The Bradley Method

The Bradley Method, also known as “Husband-Coached Natural Childbirth”, is a natural childbirth education method with an emphasis on relaxation tools, partner-lead birthing, natural breathing, breastfeeding and nutritional counseling.  I have personal experience with the Bradley method, as it was the method my husband and I used for the birth of our first child.  Bradley method is excellent at knitting you and your birth partner together as a team utilizing the relaxation tools, teaching women how to stay low risk through exercise and proper nutrition (obviously, some factors are out of your control), and a wonderful emphasis on breastfeeding education and support.  My husband and I found the breastfeeding support and education to be integral to the success of breastfeeding our first child. There is a flaw, however, to this method.

What happens when your team member drops the ball?
What happens when you don’t do the method “right”, and cannot relax?

So what does happen when your team drops the ball? What happens is you are suddenly unmoored from what you expected your childbirth to be like and are floating around in waves of contractions with very little knowledge about how to deal with them.  Not all husbands and birth partners are able to be a doula as well. I find this to be especially true in first-time parents because dad is going through this experience for the first time too. It’s a lot of undue pressure to put on dad.  Don’t misunderstand, some dads and birth partners make phenomenal doulas.  Husbands are uniquely suited to be amazing with their wives because they know their wife better than anyone else. Dad knows what makes mom happy and relaxed, the key is him remembering what it is in labor!  It’s for this reason that it’s a common saying among doulas that we are there for dad just as much as mom.  Dads even expect that they will be more equipped to handle and support labor than they really are.  Dads need to choose their role in the labor room, as evidenced by this study:

Key Conclusions: Fathers perceived that they were given good support when they were allowed to ask questions during labour, when they had the opportunity to interact with the midwife and their partner, and when they could choose when to be involved or to step back. Fathers want to be seen as individuals who are part of the labouring couple. If fathers are left out, they tend to feel helpless; this can result in a feeling of panic and can put their supportive role of their partner at risk.”

Midwifery 27 (2011) 67–73

Doulas are able to step in and fill this gap.  If dad is doing great and mom is supported and comfortable with her labor, a good doula knows to fade to the background and let them work together.  When dad is lost as to his role in labor, a good doula will step in, encourage and show him how to help his wife.  If dad needs or wants to step back, a doula can take over until dad gets his bearings and chooses to get involved again.  Without this extra support, mom would be left alone.  Women get pain relief to relieve their partners emotional pain as much, and sometimes more so, than their own physical discomfort.

So what happens when you don’t do the Bradley Method (or any method), “right”? You have to think on your feet.  When you are in labor, it’s not the best time to do this.  A woman doesn’t fail just because she isn’t able to lay on her left side and relax through the contractions using guided visualization.  But she will panic when that particular method doesn’t work to relax her.  There is no “right” or “wrong” way to labor.  Women sometimes feel vulnerable because they were “loud”, “emotional”, “naked”, “lost control” or whatever other term used to make us feel like we did not labor appropriately.  What works for one woman (a calm, romantic birth laying down), may not be how you labor (loud and movement-oriented).  Your “taught” birth may not be what your body and baby is telling you to do.  Be prepared in all aspects of coping with your labor, and as a doula, we can help you with suggestions.  We strive to empower you to listen within yourself for the labor you need and encourage dad in his role whatever form that takes.