While pregnancy and having a child are exciting, labor and birth can be a nerve-wracking time, especially if you’re trying to decide which birthing method is best for you.
If you’re thinking about childbirth without medication (sometimes called “natural” childbirth — though we feel all forms of childbirth are natural), the Bradley Method is a popular option that you may want to consider.
Let’s explore and define the Bradley Method, as well as compare it to other popular birthing options so you can make an informed choice.
The Bradley Method has its origins in Post-War America.
In 1947, Dr. Robert Bradley came up with a revolutionary idea for its time — that people didn’t need medications to give birth. But the truly shocking concept was that you should have your partner by your side while in labor.
Before this, traditionally, the men were left in the waiting room and only invited into the hospital room after the baby was born.
The Bradley Method is also known as “husband-coached natural childbirth,” a term commonly used on the company’s website.
However, it’s important to note that the Bradley Method emphasizes partnered delivery, which of course can involve a partner of any gender.
Dr. Bradley’s method was in response to the reliance on strong medications that often left people panicked, confused, and in some cases nearly unconscious.
As a result, some people weren’t able to participate in active labor, and in other cases, they couldn’t push their babies out. This led to the need for more medical interventions such as episiotomies and c-sections.
So what is the Bradley Method? In short, it’s a medication-free method that emphasizes relaxation as a form of pain reduction during labor.
But it’s also a comprehensive plan that focuses on healthy living throughout your pregnancy. This includes:
- maintaining a nutritious diet
- improving education so you understand what’s happening during this time
Specifically, it’s a 12-week course that’s meant to be a partnered experience between you and your significant other.
Your partner becomes your coach. Your coach will help to encourage the relaxation techniques learned during the course as well as serve as your advocate during labor and delivery.
Classes are kept small to encourage more one-on-one interactions between students and instructors. And each couple will receive a 130-page workbook that corresponds with the coursework and has information on the stages of pregnancy as well as labor, birth, and postpartum periods.
Throughout the 12-week class (starting in the 5th month), you can expect to learn the following:
- the benefits of this type of childbirth
- avoidance of drugs during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, unless medically necessary
- active partner participation as a coach
- breathwork and relaxation for pain management
- benefits of breastfeeding
- proper nutrition for a healthy pregnancy and baby
- to expect the unexpected during labor and delivery
First, it’s important to note that there are a variety of ways to prepare to give birth, even for those who want to prioritize unmedicated childbirth. Other popular options include HypnoBirthing and Lamaze.
The Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, and Lamaze all take different approaches to reach the same goal — a vaginal birth free from medications or medical interventions.
HypnoBirthing is a method that helps people manage the anxiety and fear that often occur while giving birth.
Through relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques, you learn to relax your body during the labor and delivery process.
The concept isn’t new, but it rose in prominence after hypnotherapist Marie Mongan wrote the 1989 book HypnoBirthing: A Celebration of Life.
HypnoBirthing teaches that when your mind and body are completely relaxed, birth happens quicker and with less pain since you’re not fighting the birthing process.
Controlled breathing (often with deep inhalation and exhalation) encourages calm. Likewise, positive thoughts and words, or guided visualization, helps relax the body.
Like the Bradley Method, you’ll need to attend classes if you’re considering HypnoBirthing. Depending on the method — Mongan Method versus Hypnobabies — you’ll need to attend either five or six classes, respectively.
While the goals of HypnoBirthing and the Bradley Method are the same regarding pain management, the Bradley Method is more comprehensive for a holistic approach to pregnancy and does touch on the reality that some births may require medical interventions.
In contrast, HypnoBirthing is solely focused on providing you with the tools you need for natural pain management during childbirth.
To that end, you’re primarily guiding yourself through the relaxation and visualization techniques. While you’re encouraged to bring a support person, it’s not required like with the Bradley Method.
Lamaze is a classic childbirth method that many people probably visualize when they think about taking childbirth classes.
In many ways, it’s very similar to the Bradley Method because it takes a comprehensive partner-focused approach to pregnancy — just with fewer classes.
During a 6-week course, you and your partner will learn about:
- your nutritional needs during pregnancy
- the benefits of breastfeeding
- fetal development
- stages during labor
- visual techniques to utilize during labor
- pushing techniques
- coping during the postpartum period
However, many experts believe Lamaze is a little more flexible about the use of medications and medical interventions, as you never know what may happen during labor and birth.
The Bradley Method is a great option if you’re not only focused on unmedicated childbirth, but also on maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Additionally, the emphasis on including a partner throughout the pregnancy — and especially during childbirth — helps to strengthen the bond between a couple.
It also helps to ensure that you don’t feel alone through what can be a stressful or anxiety-inducing time.
While the Bradley Method can be applauded for championing patient advocacy during delivery, there’s little peer-reviewed evidence to support some of the claims on the Bradley Method’s website.
Specifically, the organization claims that more than 86 percent of people who take their classes go on to have unmedicated childbirths without any medical interventions. But
Likewise, many medical experts feel that the Bradley Method’s stricter stance on avoiding medications and interventions can leave some people with unrealistic expectations that can translate to feelings of failure if either of those two scenarios is required.
The Bradley Method (and Lamaze) can be empowering for partners, but it may also potentially put a lot of pressure on them as well.
Evidence supports and shows that having an additional person present, such as a doula, improves health outcomes, lowers rates of interventions, and increases the satisfaction of both the birthing person and their partner.
The best way to begin if you want to follow the Bradley Method is to visit the company site to find classes near you.
Keep in mind that classes are meant to begin during your 5th month of pregnancy and continue through to the end of the third trimester.
You and your partner will receive a student workbook that follows along with the curriculum and serves as a point of reference.
Each of the 12 classes is focused on a specific subject that’s covered in detail.
Likewise, every week, you’ll learn a new relaxation technique that you and your partner will practice. Some classes will also include video presentations.
Remember that the Bradley Method is a comprehensive approach to childbirth. So some classes will cover pregnancy, nutrition, and even tips for caring for your new baby.
If unmedicated childbirth is an important goal for finishing your pregnancy strong, there are many options out there. And one verified method isn’t inherently better or worse than the others.
If you like the idea of involving your partner throughout pregnancy and during the birthing process, the Bradley Method is a great option worth looking into.