Natural childbirth options
Minimizing or eliminating drugs from the childbirth process has clear benefits. It can help the mother feel more in control of her body, ease breastfeeding and enhance early bonding with both parents.
The term "natural childbirth" can mean any of these options:
- having your baby in the hospital with the help of a doctor who works with you regarding your choices about painkillers, episiotomy, fetal monitoring, birth position, etc.
- giving birth assisted by a midwife or birth assistant (doula) in a hospital, birthing center or at home.
- choosing to give birth at home, unassisted except for the baby's father, a midwife or doula
Two common methods of natural childbirth are Lamaze and Bradley. While not strictly for or against the use of medical interventions when necessary, both methods share an underlying philosophy of birth as a natural process, supported by the woman's innate ability to give birth, and by the physical and emotional comfort provided by her partner, midwife or birth assistant.
What is Lamaze?
The Lamaze childbirth method, based on the work of Dr. Fernand Lamaze of France, first gained attention in the US in the late 1950s. The Lamaze method incorporates childbirth education, breathing and relaxation techniques and emotional support of the baby's father or a specially trained nurse. Before this, childbirth usually did not involve the presence of the father.
Individual Lamaze classes are small, with no more than 12 couples. Participants receive at least 12 hours of instruction, with additional time to practice skills and have class discussion. Course leaders are Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE), or are in the process of certification.
Lamaze courses include instruction about...
- a healthy pregnancy and post-partum
- normal labor, birth and early post-partum, including breastfeeding
- helpful positioning for labor and birth
- comfort measures such as massage, hydrotherapy and use of heat and cold
- breathing strategies
- labor support for the partner and others to be present
- communication skills for the mother, partner and others
- potential labor/birth problems
- medical interventions to promote informed choices
What is the Bradley® method?
Developed by Obstetrician Robert Bradley, this method is also known as Husband-Coached Childbirth®, founded in 1970.
Bradley method courses are 12 weeks long. Each unit focuses on a specific topic, as well as ongoing discussion about nutrition, exercise, positive communication and the role of the coach. Each unit also includes demonstration and practice of a different relaxation technique. Instructors must be affiliated with the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.
Bradley method courses include instruction in...
- maintaining a healthy, low-risk pregnancy
- pain management
- nutrition, diet evaluation and suggestions for improvement
- how pregnancy affects sexual relations
- making a birth plan and discussing it with your health care team
- first stage labor rehearsal
- coaching techniques for all stages of labor and birth
- Caesarean birth (avoiding complications, post-partum care for you and your baby)
- newborn care (breastfeeding and life adjustments)
Giving birth naturally: A gift beyond words
Preparing for labor and birth
Month 7: Starting your third trimester
Allina Pregnancy Care
Source: Lamaze International; The American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth (www.bradleybirth.com)
First published: 05/09/2000
Last updated: 10/14/2007
Reviewed by: Michael Slama, MD, Allina Health Mercy Women's Health Clinic