Bradley Method: What Is It And What Are Its Advantages

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The Bradley method of childbirth is the method that emphasizes mainly the techniques of relaxation as a major part of childbirth and also empowers women to have confidence in their strength. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports state that about 61% of women who opt for vaginal delivery seek the assistance of epidural or anesthesia while in labor (1). In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also recommends using an epidural for expectant mothers upon request (2). Read on to know more about the Bradley method and its benefits.

In This Article

What Is The Bradley Method Of Childbirth?

It is a natural childbirth method designed in the late 1940s, by the American obstetrician Dr. Robert Bradley. The Bradley method aims to encourage women to go into labor and deliver the child without taking any pain medications. It seeks to offer natural, painless, and pleasurable birthing experience to expecting moms.

Bradley’s method is a 12-week program that tells the expecting couple about diet, nutrition, relaxation techniques, labor, postpartum experiences, nursing, and the husband’s role. It is more comprehensive than other prenatal education programs.

This method is also known as ‘husband-coached childbirth’, as the husband plays a key role in helping the wife with postures, breathing exercises, and techniques to manage pain during labor.

And this elaborate preparation needs to begin way before your due date.

When Can You Attend The Classes?

Bradley method birth class is a 12-week course

Image: IStock

You can start attending classes from the fifth month of pregnancy so that you have enough time to practice labor techniques. It is a 12-week course.

Usually, the Bradley institute instructors conduct the classes at your home, so that you are comfortable enough to ask queries if any.

What Is Taught In Bradley Childbirth Classes?

The Bradley’s method emphasizes the natural birthing experience, but it also prepares the couple for unexpected complications and emergencies that might require a C-section.

Here is a brief overview of the 12-class course (3):

  • Classes 1-3 focus on nutrition, exercise, and pregnancy. The Bradley Method follows Dr. Brewer’s diet. These sessions also teach you kegel exercises, tailor sitting, squatting, and pelvic rocks, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and get the baby into the right position.
  • Classes 4-5 focus on the role of the coach (husband) and introduce the parents-to-be to the first stage of labor. This session helps you adapt to new habits and attitudes, understand the process, and apply what you have learned.
  • Class 6 introduces the second stage of labor.
  • In class 7, the couple makes a birth plan not exceeding 15 pages.
In class 7, the couple makes a birth plan

Image: Shutterstock

  • Class 8 prepares you for unexpected situations during delivery and also focuses on the postpartum preparations.
  • Classes 9-10 teach about the pain management techniques for the first and second stages of labor.

Anna Runyan, a mother of two, followed The Bradley Method for her deliveries. Sharing her second childbirth experience, she says, “Initially, contractions felt like very light period cramps, so I kept telling myself not to get my hopes up. I laid in bed for two hours, just letting them come and go because they weren’t consistent or very painful at all.

“I woke up and walked around to see if the contractions continued. They did, so I knew this was it… I laid on the couch in a side-lying position I learned in our Bradley Method class. It was the same position that I used in early labor with Mila. The position was unbearable this time and so much more painful than I remember. I wanted to scream during my contractions, but Mila was still around having breakfast, so I didn’t want to freak her out… Everything I learned from the Bradley Method made me know I could not push yet since I was not in a hospital. At the hospital… Sienna just needed three little pushes, and she flew out ().”

  • Class 11 teaches the husband how to be a good coach. The couple is asked to rehearse and practice all the techniques they have learned.
  • Class 12, which is an optional session, covers topics on breastfeeding, care for the newborn, and parenting.
Class 12 of bradley method birth covers your role as a parent

Image: Shutterstock

Above all, the course aims to teach you techniques that ease the labor pain by relaxing the body.

Relaxation Methods Taught In Bradley Classes

Here are a few relaxation techniques of the Bradley Method you can practice at home.

  • Sleep imitation is one of the best relaxation techniques to practice during the first stage of labor when the pain is frequent. Begin by resting on a bed with your eyes closed and face relaxed. Slowly start breathing, consciously, with your belly. This helps you relax and sleep. If you are able to sleep during the early contractions, you will have enough energy to prepare for the next stages of labor.
  • The breathing technique taught in the Bradley method helps you to focus on counting the breaths. Also, the length of the breath you exhale should be longer than the length of the breath you inhale. This helps you deal with labor pain better.
Bradley method of breathing helps you focus on counting the breaths

Image: Shutterstock

  • Creating a pleasant ambiance in the room: A quiet room with diffused lighting and soft music creates a recreational environment, which works well for you during the first stage of labor. Combined with the controlled breathing technique, a relaxing ambiance can help you deal with the labor pain effectively.

Besides these, you may also learn other relaxation techniques, some of which may work for you and some may not. The aim is to find the one that best helps you deal with the pain.

So, how good or bad is Bradley’s method? Let’s see next.

protip_icon Quick tip
Wearing loose clothes and emptying your bladder may help you relax better during labor (7).

