expecting
 
Education:
Is The Bradley Method For You?

Natural Childbirth
Eighty seven percent of women who take the Bradley series have completely natural births and, overall, have half the cesarean rate of the national average. Bradley instructors help expectant couples learn about and prepare for birth by teaching relaxation techniques, emphasizing the need for well trained coaches, educating prospective parents about the birth process, and stressing good communication strategies.

Relaxation
Relaxation is a key feature of Bradley classes. Students learn and practice techniques to allow relaxation physically, emotionally, and mentally during the stress of labor. Relaxation allows the laboring woman to tune into her body to achieve effective contractions shortening the length of her labor. Ten different relaxation techniques are taught because no woman can know in advance what will work best for her in labor. Jean, a mother from Berlin, Connecticut who took the Bradley course, said that for her, the difference between relaxing and tensing during contractions was the difference between night and day.

Active Participation by the Coach
Bradley classes emphasize the active participation of the coach. Rather than just observing at the birth, Bradley trained coaches help their partners throughout the labor, birth, and post-partum period. To facilitate this participation, Bradley instructors have coaches role play common labor situations. Some Bradley classes are taught by a husband and wife team. The male instructor makes the men in the class feel at ease and provides the personal perspective of an experienced labor coach and father. Frequently instructors have couples who have recently given birth return as guest speakers and, usually, the coach tells the birth story.

Depth of Material
The most frequent series evaluation comment is surprise at the amount and depth of the course content in Bradley classes. The goal of Bradley instructors is to provide enough information to allow couples to make informed, educated decisions about their child's birth and to choose what is right for them. The standard Bradley series is twelve two-hour classes (some instructors also offer an abbreviated eight-week series), and covers the following topics in depth: exercises and postures to make pregnancy and labor more comfortable, good nutrition-the foundation of a healthy pregnancy, the stages of labor, breast-feeding, possible complications and variations during the labor and birth, ways to avoid and cope with a cesarean section if necessary, and newborn care. Bradley classes throughout the country are standardized by a student workbook, supplemented by copies of recent articles, so that couples are aware of current research and trends in birth.

Communication Strategies
Bradley classes stress good communication between the pregnant woman and everyone involved in the birth including her coach, prenatal care providers, the hospital staff, and her obstetrician or midwife. The instructors recommend that the mother use a birth plan to communicate with the birth team. The birth plan should contain personal preferences that are not in the standard hospital protocol. Amy, a Bradley graduate from Bristol, Connecticut, forgot her birth plan in the car, but because she had reviewed it with her obstetrician, her physician remembered that Amy wanted to be wrapped up with the baby right after the birth and made sure that she was. Kelly, a Bradley mother from New Haven, Connecticut, who knew that she would cry no matter how she felt during the birth was able to alert her nurses through her birth plan to expect crying. Bradley instructors want each couple to have the birth of their choice and good communications help couples get their wishes met.

Resources:
Husband-Coached Childbirth, Robert A. Bradley, M.D., Bantam Books, 1996, $11.95. Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way, Susan McCutcheon, Penguin Books, 1996, $16.95. To receive a free national directory of certified Bradley instructors call 1-800-4-A-BIRTH or visit www.bradleybirth.com for more about the Bradley Method. Connecticut hospitals which offerBradley classes are the Connecticut Childbirth and Women's Center in Danbury, Danbury Hospital, and Yale-New Haven Hospital.™ "The Bradley Method and "Husband-Coached Childbirth" have been registered. Only those teachers currently affiliated with the Academy may teach The Bradley Method. 

Karen E. Wallace, M.A., A.A.H.C.C. teaches Bradley classes with her husband, Jeff Dean, in East Berlin, Connecticut. Jeff coached Karen through three great natural Bradley births resulting in Rachel (8), Ted (5), and Sarah Eleanor (2).

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