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Most of the review of the various types of birth classes (hospital classes, Lamaze, Hypnobabies, Bradley Method) are written post-birth, which makes perfect sense.  But I thought it would be kind of fun to split up my review of Bradley Method classes into two posts – one before birth and one after birth.  After all, even if the method ‘works,’ I’m sure my takeaway thoughts will be completely different post-baby!

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I thought it would be most helpful to share my thoughts in response to some FAQs that I’ve received…

 

What is Bradley Method? The Bradley Method is a 12-week course that teaches natural childbirth techniques and specifically focuses on the ‘husband-coached’ childbirth philosophy.  Just an FYI, ‘husband’ can also be interchanged for boyfriend, girlfriend, same-sex partner, mother, father, and friend. One of the women in our class was coached by her mother, for example.  Bradley Method was developed in 1947 so some of the terminology is a little old-fashioned; personally, I think the term should be updated to be inclusive.  Anyway, the classes teach nutrition, relaxation techniques, pain management techniques, and post-birth baby care (with an emphasis on breastfeeding).  The bulk of the courses is focused on learning about the stages of labor, what the mother can do to manage pain, and what the partner can do to successfully coach her through the pain. 

 

What does a typical Bradley Method labor look like?  If you’re going to the hospital or a birthing center, you’re taught to labor at home for as long as you feel comfortable doing so; the very general guideline that we were taught is to labor until your contractions are one minute long and three minutes apart, but if you show certain other emotional or physical signposts earlier, you may go in earlier.  Laboring at home is a huge part of Bradley because this greatly reduces your odds of medical interventions.  You learn a variety of active techniques to assist in calming yourself and having a healthy labor and delivery.  Some of these techniques include:  laboring in certain positions, moving around during labor, staying hydrated and fueled during labor, etc.   (Side note:  Gina from Fitnessista.com had a hospital Bradley Birth – here is her birth story: part I and part II.)

 

Why did we choose it? The Husband and I are hoping for a natural, drug-free childbirth.  If it doesn’t happen for medical reasons, that is totally okay because, of course, the safety of BabyHTP comes first.  But I recognize that in order to have a relatively intervention-free childbirth at a hospital, I need to specifically plan and prepare for one; most hospital births include a variety of interventions. Hoping for a drug-free childbirth may not be enough.  I imagine childbirth to be quite the feat and didn’t really think I could just wing it – I wanted to feel equipped and prepared.  The Bradley Method boasts a 86 – 90% ‘success’ rate of non-medicated vaginal births.  I liked the emphasis on understanding the physical and psychological changes a laboring mother goes through; I think of myself as a very practical person – if I can say, “This is hurting now because my cervix is doing X, Y, Z,” it may help me deal with the sensations.  I looked into Hypnobabies but didn’t think it was for me; I think you really need to completely buy into it for it to work and didn’t think I could go there (I’ve had friends use it with much success, though).

 

This ‘Husband-coached’ childbirth thing sounds a little weird. Shouldn’t you be in charge?  I’ve gotten this question a lot!  It’s not that the laboring mother isn’t in charge or has the ultimate say; it’s that the partner is trained to respond to her emotional and physical needs.   He is also educated in common interventions so he can intelligently discuss non-emergency interventions with the birth team.  In Bradley world, when the partner has this knowledge, he can support the mother through labor and help reduce the risk of interventions (the need for interventions can – but not always, of course – be triggered by fear and anxiety).  Delivery isn’t just about me and the baby; to me, Kristien is just as involved, especially emotionally. I know it helps him to feel like he has a clearly defined roll.

 

What were classes like?  Every Monday for 12 weeks, we attended a two-hour class with nine other couples.  Classes were held at a local birth center.  Most of the couples were delivering at the birth center; only three of us were having hospital births. Each class focused on a particular topic and were led by a Bradley Method-certified instructor (who was also a doula that has had a medicated hospital childbirth, a c-section, and a vaginal home birth – pretty neat); we held discussions, shared information, practiced laboring techniques and breathing methods, and watched movies. Not surprisingly, everyone at my Bradley class was ‘crunchy’ – alternative views about birth, vaccinations, and/or parenting – and that made discussions quite interesting.  People were pretty open and non-judgmental. I voiced a few times that we were making more ‘traditional’ choices and never felt like I was being judged or shunned for it. 

