body needs to "know" how to relax. If you haven't practiced, you make think you "get it" by reading, but when birth gets intense and requires focus, you will not be able to easily use something you haven't practiced. Attending class, guarantees you practice and process, at least during class. There is also a bit of peer pressure and accountability to the teacher (and the money and time you are spending to attend classes) that results in more practicing. The more you practice and the more you have processed and integrated the information, the more confident you'll be going into your birth and , therefore, the more likely you will be able to use the techniques successfully.

With the couple using the McCutcheon book to prepare, we (my doula partner and I ) are encouraging them to set a practice schedule and stick to it. We have also done some other exercises with them from Birthing from Within and the Pink Kit to fill in the gaps.

I will be very interested to see how they do with the Bradley Method. The husband is already very interested and excited about the birth. If they practice regularly (as with anything), I think it will work well for them.


Lolimahro said...

I was really interested in trying the Bradley Method when I was pregnant in the States but when I researched classes near me they were like $300 or thereabouts - way out of my price range at the time. It will be cool to see how the classes go.

JessinSeoul said...

Hey Karen, When in Korea and pregnant, I also checked that book out from the library. I read it and so did Steve. He was really grateful for the sections in the book for the coach. He liked that the book gave him guideposts or signs to look for and what to say to me while in labor. We also attended Kunhae and Lisa's class as well as Dr. Sung's class but we both thought that the book sealed the deal for us and was fantastic for the coaching lessons it gave. I managed a drug free childbirth in a Korean hospital (SCH) without screaming or crying using only focused concentration, visualization and "hard work" (as Bradley suggests) to manage the intensity of childbirth.

Mama Seoul said...

Hi Jessica,

Dr. Bradley worked in Denver! It is good to know that you had success just by reading the book. Did you use the Bradley breathing techniques for pushing? I do think a live, in-person class is better, but since that is not available, I am hoping that if they practice they will be able to use it during their birth.

Hi Danielle,

Most true childbirth preparation courses in the States are $300+. The Bradley Method classes are 12 sessions so if you break that down to cost per hour (just for actual instruction time not to mention prep time), minus the cost of the materials, the teacher is not making very much.

Most other "method" classes are 5-6 sessions for 3 hours each. Still, the cost per hour is not much.

Still, that doesn't help you if it is out of your price range,

The classes taught by the hospitals are cheaper because they are usually only 1-3 sessions and they don't (for the most part) teach you skills.

Next time, I highly recommend doing a home study like The Pink Kit ($63) or Hypnobabies ($150) to prepare yourself for an easier birth experience without spending as much money.

JessinSeoul said...

I think I did use the breathing methods described in the book. I also used the Lamaze style ones too. I think Bradley suggests breathing out during the entire push. I don't think I pulled that off. I think I was directed to hold my breath and push and now that I'm thinking about it again I think that's what I did most of all. The book is criticized by Amazon buyers because of all the "scary" stuff they put in the book... I chose not to read those parts. It was really the combination of pictures and descriptions that I didn't want to deal with. I realized there could be complications (in any pregnancy) but I was really set on staying positive throughout my pregnancy about birth. I really set my mind to it. I also listened to Belleruth Naparstek guided meditations. During pregnancy. If there were a Bradley class in Seoul I surely would have taken it. You hit the nail on the head about the need for education about techniques.