Do They Deliver?

By Lindsay Moran
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Six months into my first pregnancy, I'd done shamefully little research into birthing methods. I knew I needed to get on the ball when I mentioned to my husband that I'd like the option of a "birthing bar" and he presumed that meant some place he could order a drink while I was in labor.

There was a time when women didn't have choices as to how they gave birth. Now there are lots of options for those planning a vaginal delivery. My belated quest for a suitable birthing method led me down five unfamiliar roads, albeit with a shared destination -- a safer, easier childbirth.

The methods vary greatly, I found, but all are based on the assumption that labor pain is often made worse by fear. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses childbirth education classes in general, the organization says there is no research to suggest that one method is better than another or results in healthier babies.

The organization also suggests keeping your birth plan flexible in case conditions change during labor. The story on Page F5 describes what I found.

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No Pain, No Gain :

The Bradley Method

Even before I met certified Bradley Method instructor Kelly Valceanu, I was impressed by her e-mail address: breastmilkrocks@hotmail.com . That was my first tipoff there'd be no straddling fences here. Valceanu allowed me to sit in on a group class, to which she immediately announced, "Bradley is not sexy. There are no gimmicks."

As she spoke, my eyes remained riveted to a whiteboard on which the word "pain" was scrawled in large red letters. Listed below were techniques to counteract pain: vocalize, bathe, breathe. The premise of Bradley, Valceanu explained, was equipping women to cope with the pain of labor.

"Bradley never says it's not going to hurt," she said.

The Bradley Method, founded by renowned obstetrician Robert A. Bradley, began in the mid-1960s as an outlook that would encourage women to give birth naturally -- without the use of drugs, forceps, vacuum or surgery -- and with their husbands present, both somewhat radical concepts at the time. Twelve-week courses teach women to work with their bodies to build stamina, manage pain and make labor more efficient: To increase elasticity, acolytes practice squatting, a position that many Bradley teachers view as the most natural position for birthing.

Emotional preparation is also a focus. Building a woman's confidence is considered key to a successful Bradley experience, defined by Valceanu as the absence of interventions such as a fetal monitor, epidural anesthesia, intravenous drugs or Caesarean section. A healthy baby? Sure, that, too.


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