Friday, May 31, 2013

The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth - Part 1

     If you were able to read my birth story in this blog, you know by now that I opted for a natural and unmedicated childbirth. The Bradley Method was the guide I used to achieve the birth experience I desired. Read on to learn more about it.

Why I Chose This Method

     Although most women nowadays would rather have pain free labor and childbirth, there are some who would prefer to do the opposite. I’m one of those women.
     Even before I had such a bad experience with anesthesia in my first delivery, I had already considered giving birth naturally - and by this I mean without anesthesia. Except at the time, I didn’t have enough knowledge to back up this attempt. It was merely something that I thought I’d try if my tolerance for pain was high enough. And I told myself that I would make my final decision when I get to the hospital, on the day that I would be giving birth. My birth plan merely stated that “I would like to have a standard epidural upon request.” Sounds like I was playing it safe right? Well I was J I was a first time mom then and I had no idea what actually went on while one was in labor, except for what I've read or heard - which really is just head knowledge and not enough to give me the confidence that I need.
     I did attend childbirth classes with my husband to prepare for the big day, and although it’s supposedly a Lamaze class, it didn’t quite focus on really making unmedicated childbirth our goal. It was fun and promoted bonding between husband and wife, and it was educational at the same time. We were able to understand what went on during childbirth and was taught how to recognize the real signs of labor. The new dads also learned how to massage the new moms while pregnant and when in labor, and we even got to practice changing diapers with the help of a baby doll. It was definitely helpful in preparing clueless new parents for what is to come.
     But for those of us who really wanted a natural childbirth experience, there simply wasn’t enough information to make us stick to our plan - which is why I didn’t turn to the Lamaze method to guide me when I got pregnant the second time around. I know it has worked for some women, but I felt that its breathing techniques were so unnatural that I would just forget them. And believe me, when you are in active labor and trying your best to withstand the pain, you will not remember a single one of these breathing techniques.
     So when I looked up the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, I instantly developed a liking for it. Its principles were simple – follow the course of Mother Nature and you will have the birth experience that you desire. It encouraged natural breathing techniques and easy enough exercises to prepare for the birth. Best of all, it strongly encourages the husband to be the primary coach. Although if he really can’t be present for whatever reason, a substitute coach can suffice – but whoever it may be, your coach will need to be a very supportive and encouraging individual because he or she will be taking on a very important role.
      Another difference between these two methods is that the Bradley method really works resolutely in pushing for a natural childbirth without medical intervention (as long as there are no complications or emergencies), whereas the Lamaze method is more accepting of medication even if it is not really needed – which for me defeats the purpose of training for natural childbirth.
     The Bradley method concentrates on training the mother and the coach (more often than not, the father), rather than leaving everything into the hands of the doctor (who may sadly sometimes choose his or her own convenience over the patient’s). So it is always best to keep yourself well informed about your options.
     So in preparation for my second delivery, which I was planning as a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), I got the top 2 most recommended books for The Bradley Method and read them in the few months remaining before birth. I started out with Husband-Coached Childbirth (Fifth Edition): The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley himself. The reviews suggested that I read this book first and it was good advice because it really encourages you, builds up your confidence and makes you understand the importance and advantages of having a natural childbirth coached by your husband.

     After finishing the first book, I then proceeded to read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon, which is a very good supplement to the first book. This one has all the practical tips and illustrations for the exercises that you need to do in preparation for the birth. Oh, and if you’re getting this book, may I warn you that there are a lot of actual childbirth photos in it so it’s not for the faint of heart haha! This book also provides a thorough description and instructions for relaxation exercises that you need to practice and hopefully apply during childbirth. It also explains the emotional signposts in detail – the guide that I used during my actual labor with Natalie (which I will write more about in another post). It worked so well and I was so surprised at how accurate it was for me.
     So you may be wondering why I decided to study the Bradley Method on my own and not enroll in a childbirth class… Well, first it was a bit too late into the pregnancy to join a Bradley class. I decided to get serious about aiming for a natural unmedicated birth only by the time I was five months pregnant. Second, it was too costly. I asked my friend Mia, who successfully used this method during her first delivery and attended Bradley classes in the States and she advised me to hold off on the classes first if I can get a copy of the books. I figured this was a good idea because I just wasn’t willing to spend more money and I loved to read. Since I had a clear goal in mind, I knew I could muster up the discipline to study this method on my own, and possibly apply it better than if I attended a class or had a private session.
     And so I dedicated time to read, practice the exercises and review everything with my husband. We would follow the tips and instructions in the books for the exercises and practice his coaching skills. But because my husband didn’t exactly love reading and would just fall asleep after reading a few paragraphs, I made him an outline and printed them in index cards for easy reference! Haha! Well, I had to make this work! Even if he was on board and willing, but didn’t have the energy to read long chapters – studying this method on our own wasn’t going to be possible, so adjustments (and a summarized outline!) had to be made. Anyway, he just had to remember the important points that were taught by the Bradley Method and make sure that he will be alert, awake and giving mama a whole lot of encouragement during delivery day J    

I placed the index cards with our notes in the same 
photo album full of Audrey's pics that we were going to 
bring during delivery day to the hospital :)

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition


  1. Thanks Cecil! The index cards are a great idea for husbands. I am so happy that you are sharing this info on your blog. I think the most important thing to remember is that an unmedicated birth is so much better for mommy and baby. The benefits and advantages are staggering. We may not be able to control the lifestyle and food choices for our children, but it is great to give them a great start in life free from allergies and immune deficiencies linked to all the drugs they give you during labor in a hospital setting. My daughter who is almost three has never been hospitalized, never seriously ill, and never had any signs of allergies or even have a diaper rash. Most moms probably think that it is normal for a child to get sick, but that should not be the case if you child has a good and strong immune system.
    Thanks again Cecil and keep up the good work!

  2. hi ces!

    i've read your birth story and your say on the bradley method years ago when i got married but im re reading the posts now because im on my fifth month and i also want to give birth without medication. i want to read more sana on the bradley method but books are no longer available in local bookstores. pity. but thanks to your posts, i now have ideas how to deal with unmedicated birth. im one excited momma!