Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Having a baby the Bradley way

Early in my pregnancy, it became apparent to me that simply wishing for a natural birth wasn't going to cut it.  After reading hundreds of birth stories and talking to many people about it, I came to understand that labor and delivery was like a running a marathon, if you attempted it unprepared it would seem impossible but if you trained your mind and body for it, you stood a better chance of succeeding.  Like many moms I hoped for a natural birth but assumed there was nothing I could do to prepare for it, so when I learnt there were specific methods and approaches to childbirth such as hypnobirth, Lamaze and The Bradley Method I was intrigued.

The Bradley Method appealed to me the most for several reasons. Firstly because it made sense in a logical and practical way, it involved my husband in the birth process, it didn't require too much of me and it had a high success rate. The preparation for a Bradley birth,  required that we sign up for a 12 week class which was a bit much for my already hectic schedule. I understood their reasons why it was necessary to have 12 continuous weeks of classes but I was still turned off by this and decided to looking into other methods. But after reading more on all the other methods of natural birth out there, I decided I wanted to stick to the Bradley approach. I learnt that some moms were successful at having a Bradley birth without even taking the class, they just bought the books and educated themselves. I decided that since the books weren't expensive, I had nothing to lose by reading them. I started out with the Husband Coached childbirth book by Dr Robert A Bradley

It is a revised edition of the original book he published in 1965. As you can see from the title, the main idea is to have the labor experience coached by the husband or partner.  It definitely came across as being dated and old-fashioned from the style of writing and the references in the book. I didn't real love his style of writing in long-winded anecdotes, and found it a bit irritating, annoying and off-putting that he kept saying labor shouldn't be painful at all. However despite that, I did really appreciate his point of view on natural birth and his ideas for natural pain management. He really helped me understand how the lack of preparation and education causes us to suffer more than we need to during labor.

I decided to also purchase Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. This book basically contains the same ideas but from a mother's point of view. I found her approach more realistic and easier to follow. Unlike the original book that makes repeated references to a painless birth experience, this book accepts and acknowledges that it will be painful but explains how best to keep that pain under control. This book also has pictures and illustrations which are useful aids in understanding the positions and exercises taught in the book.

We've all seen the movies of screaming women, panting in labor and our minds are conditioned to think that's normal. But the main theme I picked up from reading these books is that in order to have a successful natural birth, you should aim to avoid being that screaming, panting woman from the movies. Both books explain exactly how to achieve that.

  • Complete muscle relaxation: Contractions are the body's way of expelling the baby; the uterus tightens and releases repeatedly and this pushes the baby lower and lower. We shouldn't fight against these contractions, but should instead let them do their job. Most of us respond to pain by tensing up, frowning, closing our eyes really tightly, gritting our teeth or some other form of holding our muscles quite rigid. This actually makes the contractions feel more painful and less effective. Imagine you were trying to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube, but you left the cap on, you would keep squeezing harder and harder and put stress on the tube but not make much progress. The same principle applies with labor, if you tense up or writhe in pain you are holding back the progress and not allowing your body to do what it naturally wants to. Learning how to completely relax every single muscle in your body is the first step to natural pain control.
  • Complete mind relaxation: It sounds like a hippie mantra but it is so true; your state of mind directly affects your level of pain. This is why people stay home from work when they don't feel well. Not because their home has the magic cure for their illness but because it allows them to avoid the hectic stress of work which can actually make them feel worse and slow down the healing process.  The same applies in labor, it actually takes extreme focus and concentration to stay physically calm & relaxed while you are in pain, this will be impossible to achieve if your mind is wandering all over the place. The ideal way to handle the contractions is with your eyes closed and your mind as relaxed as possible.
  • Controlled breathing: Most of us respond to pain by changing our breathing patterns.  Either by holding our breath, panting, or gasping for air. All of these affect our ability to stay calm and relaxed and increase the chances of us hyperventilating and having a panic attack.
  • The importance of  the right position: The book explains and teaches about the best positions to be in for all the different stages of labor and delivery. We all know that when in pain sometimes it helps to sit up, or lie down or hunch over depending on the type of pain. The second book has detailed illustrations of the best positions to be in that maximize good circulation and blood flow and enable easy breathing too.
In addition to this, the books have a wealth of valuable information on  many other important factors for a successful natural birth experience. It also provides a lot of knowledge on how to be mentally and physically prepared for it, covering topics such as pre-labor exercises and the ideal diet for a pregnant woman. These books really made a big difference for me, I felt truly educated after reading them and they really boosted my confidence.  Both my husband and I agreed that we were better off after reading these books and we felt prepared to attempt a successful natural birth.  Maybe next time I'll take the class too!

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of the bradley method! One just assumes natural birth takes no thought or preparation but i can see now why it does!