All expectant couples should attend some sort of childbirth class, regardless of their plans for labor.
Most (if not all) hospitals offer at least a basic childbirth education class to help parents prepare for labor, delivery and the initial postpartum period.
But if you’re planning for a natural birth, many moms find that a basic hospital class isn’t enough.
Natural childbirth is quite an event, one that– if it’s to be an empowering experience, rather than a fearful one –should be adequately prepared for over the course of many weeks.
The following are a few of the most popular natural childbirth methods available today:
The Bradley Method of Husband Coached Natural Birth
The Bradley Method was created in the 1940s by Dr. Robert Bradley as a way to help women deliver their babies vaginally and unmedicated. It stresses the involvement of the husband/partner as an involved labor coach.
86% of the women who have been trained in the Bradley Method have had spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal births.
Bradley Method courses last 12 weeks, and the classes cover everything from pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding, to hands-on practice of first and second stage labor techniques and birth rehearsals. The method relies heavily on relaxation through breathing, posture and positioning.
“Relaxation is the Key to The Bradley Method® during labor. It is the safest and most effective way to reduce unnecessary pain and to handle any pain that you do experience. While other methods seek to control the sensations of labor (emphasizing distraction as their Primary labor control technique), The Bradley Method® encourages mothers to trust their bodies (emphasizing relaxed abdominal breathing and relaxation throughout labor).”
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique has been around for over 100 years and was created by F.M. Alexander. It’s not specific to childbirth, but is a general method used to improve mobility, posture, performance and alertness, and to release tension, stress and manage pain.
Unlike pain following an injury, pain during labor is functional and normal. Rather than using artificial drugs to eliminate the pain (which can inhibit the natural processes that make labor progress), the Alexander Technique can teach women to be psycho-physically prepared to cope with it:
“In this the Alexander Technique can be of enormous help: we can teach the woman how to cope with labour pain rather than wishing to eliminate it. Through inhibition and direction (these are both Alexander Technique teaching terms) we can stop our habitual reaction to pain. Instead of flexing, tensing and pulling our heads back and down (followed by other symptoms of panic attack) we can consciously and voluntary undo the involuntary muscle tension. We can learn to exercise conscious control over our posture and movement. This, in turn, gives us an indirect conscious way of affecting the hormonal balance”
Hypnobirthing, also known as the Mongan Method, was created by Marie Mongan. There are also many different birthing methods which use a similar form of self-hypnosis.
Hypnobirthing uses techniques such as breathing, visualization and relaxation to help women have a peaceful and calm birth. It helps women to reprogram their limiting beliefs about their bodies and to release their fears about the birthing process.
“HypnoBirthing™ techniques teach woman how to release all prior programming about birth to free herself of limiting thoughts and emotions that lead to pain-causing fear and resistant muscles. When giving birth with HypnoBirthing™, a mother is not in a trance or asleep but instead in a state of deep relaxation—awake, aware, and fully in control. In a series of five confidence-building classes, [mothers] learn what makes labor hurt; but more importantly, they learn the logic behind why labor doesn’t have to hurt and what they can do about it. Moms and their birth companions study the physical and chemical changes that occur over a period of time when fear and anxiety are allowed to accumulate. This awareness of the fight, flight, or freeze response helps them to choose calm.”
Created by Ferdinand Lamaze in the 1950s, Lamaze is also known as the psycho-prophylactic method (kind of a mouthful…). It encourages natural childbirth and is characterized by its use of rhythmic breathing, as well as relaxation, massage and movement to promote comfort during labor.
Lamaze is also known for its 6 Healthy Birth Practices, and their courses seek to educate women in an unbiased manner on many common interventions and procedures used during birth, so they can make well-educated decisions during labor. They offer online classes, as well as classroom instruction.
Healthy Birth Practice 1: Let labor begin on its own
Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
Healthy Birth Practice 3: Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
Healthy Birth Practice 4: Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
Healthy Birth Practice 5: Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push
Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep mother and baby together – It’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding