By Jaimie Ramsey, Contributing Writer
I didn’t know much about pregnancy or labor before I got pregnant. I was fascinated and amazed by birth stories, but I had never done much research about different options when it came to labor and delivery.
One of my aunts has four children and I knew she had used something called the Bradley method for her labors with all of them. I also knew that she’d had relatively easy, natural births without using drugs. The more I read and learned about how drugs affect both mother and baby during labor, the more that the Bradley method sounded like a good option.
I looked into Bradley classes but none were offered in our area. So I ordered a few books, and my aunt sent me another, and my husband and I educated ourselves during my pregnancy in preparation for labor and birth.
My birth experience didn’t go quite as expected–I was induced after 42 weeks, and did all my laboring in the hospital instead of most of it at home, as I had planned–but what I learned about the Bradley method made even an induced labor relatively relaxed, and I had quite a smooth birth experience, with very few interventions.
4 Ways the Bradley Method Helped Me Have a Relaxed Birth Experience
1. The Bradley Method Encourages Physical and Mental Preparation
Long before labor started, my studying and research enabled me to be physically and mentally prepared. The Bradley method focuses on relaxing during labor, to enable the body to do its job as effectively as possible and to relieve the mother of as much pain as possible (being tense increases pain; relaxing decreases it).
Using the suggestions from the books we read, my husband and I practiced relaxation techniques and other exercises to prepare my body for labor, such as squats and butterfly stretches. The books also had suggestions for what to include in a healthy pregnancy diet.
Even more helpfully, the Bradley method books went into detail about what would happen during each stage of labor. This was so helpful for me, even though my labor didn’t start naturally. We knew what signs to look for to recognize transition, and we knew that once we hit that point that delivery wasn’t far off.
I was able to mentally prepare myself for the pain I knew I would experience, but I also knew that I was equipped with techniques for handling it, so I had nothing to be afraid of.
2. My Husband Was My Coach
The Bradley method is one of the first labor and birth methods to train the husband as the birth coach. At a time when husbands were rarely allowed in the labor and delivery room, Dr. Bradley encouraged husbands to be by their wives’ sides, theorizing that the best person to encourage and coach a woman through labor is the person who helped her conceive the baby in the first place!
The idea eventually gained popularity and many couples have found their marriages strengthened, and their parenting off to a great start, as a result of the experience of working together during pregnancy, labor and birth.
My husband barely left my side during fourteen hours of labor, and having him there helped me stay relaxed. He was my advocate to the doctors and nurses when I could barely communicate during contractions, and his physical presence helped calm and focus me.
3. I Was Empowered to Be My Own Advocate
Because I learned so much about the different elements of labor and birth from the books I read, I was confident about making my wishes very clear to my doctor and the hospital staff. The Bradley books discussed things hospitals do well and things they don’t, so I knew exactly what I needed to include in my birth plan to make sure everything happened according to my wishes. Of course it didn’t go entirely as planned (births never do!), but I had great confidence in speaking up for myself and my child.
4. The Bradley Method Helped Me Labor Calmly (mostly)
Thanks to the relaxation techniques I learned, I was able to stay calm and quiet during most of my labor. In fact, I spent quite a few hours in an almost trance-like state, sitting with my head bowed and hands at my sides. I know a lot of women find relief in moving around during labor, but sitting perfectly still enabled me to focus on breathing deeply and relaxing every muscle, which both made a huge difference in how much pain I felt. Every time I had to move the pain was very hard to handle.
Transition was another thing entirely; I spent those contractions gripping my husband’s hands so tight I’m surprised I didn’t break them, and I needed the nurse to remind me to slow down my breathing. But fortunately transition is the shorter part of labor!
What I’ll Do Differently Next Time
I plan on doing a lot more of the exercises, especially practicing relaxing, and strengthening my legs and core in particular. I also want to try to eat better than I did with this first pregnancy, so that both I and the baby can be as healthy as possible.
If circumstances permit, I’d also like to try laboring in water, either a shower or a bath. I never got around to it this time, and only had the option of a shower, but I think being in warm water would help a lot with being able to relax, thus reducing labor pain even more.
I know the Bradley method isn’t the only method for natural childbirth, but it worked wonderfully for me and my family. I hope to actually take a class during my next pregnancy, but even if I don’t, I know I’ll be well-prepared for birth and labor.
For Further Reading:
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
Husband-Coached Childbirth by
The Bradley Method Student Workbook by Marjie Hathaway
I took a Bradley class during my first pregnancy (which I ended up induced ). I was so calm and relaxed the nurses would say, “you aren’t in enough pain, we’re upping your pitocin”. I lasted until transition where the contractions never stopped in between so I got an epidural & eventually a c-section. My 2nd labor was textbook Bradley. I progressed exactly as the book said and I stayed completely in a trance until transition, which ended up not even close to the pain I experienced the first time. And I had him unmedicated. My 3rd was totally different. I didn’t follow any of the Bradley signposts and I couldn’t relax. Sitting was excruciating and I couldn’t stop moving (she was in a terrible position!). Now pregnant with #4 so we’ll see how this goes!
This method is the best but not modern. Four daughters naturally, no drugs, no doctor.
Drove 1 1/2 hr one way to birthing center, classes, check ups and delivery. They taught nutrition, exercise, relaxation and bradley method. Went home 8 hours after each birth, girls are age 21 to 28 now.
Do you have the names of the books you used to help prepare you for labor? I would love to read more on the Bradley Method!