The Benefits Of Bradley’s Method

Here are some good things the method has for the mothers (3):

  • Teaches a woman how to relax during labor and childbirth.
  • Explains about the complications that may occur during pregnancy. Informs about the risks of using medications or drugs during labor and the necessity of a c-section during delivery.
  • Also focuses on nutrition during pregnancy, while teaching the mom how to stay healthy and minimize the risk of complications in pregnancy.
  • Emphasizes partner involvement or coach’s support during labor and delivery.
  • Helps develop a great bond between the mother and the baby.
protip_icon Things to know
Women with low-risk pregnancies may choose natural birthing techniques to avoid possible side effects of medicines (8).
Bradley method helps to develop a great mother and baby bond

Image: Shutterstock

The only disadvantage of this method is that it appears to be biased towards cesarean deliveries as it promotes physiological birth This can make some women reluctant to opt for the procedure even in the case of a medical emergency.

Bradley Method Vs Lamaze Method

Some subtle similarities and differences between Bradley and Lamaze childbirth techniques include:

  • Bradley’s method involves the husband or partner in the childbirth process and advises women to prepare for natural birth without medical intervention. On the other hand, the Lamaze method focuses on breathing techniques that would help women divert their focus from pain and experience more relaxation during the birthing process.
  • Bradley’s technique teaches parents about the different labor phases and instructs them to respond to the changes in the mother’s body. It advises parents to employ deep breathing and relaxation methods to cope with labor. In contrast, Lamaze focuses on pleasurable memories to distract the mother from the pain. Changing positions during labor and using birthing balls and hot and cold packs are also often mentioned in Lamaze classes to ease contractions.
  • The Bradley method rejects the concept of ‘distraction’ as a labor coping mechanism and opposes the use of painkillers and cesarean sections unless necessary. On the other hand, Lamaze is a more accepting approach that offers a neutral stance about painkillers and other medical and surgical treatments, allowing the couple to make independent decisions (4).
    Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the Bradley method effective?

The Bradley method is an effective option for an unmedicated healthy pregnancy. More than 86% of the women who opted for the Bradley method achieved natural birth (3).

2. Is there any scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the Bradley Method in reducing pain and improving outcomes for mothers and babies?

According to the organization, out of couples receiving Bradley Method training, approximately 86% have unmedicated vaginal deliveries. However, scientific evidence backing the effectiveness of the Bradley Method is limited. More research is needed to assess its impact on pain relief and birth outcomes (5).

3. Are there any potential drawbacks or risks associated with using the Bradley Method for childbirth?

The Bradley Method does not have any inherent risks. However, seeking medical advice and considering personal situations is essential (6).

The Bradley method is a 12-week program that encourages women to deliver a baby without pain medications. This program educates the women on the appropriate diet and relaxation techniques to follow, labor and postpartum experiences, and the husband’s part in this process. An optional session also covers nursing and how to care for a newborn. Some benefits of the Bradley method are that it teaches useful relaxation methods and informs expectant mothers about complications that may occur in pregnancy. However, we recommend consulting your doctor or midwife before you enroll in this program.

Infographic: Bradley Method Of Childbirth And Its Advantages

Labor and childbirth can be challenging; therefore, many childbirth classes, including Bradley classes, help prepare the pregnant woman and her partner for labor and delivery. The following infographic explains some relaxation methods in Bradley’s childbirth and their benefits.

relaxation methods in bradley classes and their benefits (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • The Bradley method refers to a natural childbirth technique that emphasizes relaxation, a nutritious diet, and a partner’s involvement.
  • The method encourages mothers to remain relaxed during labor with the support and encouragement of their husband.
  • The technique is taught in a 12-week class where couples learn about exercise, healthy diets, labor planning, pain management, and postpartum care.
  • Mothers who use this method may benefit from a reduced need for medical interventions during labor and delivery.
  • However, some mothers may rely too heavily on the method and may not seek medical assistance even during an emergency.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Epidural and Spinal Anesthesia Use During Labor: 27-state Reporting Area 2008.
    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_05.pdf
  2. Obstetric Analgesia and Anesthesia.
    https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2019/03/obstetric-analgesia-and-anesthesia
  3. Corry A. Varner; (2015); Comparison of the Bradley Method and HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Classes.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744344/#:~:text=The%20Bradley%20Method%20involves%20a
  4. Breathing And Relaxation Techniques For Labor And Delivery.
    https://www.marshfieldclinic.org/specialties/obgyn/pregnancy/delivery/pregnancy-delivery-breathing-relaxation
  5. Natural Childbirth.
    https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/natural-childbirth.html
  6. Birthing Classes.
    https://familydoctor.org/birthing-classes/
  7. Bradley Birth
    https://www.bradleybirth.com/WhyBradley.aspx
  8. Comparison of the Bradley Method and HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Classes
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744344/

Know how to have natural childbirth with the Bradley Method! Discover the tools and techniques to help you have a safe and empowering birth experience.

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