Book Review: Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Author Qualifications
Susan McCutcheon is a Bradley Childbirth educator, and one of Dr. Bradley's first students in 1968. I was not able to find much other information about her, so I'm assuming she has no formal medical training. The founder of the program is Dr. Robert A. Bradley MD, who did his obstetrical training at the Mayo Foundation in Minnesota. 

Stand Out Nuggets
-The Bradley Method is also known as Husband-Coached Childbirth. The program heavily relies on a supportive partner.
-Describes several differences between Bradley and Lamaze techniques, including an emphasis on natural breathing vs. panting techniques; visualization of the body vs. distraction techniques; viewing the hospital team as pushy vs. trusting what the doctor says, even if it means accepting medications. 
-Provides questions to ask your doctor about what happens during labor so you know what to look for to have the experience you want.
-Emphasizes that preparing for birth is a long-term commitment. You must spend at least 12 weeks, if not the entire pregnancy, eating well, exercising, not taking any medication, practicing deep breathing & relaxation, and put a great effort into choosing the right birthing team.
-Provides sections with very specific relaxation, breathing & visualization exercises for the different stages of labor. 
-Teaches you how to recognize where you are in the labor process based on your emotions and how your body is feeling.
-Teaches the best body positions for the different stages of labor.

What I Think
First let me say, I have not taken the official 12 week Bradley course, I've only read this book. Educators would frown on this approach, but I found this amount of study was sufficient for me. Also, my mom is an RN and former Lamaze educator, but I did not resonate with those techniques.

I have a very bi-polar view of this book. On the one hand, I felt that the Bradley techniques resembled my yoga practice much more than Lamaze. Bradley focuses on natural, deep breathing, and emphasizes the importance of the whole body, eating healthy and exercising throughout pregnancy. I also like that the Bradley techniques have me focus on how contractions are working for my body, how exactly those organs are pumping and making progress, whereas what I understand from Lamaze, I would focus on something to distract from the pain.

I really like that the book provides very specific body positioning, relaxation, and visualization techniques. It's a great help for me and for my husband. I've book-marked specific exercises and plan on bringing this book to the hospital for my husband to reference if he needs help remembering what to do on that emotional day.

What I strongly dislike about this book is how judgmental and fear-mongering it is. Throughout the book, for example, the author insists that episiotomies are routine and that you'll have to fight the doctor to avoid it. Not true! This information is outdated and it totally freaked me out! I asked my doctor about this and about how often they use forceps and vacuums. She said an episiotomy is very rare, they never use forceps and she can't remember the last time they used a vacuum. This book made these methods and other interventions seem commonplace. So check with your doctor if you have concerns about anything you read in this book - it was last published in 1994 which is a long time ago in medical history.
The book is just very one-sided. If you accept interventions, you are "giving in" and while it does say that you should have a good relationship with your birthing team, the book also implies that you should expect to have to fight everyone. I don't want to fight when I'm in labor! I wrote a birth plan and informed my husband of what type of experience I want so he can be my voice if I cannot, but I really don't want him to fight either! I don't think this is a healthy mentality and I truly believe that most people in this field of work just want you to have a good experience, even if they don't often see women follow through with their natural birth plans.

The Takeaway
Even though Bradley is less accepting of a flexible birth plan (it's very judgmental about any kind of intervention and medication), I feel like this type of strong conviction might be just what I need to overcome my self-doubt. Of course, I will do what ever is medically necessary. But if I go in with a strong will to deliver naturally, I feel like I'll have a better chance of succeeding than to be completely open to accepting interventions. 
I do not judge other women and I don't think this approach is right for everyone. The book itself can be scary, and can even make you feel bad about yourself. But if you are an earth-mama yoga-type that feels deeply connected to your body and emotions, this might be a good program for you if you can ignore the judgement and pushiness. Overall, I did find this book very educational and it did make me think a great deal about what type of labor I want. But even though I consider myself a type of person that's able to detect an author's bias or false information, I still felt fearful about some things because of this book before I spoke with my doctor.  

Have you read this book? Did you find it helpful to you, before and after your birth experience? Did it freak you out, too?! Please comment! I am so curious to know about others experiences. I had great feedback on my post discussing Natural Childbirth vs. Epidurals on how I weighed the pros and cons of each experience, so thank you!!
Be sure to check out my other parenting & pregnancy Book Reviews on the blog! So much has changed this week, I'm looking forward to updating you all in my next pregnancy update on Monday!! Almost 37 weeks now and the Hospital Bags are packed! Thanks for reading! :) 

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