 

Did you have homework?  Yes. Couples were expected to do weekly homework, practice the techniques at home, and read a total of three books (linked to below).  I can’t say that I always did my homework… but I tried.  Another important part of my homework was following the Bradley Method nutrition plan, which emphasizes eating whole foods and a lot of protein (to make the bags of water stronger, among other things).  As a vegetarian, I struggled to eat the 75 – 100 grams of protein a day but really tried.  Good thing I like eggs.

 

Bradley Method sounds like a lot of work…. It was. Bradley Method is definitely a huge time commitment, especially compared to one-day crash courses at hospitals.  There were nights that I dreaded going to Bradley class and weeks that I skipped the homework.  However, I think it was worth the time.  It gives you a lot of time to ‘simmer’ on the concepts, get used to the philosophy, and talk it out with your partner.  It also carries you through nearly an entire trimester of you pregnancy, and it’s nice to have that support.  (FYI:  Most people ended the class at 34 – 38 weeks).

 

That also sounds pretty expensive… It was.  The course cost us $250 (roughly $20 a class), and we had to buy three books, which cost another $30 or so.  Ouch. 

 

Do you think it was worth it? Do you think it will work?  I definitely think it was worth it.  Regardless of how birth goes, we both feel so much more educated about childbirth.  For me, a large motivation for taking any birth class was simply to become more confident about labor.  I still have moments that I’m scared of labor, but more often than not, I now look forward to the experience <—a big change from how I felt at the beginning of class!  Thanks to Bradley, I think I have really realistic and flexible expectations about natural childbirth and delivering with midwives in a hospital setting.  Regarding whether it will ‘work,’ the 86 – 90% success rate makes me hopeful!  But who really knows what will happen in the next few weeks?  A lot of it depends on things that I have zero control over, but that’s how any birth is, really.

 

I’m interested in the Bradley philosophy but can’t afford the 12-week course / don’t have the time / there isn’t an instructor near me.  Thoughts?  I think the classes are helpful because it really encourages discussion between you and your spouse.  If you’re an auditory learner (like the Husband), the classroom setting may be helpful.  If you’re bad at keeping up with homework (like me), having someone else hold you accountable is helpful.  But if you can’t attend a real-life class, I think there are two really great books that you can pick up and read.  We were assigned three books, but the Husband was only responsible for reading the third – Husband-Coached Childbirth.  I don’t think he really loved it and found it was full of lots of extraneous information.  However, we both enjoyed the other two books.  If you can’t do classes, you really should pick up these two books and study them. 

 

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon

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The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger

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Although this isn’t a Bradley book, I also really liked Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and would highly recommend it!

 

A word from HTP Sponsors:

Before and during the birth of your child  its important to have the most comfortable antenatal care available to you. Although a pregnancy is exciting it can also be a stressful experience for you and loved ones. Many people opt to stay in one of a number of private hospitals in Manchester where you can be assured of a relaxed stay during your pregnancy.

 

Did you take a childbirth class?  What kind?  Did you think it was helpful practically and emotionally? What was your biggest takeaway?

{ 32 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat May 14, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Thanks for all of this insight Caitlin! I’ll admit that before I started reading your blog, I’d never heard of the Bradley Method before. I’m glad you feel you got your money’s worth. I definitely don’t look forward to the actual experience of giving birth some day in the future but it’s good to hear that something like this helped to change your mind!

    Reply
  • Crystal May 14, 2012, 2:03 pm

    This was a great review. We took Bradley classes with my first and loved them. And just keep in mind the classes might be pricey, but if you can go drug free b/c of them you save thousands in labor costs (epidural costs are insane).

