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The Bradley Method: An Overview

by Jane Wangersky | June 18th, 2013 | Pregnancy

pregnant coupleLike Lamaze, the Bradley Method is one of the best-known systems for natural childbirth. The standout feature of Bradley is that it’s “Husband Coached”, with the baby’s father actively guiding the mother through labor.

Dr. Robert Bradley became an obstetrician in 1947, when the typical hospital birth happened in what he called “knock ’em out, drag ’em out” style — mothers were given general anesthesia, and babies were delivered in a groggy state that took a long time to wear off. Bradley had grown up on a farm and believed humans could give birth as easily as animals did, without pain or artificial painkillers, if they imitated what animals instinctively did during birth. This meant seeking out darkness, quiet, and solitude, relaxing, making themselves physically comfortable, breathing in a controlled way, and closing the eyes and simulating sleep (this prevents over-stimulation).  Unlike animals, humans have to be taught to do these things — if a laboring woman is left to do what she feels like, she may end up doing something counterproductive, like lying on her back instead of her side.

Bradley invented a way of coaching women through labor based on these principles. After one new mom enthusiastically kissed him in gratitude, he began to think the coaching role should be the husband’s rather than the doctor’s.

So the Bradley Method involves a lot of training for both parents — three months of weekly classes, during the last three months of pregnancy. There’s not only classroom learning, but physical exercise for the mother, and lots of practice. Classes also cover nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and adjusting to life with a baby.

Many families have found Bradley training very helpful. You may not agree with all Dr. Bradley’s ideas — for example, he encourages a husband to talk to his wife, as the child is being born, in the same way he talked to her as the child was being conceived. My husband says he would’ve been afraid to try that — afraid I’d hit him. But if you both want a natural birth with the father deeply involved, and if you’re both ready to commit the time and effort, the Bradley Method may be the right choice for you.

Visit bradleybirth.com or read Robert Bradley’s book, Husband-Coached Childbirth, for more information.

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