In the late-1940s, Dr. Robert Bradley suggested mothers should follow "natural instinctual behavior" when giving birth. Bradley described contractions or labor pains as the "tightening of a large bag of muscles surrounding the baby." He encouraged women to work with the contractions. The Bradley method of childbirth teaches women to relax completely and breath deeply, rhythmically with each contraction. Dr. Bradley encouraged couples to focus on the love relationship as they worked together to birth their baby. The woman's partner is taught to be the "coach." Bradley viewed the physician's role as a "lifesaver" who helps only if something goes wrong.

The Bradley method, taught in a series of eight to twelve classes, asserts that the dangers of medication or anesthesia during childbirth far surpass the benefits. Students are taught the importance of a protein-rich diet and adequate calories. Pregnant women are encouraged to practice tailor sitting, squatting, pelvic rocking, and Kegel exercises every day.

Things You Can Do at Home

Kegel exercises focus on the muscles of the vagina and perineum (the area between the vagina and anus). The exercise is done in the same way you stop and start the flow of urine: Tighten the muscles of the perineum for a count of three and then slowly relax. Increase the length of time you hold the count as muscle control becomes easier. These exercises strengthen the muscles used for birth. If you can tighten these muscles, you can learn to easily relax them to help the baby come through the birth canal. Kegel exercises help women of all ages maintain good muscle tone and control in the perineum.