    Reply
  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats May 14, 2012, 2:08 pm

    Definitely a great idea for the two of you! I can’t wait to hear the post-birth review to see how it all works out for you during labor!

    Reply
  • Kendra @ My Full-Thyme Life May 14, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Loved, loved, loved our Bradley class! For no other reason than it gave me complete confidence and peace of mind going into labor. That really helped to keep me calm throughout the entire process. I labored at home for 6 hours and it was manageable. My labor was truly a great experience and I have to give credit to the Bradley Method, the doctors and nurses, my husband, and above all… myself! ;) You are going to do great! I can’t wait to read your birth story!:)In case you are interested, here are my stories:
    http://www.myfullthymelife.blogspot.com/2012/04/my-bradley-method-experience.html
    http://www.myfullthymelife.blogspot.com/2012/03/crazy-eyes-birth-story.html

    Reply
  • Jennifer V. May 14, 2012, 2:18 pm

    I would have had my baby in the car had I waited till my contractions were 3 minutes apart!!!!

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP May 14, 2012, 2:35 pm

      Hahah oh no! Did you have a very fast labor?

      Reply
      • Jennifer V. May 14, 2012, 9:18 pm

        Very fast!!! I had the baby an hour after I arrived. No time for an epidural ( I wanted one) or an IV or anything. I went from 4cm to 10cm in about 2 minutes and had the urge to push as soon as I got to my room. The baby’s heartrate was dropping so the nurses and the resident (my doctor didn’t make it in time) were yelling at me to get the baby out FAST. 5 minutes later, he arrived!!

        Reply
    • krista May 14, 2012, 4:19 pm

      Me too, both kids!

      Reply
  • Kattrina May 14, 2012, 2:23 pm

    We signed up to take a Bradley Method course. We have our first class this week but I’m missing it because I have a work trip. I’m actually missing three classes, but am hoping it will still be ok. Work travel can be hard to avoid. I am wondering how it will go for my husband – he doesn’t speak too much English so it’ll be interesting! Hopefully my translating skills are up to par…

    I am also reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and really love it! I love how they make childbirth seem like an amazing experience but don’t exclude how painful it might be.

    Reply
  • Jackie May 14, 2012, 2:23 pm

    How receptive do you think this class is to people who aren’t planning on a natural childbirth? I have a condition that means it’s pretty likely I would need an epidural or it could actually create complications for me. I love the idea of natural though, but don’t know how it would be received.

    Also, my husband isn’t interested in playing much of a role (can’t tell if he’s just joking about that though – we’ll have to see). I kinda want to have a doula. Do you think this would still be helpful or would it be redundant?

    Sounds neat!

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP May 14, 2012, 2:37 pm

      Hmmm this is a really good question and one that I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer – never had an epidural or given birth! I would recommend asking the Bradley instructor for the class you are interested. That being said, I think you could still get a lot out of the classes, but again – I would ask the instructor.

      Reply
  • Hilary May 14, 2012, 2:27 pm

    My husband and I took a Bradley class for first birth and had a wonderful, intervention free birth! We are so happy that we took the class and are looking forward to our second natural birth in a few weeks.

    I think my biggest take-away is now with baby #2, I know even more how I need to relax and breathe and what my husband needs to do during labor. With #1 it seemed like we winged it more, and now we are ready to really put into practice what we learned. Like everything with parenting, child #1 is your experiment!

    Just wanted to point out that probably each Bradley class is different – we didn’t have required reading, although I did read the LLL book and Husband-Coached Childbirth, and I don’t think we met 12 times although we did cover the material. Also, some teachers stay very close to the curriculum and others take a more lax approach. It just depends!

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP May 14, 2012, 2:38 pm

      Good point – I’m sure classes vary a lot!

