I’ve written on Natural Childbirth generally here and compared the difference between having a doctor and a midwife here. Today’s post I want to focus on natural childbirth the Bradley Way. If you’ve never looked into or thought about natural childbirth then this is just an intro to the Bradley method. There are many ways to skin a cat, but this is what I know and love. Dr. Bradley grew up on a farm and first had the thought that childbirth isn’t such a big deal (as in, it is common and everyday) when he saw how various animals did it. His reasoning was that if animals could do it so easily and without much intervention then so could women.
I liked this part. After delivering babies for a number of years he was struck by the fact that the women thanked him profusely and called him their hero after a safe delivery. The husbands stood by while the wife said “I love you” and all manner of complimentary things and he felt strange. Soon he developed the Husband-Coached Childbirth technique, as it’s called, where the husband is actually the one taking charge and the doctor is there to catch the baby and intervene if complications arise.
Here are the basic highlights.
(1) A husband or coach is integral.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know jack about what’s going on when I’m in labor. Don’t touch me and don’t talk to me (unless you’re telling me it’s almost over). The Bradley method has the husband (or another person where the husband is unable or unwilling to participate) who acts as the coach during labor and delivery. What does a coach do? He tells the player what’s happening, the stats, what they need to do to win the game, if they should steal or stay where they are, calls the plays, etc. The coach is in reality, is not in pain and has a firm grasp of the goal. The woman in labor is in another reality, is in a lot of pain and has a hard time seeing through the current moment towards the goal. Women need a helper. Dr. Bradley thought a doctor shouldn’t usurp this great role of the helper so his method calls for the husband to do so.
(2) Physical preparation.
The book has 3 or 4 daily stretches and exercises that are to help labor and delivery go as smooth and quickly as possible while minimizing the possibility of tearing. The exercises aren’t strenuous nor are they difficult, but you must be consistent. These exercises work out the muscles so they are in good shape to push and so you aren’t too physically uncomfortable (hardy har har) during labor.
(3) Mental preparation.
Half the battle through the pain is knowing it’s actually a good thing. If you feel a contraction and think “Ahh my body is ripping apart surely something is horribly wrong and I’m having an alien not a baby and I am going to die to boot” then you will probably find it a tad difficult to relax. Mood lighting or not. If you have a contraction and know what is happening physically, you understand that it is a great thing your body is doing and it’s putting you one step closer towards the goal:
not being pregnant anymore having a baby.
(4) Knowledge is key.
The book tells you exactly what happens physically during contractions and pushing and it’s awesome. The doctors will intervene more, condescend to you more and you’ll feel more panicked if you don’t know what’s going on. Step by step the book outlines what happens so you are able to visualize it mentally and get in tune with your body instead of fighting it. If you feel that a contraction is actually harmful as opposed to helpful you’ll react differently.
(5) Standing firm is necessary.
Most doctors that I’ve heard of, in the States at least, aren’t terribly supportive of natural childbirth. If they say they are, they are still quick to intervene, induce labor and resort to a c-section without it being strictly necessary. Drugs, medicine and c-sections are medical miracles that save countless lives so I do not discount them. However, when they are pushed on me for no good reason I do mind. If you are truly wanting to do a natural childbirth you may find your husband, or the coach, has to run interference and put the doctor off your case so your natural childbirth goals aren’t thwarted. I’m not talking about doing something in the best interest of your baby, I’m talking about the doctors and nurses speeding things up so they can beat rush hour or avoid working on weekends. Don’t send me hate mail. I know this happens.
All in all, a healthy baby is the goal. Of course! I’ve had 3 babies naturally and two I screamed for drugs and one I was very composed. I’ve used midwives (plural) and a doctor. I’ve given birth on 3 continents. I’m no expert but I am experienced and I love the Bradley method. If you are thinking about natural childbirth then I recommend at least reading about it.
PS – There are photographs to illustrate the concept in Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way and they are, at times, a bit confronting and abrupt. I covered them :)
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