The Bradley method is a natural childbirth education approach. It is based on the idea that with preparation, education, and a supportive coach, childbirth without drugs or surgery is possible for most women. This method is named for its founder, Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (1917-1998), who has been credited for getting fathers back into the delivery room.
Your hospital or community center may provide many different types of childbirth education classes for you and your partner. These classes help prepare both of you for the many decisions ahead:
The main goals of any type of childbirth education is to lessen any fears, boost your confidence, and help you make informed decisions. Many approaches teach you drug-free techniques, such as paced breathing. You can use these techniques to reduce the pain and discomfort of late-stage pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
The Bradley method involves prenatal education, relaxation techniques, and partner participation. The goal is to ensure a safe birth with reduced pain and anxiety. The Bradley method organization claims that nearly 90% of mothers trained in the method have vaginal births without pain medicine. Critics point to weaknesses of the method, which include:
Interested parents are encouraged to take "early birth" classes, followed by weekly classes beginning in the sixth month of pregnancy. The course covers:
Ask your obstetrician, primary physician, or health care provider for information on childbirth education classes in your area.
Q: What if I change my mind and want to have childbirth, with medicine or an epidural block?
A: Many women who plan for natural childbirth have these thoughts during labor. The choice to use medicines or anesthesia is always available for you, and felt to be safe. However, first try to talk about these feelings with your nurse, labor coach, partner, and midwife or doctor. Support from these people and suggestions about other methods to help you cope with the pain and discomfort can often help you continue without medicines or epidural blocks.
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.