      Reply
  • Amanda K. May 14, 2012, 2:32 pm

    we took bradley classes, but then when i was in labor it ALL went out the window. i didn’t want to get out of bed, i didn’t want my husband to touch me (or talk to me…) i just wanted to lay on my side and let my body do the work. which it did, my baby boy was born healthy and drug-free.
    i’ll be interested to see if the bradley stuff helps you. i really really thought i’d do all the relaxation, positions, etc…but you just never know what you’ll be like once labor hits :)

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 14, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Very true! Funny that you didn’t want your husband to talk to me. I can imagine that I won’t want to be touched.

      Reply
  • Allison K May 14, 2012, 2:41 pm

    I didn’t take a class, as none are offered in my small Wyoming town. I had a midwife at a hospital and wanted a natural birth more than anything. But…as I went past my (accurate) due date… My midwife got nervous about the size of the baby and I ended up with an induction.
    I plan on typing my birthstory this week.

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 14, 2012, 2:44 pm

      CONGRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATS! So exciting.

      Reply
  • Amanda May 14, 2012, 2:47 pm

    I’ve been anxiously awaiting this post! I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant and childbirth classes have been high on my to do list. We debated taking Bradley classes vs. a 1 day hospital class. We’re planning for a homebirth so the hospital class would have provided a lot of information that was not directly in line with our intentions (although we do realize we can’t control the actual process). My goal for classes was to prepare myself to have the best chance for a natural labor and home birth. The down fall to the Bradley class for me was the time commitment (my husband has a very demanding job in the summer) and the cost ($350 in our area). After much discussion we’ve decided to take the Bradley class in hopes that we will be better prepared for what is ahead of us and that it will help us meet up with more like minded couples in our area. Our classes start in a couple of weeks so we’ll see how it goes!

    Reply
  • Amber K May 14, 2012, 2:55 pm

    I didn’t know much about the Bradley method until you started talking about it on your blog. I don’t know if I would use it or not if I was pregnant, but it’s interesting!

    Reply
  • Vanessa (@IsleStyleLiving) May 14, 2012, 3:05 pm

    I had a “Bradley Birth” and loved our classes!!

    I had gestational diabetes and needed to be induced. The pitocin caused labor to be more painful than if I went into labor naturally but I was still able to use all the techniques we learned in class to manage pain.

    The biggest take away for me was learning about labor positions. I preferred to stand and rock back and forth. Once contractions hit it felt good to squat.

    It was also helpful for my husband and I to learn the different stages of birth. I’m sure it helped me to get through without an epidural. My transition stage lasted 3 hours!! I don’t think I could have done it without the encouragement of my husband and being able to utilize what we learned in our classes.

    Here is my birth story: http://islestyleliving.blogspot.com/2012/02/birth-plan-versus-birth-reality-part-3.html

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 14, 2012, 3:07 pm

      omg. your transition lasted THREE HOURS?! i cannot believe that! you are superwoman!

      Reply
  • Tara May 14, 2012, 4:04 pm

    My hubby and I took hypnobirthing classes to prepare for labor after our doula recommended checking it out. We were the two biggest skeptics in our class at first, but they did a really great job of explaining that hypno-birthing isn’t some hokey method of going into a trance. Instead it’s all about learning to relax and getting to a place where distractions are minimized. I mainly focused on the relaxation. They also advise laboring at home as long as possible, which I really wanted. I’m so happy I took it, because I am convinced it is what got me through 20 hours of active back labor with no drugs. The last few hours were intense and it certainly wasn’t a pain-free birth, but I was able to use the techniques I learned to stay calm (ok, the last few hours I wasn’t totally calm, but I knew the finish line was close!!) and I didn’t have to take any drugs during the process. I will also say the best thing we did was find a doula we trusted, because she really was a great voice and advocate for us while we were in the hospital and we plan on having one when we have another child.

    Reply
  • Katy Widrick May 14, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I just ordered Hypnobabies and am pretty excited about giving it a shot. I’m also hiring a doula. The Bradley classes just weren’t a great fit for me AND they were more expensive than you paid — about $400 including materials.

