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Lamaze, Bradley, and Alternatives

by Jane Wangersky | April 25th, 2013 | Pregnancy

birthChildbirth education is a fact of life for most mothers-to-be — the only question is what form it will take. You may want to take the prenatal classes available at your hospital, or you may decide on a specific method (or “philosophy” in the case of Lamaze) and take classes from an instructor specially trained in it. I’m going to give a brief overview of some forms of childbirth education, well known and otherwise.

Lamaze is probably the best-known name in this field. Dr. Lamaze’s method (based on births he’d seen in Russia) focused on breathing, relaxation, and involvement of the father. However, according to Lamaze International, “’Breathing’ is no longer the hallmark of Lamaze.” The philosophy has expanded to include healthy practices for before, during and after birth, from letting labor start naturally to keeping the mother and newborn together.

The next big name in childbirth education is Bradley, as in the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Natural Childbirth. It shares a lot with Lamaze, such as relaxation for the mother and the involvement of someone close to her (obviously). According to bradleybirth.com, the method teaches mothers to tune into their bodies rather than distract themselves from labor pain — but that doesn’t mean you have to tough it out. Relaxation, the site says, will help to “reduce unnecessary pain and to handle any pain that you do experience”. The method requires a 12-part course, so it’s a fairly large commitment.

Both Lamaze and Bradley are geared to reduce medical intervention in birth to the minimum possible.

The standard prenatal classes at your hospital will likely include many of the same things as these two methods. For example, it’s now expected the father will be there for delivery, and the mother and baby will have plenty of time together right after the birth. Depending on the hospital’s philosophy, you may be able to walk around almost up to the point of birth (I did) or use different positions for delivery (I tried the squat bar — once). An advantage of taking classes at the hospital is that you become familiar with the building and meet the nurses who will probably be spending the most time with you. One disadvantage I found was not being taught any specific way to relieve pain — but hospitals are different, so listen to what former patients have to say about yours.

There are lesser-known ways of coping with childbirth, such as hypnotism. There are other ways of learning, including instructors who will give you private lessons at home if classes don’t fit into your schedule. There are controversies over certain methods. We’ll look at some of these in weeks to come.

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