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What is the Bradley Childbirth Method?

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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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The Bradley Childbirth Method was developed by Robert Bradley, an American obstetrician, in the late 1940s. Bradley’s belief is that childbirth is a natural process, and women can prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to avoid routine medical interventions and pain medication during labor and delivery. The duration of the Bradley Childbirth Method program is 12 weeks, making it longer and more intensive than most other childbirth education programs. It is a comprehensive program that includes instruction on pregnancy, birth, and postpartum issues. One of the other primary goals of the Bradley Childbirth Method program is to educate partners to be supportive and effective labor coaches.

Classes are usually limited to eight couples in order to provide a more intimate, interactive learning experience. The topics covered include prenatal nutrition and its impact on a healthy pregnancy, exercise during pregnancy, pregnancy symptoms and complaints and how to cope with them, and relaxation techniques during labor and birth. Relaxed and natural breathing methods are emphasized as a coping mechanism to deal with the intense pain of labor. Mothers are taught to “tune in” and manage pain, instead of distracting themselves from it as other methods teach. The Bradley Childbirth Method class also instructs partners in effective labor coaching. Couples also learn about the different stages of labor and how to cope with the transitions between them.

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Couples taking the Bradley Childbirth Method class will come away with knowledge about common medical interventions and pain medications and how to avoid them, especially cesareans or c-sections. The belief is that certain medical interventions, such as the administration of pitocin and pain medications such as an epidural, may slow labor, increasing the chances of a c-section. Postnatal care and breastfeeding are other important topics covered in the Bradley Childbirth Method. For those interested in the Bradley Childbirth Method, Dr. Bradley founded the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth as a resource to find certified teachers and classes in one's area.

Although supporters of the Bradley Childbirth Method claim a 90% rate of success, meaning 90% of mothers deliver without the use of pain medication, there are other childbirth methods that a couple may consider when deciding how they want to approach their child’s birth. Some mothers feel that the use of pain medication should not be stigmatized and choose to leave that option open throughout the process of labor and delivery. Every labor and delivery is unique, and some couples benefit from investigating more than one method of childbirth to come up with their own birth plan.

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