    Reply
  • b May 14, 2012, 4:32 pm

    i had a “bradley baby” and LOVED our classes! it took so much of the unknown out of birth which really helped ease our fears when i was in labor. and looking back on it, i really treasure those nights with my husband. 2 hours in the car and 1/2 and hour driving time each way- 3 hours to just focus on us and our baby. our son is 18 months now and we don’t get alone time very often. not that we mind at all! :) i had a home birth and my labor was 5 hours from my first contraction until he was in our arms.

    Reply
  • Logan May 14, 2012, 5:09 pm

    My parents did Bradley for me 34 years ago and took a refresher course before my brother was born 28 years ago. My mom thought it was very helpful and she had 2 successful natural births. Best of luck to you, I love reading all your pregnancy posts as they are very informative!

    Reply
  • Adrienne May 14, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Not long till BabyHTP arrives now!!

    We don’t have the Bradley Method in Australia as far as I’m aware, but we did Hypnobirthing which sounds as though it based on the same principles. The main advantage of Hypnobirthing for us was to take the fear out of childbirth, frame the experience in a positive way (we didn’t call it ‘labour’ because that in itself suggests a long hard slog!!) and gave hubby practical and concrete ways to support me.

    We achieved a calm and mostly natural birthing experience, despite baby turning posterior and a 52 hour ‘labour’. Our birth story is here if you like reading that sort of thing: http://www.pregnantpossibilities.com/2012/birth-isaac-march-2012

    Can I share the most helpful thing we had in our birth plan? If midwives wanted to perform internal examinations to check cervical dilation, we asked them to only tell my husband how far dilated I was. I feel this was critical to keeping me calm during labour, as if they had told me I was only 1cm dilated after 24hr of 1 minute contractions 6 minutes apart, I think I would have given up there and then!!

    Wshing you all the best for a wonderful birth experience and safe arrival of your bub. There really is nothing better in the world (written as my 7 week bub is coo-ing on my lap – heart melting!)

    Reply
  • sara May 14, 2012, 6:28 pm

    Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth was, hands down, my absolute favorite book when preparing for birth! I recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether they are planning a natural birth or not!

    Reply
  • Jess May 14, 2012, 8:53 pm

    We took no classes and didn’t even visit the hospital where I was delivering. I went drug free for a while but decided the epidural was right for me once I reached about 8 cm. After the epidural my baby boy arrived fast and furious. All things considered our no plan, plan worked out pretty well.

    Reply
  • Morgan May 14, 2012, 10:31 pm

    Just interested in your opinion if you have a chance, I had a very fast labor with my first baby (1hr 54min) and almost didn’t make it to the hspital because I did not know what was happening. I of course could not get an epidural and was completely petrified of pushing, giving birth etc because the epidural was my only birth plan. Do you think the in depth knowledge of birth that Bradley provided would make you feel better and more confident in that situation? Thinking abut classes for baby #2 :-) Obviously you haven’t had the baby yet, just wondering how much they talk about feelings during pushing and pushing techniques. I felt so unprepared and I was sooooo terrified when they told me I was already 10cm (at my dr appt) and had to go to the hospital and have the baby. The longest part of my delivery was the doctor convincing me to push lol.

    Reply
  • Ashley // Our Little Apartment May 20, 2012, 9:54 pm

    YAY! I remember when you were making this decision and I’m so glad you enjoyed your classes.

    I couldn’t agree more with your review – I am SO glad we took the classes (they totally and absolutely WORKED), even though it was a lot of work. And I ate tons of cottage cheese to get the protein as a vegetarian. Ah, memories. (I had my son nearly two years ago.)

    I wholeheartedly recommend Bradley classes (ours were only $150 total – absolutely worth it! Especially if I consider how much more our hospital bill would have been if I had ended up with c-section).

    Reply
  • Britt @ BalancedBritt May 29, 2012, 4:12 pm

    This makes me so excited to start our Bradley Classes in July! :)

    Reply

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