Bradley® Birth-the new natural
by Chantel Serak
The kind of pregnancy, labour, and birth our children experience has a profound and lifelong effect on their mental, emotional, and physical health. It also profoundly affects the mother and even other family members. Most women spend nine months of pregnancy making every choice based on the well-being of the baby, but then during labour and birth, many consent to routine procedures uninformed and with the attitude that they will do whatever their birth team tells them. Often this experience is good and the outcome is a happy and healthy mom and baby. But just as often, the experience is one that is challenging or disappointing, despite the outcome of a healthy mom and baby. Many couples might choose to have a natural birth if only they were aware of the choices they have in pregnancy and birth.
What is the Bradley Method? It was started by Robert Bradley in the 1960s, teaches natural childbirth, and views birth as a natural process. Our instructors believe that having a baby is a normal physiological event that women’s bodies were exquisitely designed to perform naturally and without routine intervention. The Bradley Method encourages mothers to trust their bodies using natural breathing, relaxation, nutrition, exercise, and education. It is a simple method of increasing self-awareness, teaching a woman how to deal with the stress of labour by tuning in to her own body. With the necessary preparation, the vast majority of women can experience the health benefits and personal satisfaction of natural childbirth. More than 86 percent of Bradley couples give birth without pain medications, which studies have shown leads to increased rates of breastfeeding, better infant/maternal bonding, and a strong sense from the mother of “being present” and experiencing the birth.
What are the differences between Bradley classes and other childbirth classes? This method is unique in many ways. We attract families who are willing to take the responsibility needed for preparation and birth. Often, couples who take these classes have had challenging or disappointing birth experiences with older children and do not wish to replicate the experience. First, pregnancy couples usually want to be as educated and in control as possible. There is no other birth class that is as informative or comprehensive. Bradley instructors encourage couples to advocate for themselves and train them to become sophisticated consumers of their own obstetric services. According to Jessica G., a former student, “I am not sure anything can prepare you for birth, but Bradley prepared us for the kinds of decisions we wanted to make and helped us understand what a normal, unmedicated birth could look like.” The classes also give excellent training to the partners as they face some special challenges in labour. Birth is not a spectator sport. We emphasize the partner’s active role in helping mom be aware of things that keep her as healthy and low risk as possible during pregnancy. The partner also learns what to expect in the natural course of a birth, how to avoid unnecessary pain in labour, and how to support and be an advocate for the mother, especially in the event of complications. Partners learn a series of relaxation techniques and effective labour and birth positions. The classes provide relaxation practice and labour rehearsals. They are designed to educate and motivate partners to make them a valuable part of the birth experience. Val and Chris M. chose the Bradley Method because, “It had everything we wanted. It encourages both the mother and the father/partner to be involved with the birth of the child, which really appealed to us as a means to strengthen our marital relationship and encourage a team mentality about our parenting adventure from the very beginning. It helped me feel empowered as a woman and mother, and has helped my partner feel empowered as a husband and father.”
What does the Bradley Method teach? It teaches a natural childbirth method that works, based on information about how the human body works during labour. Couples are taught how they can work with their bodies to reduce pain and make their labours more efficient. Of over 220,000 Bradley-trained couples in North America, over 86 percent of them have had spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal births. This is a method that works! Bradley classes cover it all: nutrition, exercise, being more comfortable during pregnancy, the partner’s role, introductory information about labour and birth, advanced techniques for labour and birth, medications in birth, complications, cesarean sections, postpartum care, breastfeeding (we recommend La Leche League meetings), and caring for your new baby. Our classes cover a few topics that are rarely discussed in other classes such as choosing your birth team (doctor, midwife, doula), how to reduce the need for an episiotomy and the likelihood of a tear, how to avoid needing a cesarean, how to make the best of it if a cesarean is necessary, how your state of mind affects the baby’s development inutero, and what the partner should do if the baby is accidentally born before reaching the hospital.
What do the classes involve? The class is a 10-week series that is usually started in the 5th or 6th month of pregnancy in order to allow parents to seriously start training for labour and for their upcoming role as parents. This allows both mother and partner adequate preparation time for the birth of their child. Classes are kept to a maximum of eight couples so there is much time for practice and personal attention.
Dr. Chantel Serack, DC, AAHCC, has been a Bradley instructor since 2007 and is a chiropractor in Saskatoon. Both her children were born by natural, drug-free waterbirths. Her classes are located in Saskatoon. She can be reached at work (306) 934-1012 or home (306) 653-3983, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see the Directory of Services ad on page 31 of the 15.2 July/August
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.