The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth

Updated on January 1, 2019
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Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.


There are so many different systems for laboring moms available under a variety of names. Many of these, however, were created to help laboring mothers while in the hospital. I’ll discuss some of the various methods below, but the focus of this article is on birthing naturally without the need for drugs, fluids, or surgeries of any kind. Robert A. Bradley was a medical doctor that saw all sorts of mistreatment happening on the part of doctors and nurses towards women in labor at his hospital, most notably the fact that husbands, the one person that could console and calm a laboring mom, were not allowed in the birthing room.

He alone pioneered first the ability for fathers to be at the bedside of their laboring wives, and then a whole new method for moms to use when laboring. The Bradley method emphasizes that birth is a natural process. Mothers are encouraged to trust their bodies and focus on diet and exercise throughout their pregnancies. Most importantly, it teaches couples to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach.

In his book Husband-Coached Childbirth, first published in 1965, Dr. Bradley emphasizes measures that can be taken to help keep women healthy and low-risk in order to avoid complications that may lead to medical intervention. His methods began in hospitals, due to the fact that, as a medical doctor, Dr. Bradley did not initially trust the homebirth method of giving birth. However, his mind was changed when he saw the amazing success that so many couples had using his method. He realized that doctors and nurses were more of a distraction and in the way than they were a help during the birthing process.

Now most women that choose the Bradley Method of Childbirth, after reading his book that I also highly encourage you to get, also choose to have their babies at home in the care of a midwife, away from most medical interventions.


What Is the Bradley Method?

The Bradley Method teaches couples about the labor process, how to cope with the stress and strain the way nature intended, and how to have a natural, virtually pain and stress-free way to give birth without any interventions. There’s no inducing, membrane sweeps, IV fluids, medications, or even physical medical intervention involved. The Bradley Way teaches couples how to work through the process together as a couple, without help, emphasizing the 6 needs of a woman in labor, being deep and complete relaxation and abdominal breathing, including quiet, darkness and solitude, physical comfort, closed eyes, and the appearance of sleep.

Dr. Bradley believed that noise, movement, unnecessary light and stressors, strangers, and even the wrong temperature or texture, could keep a woman from laboring in ease the way her body was intended. He also teaches how your body and baby work together to make labor happen without much interference from the mother at all. In his book, he talks about how mammals all over the world have their babies, and how instinct will keep a baby in longer if the mother is in a stressful or dangerous situation, or how the mother’s body will stop the labor process and suck everything back in if the mother feels threatened in any way.

It really is quite interesting. He also goes into quite a lot of detail about medical intervention has made labor a horrible experience for moms, and he includes some of the terrible things he saw happen to laboring moms as a doctor. One included a mom being strapped down on her back because the nurse was frustrated that she kept having to tell the mom to turn on her back when the nurse wanted to check her, even though being on your back at 9 months pregnant is extremely painful and works against the labor process.


How Is It Different Than the Other Methods?

The Bradley Method is different than other methods because this isn’t simply for use during the labor itself. They offer classes and a thorough workbook to go along with the book that last 12 weeks, are fun and interesting, and allow both members of the couple to ask all of the questions they have. The Bradley Method is all about starting exercises and a diet that in intended to make mom and the baby as healthy as possible, but to make mom as comfortable throughout her pregnancy as she can be as well as to prepare her body for an easy labor.

Another part that is different, is that this is called Husband-Coached Childbirth for a reason. The technique relies on having a trustworthy partner (that can be a family member or friend as well) that is trained in different labor positions and comfort measures. In order to master the ability to relax completely as a pain relief tool, couples are taught several different relaxation techniques and encouraged to practice relaxation daily, so that the mother can rely on a conditioned relaxation response to her partner's voice and touch. The mom is not simply doing something by herself but is relying on her partner’s voice and touch to guide her through the process.


Other Popular Childbirth Methods

Lamaze is the most commonly known for the majority of laboring moms, but Hypnobirthing and the LeBoyer Method are also becoming more widely known and accepted. Like The Bradley Method, all of these childbirth methods are focused on providing the laboring mom relaxation, comfort, and the least amount of pain possible.


The Lamaze Method is traditionally known for teaching women to breathe and relax during pregnancy. But this method is so much more. It promotes the idea that when allowed and encouraged to, a woman will naturally move, moan, sway, change her breathing pattern, and rock to cope with contractions, eventually finding the right rhythm for her unique needs. Such active comfort-seeking helps her baby rotate and descend and helps prevent her labor from stalling. As her contractions get stronger, her body releases endorphins—nature’s narcotic—to ease her pain. In essence, when breathing becomes a focus, other sensations (such as labor pain) move to the edge of your awareness.


Compared with Lamaze and some of the other birthing methods, Hypnobirthing is more focus, meditation, and self-hypnosis. In fact, it’s specifically self-defined as a program of self-hypnosis and education through which healthy, low-risk women, as well as women who need medical assistance because of special circumstances, learn to dismiss fear-based stories, misinformation, and birthing myths; and they are helped to see birth as normal. They learn to trust that their bodies know how to bring their babies into the world in the calm and gentle way that Nature intended. This method is very appealing to those women that are terrified of giving birth due to all of the horror stories shared with them from others’ births, that want to find calm and peace amongst the crazy distractions and possible pain during the birthing process.

Leboyer Method

Started in the 70’s, a doctor named Frederick LeBoyer coined “birth without violence” with his method advocating calm and serenity during the birthing experience. Many of his ideas include “rubbing baby’s back before cutting the cord, [and] immediately bringing the baby to you to nurse and bond,” as well as water birthing. And many of these practices are normal birthing practices now.


No Medical Intervention? Isn't That Dangerous?

It’s actually the other way around. The number of women that truly need medical intervention is actually very low, but the hospitals wouldn’t want you to know that. They tell every single women that comes through their doors that they need this, or they need that, or “We know what’s best for you. Just let us do our jobs.” They treat every woman that comes in the exact same way. There are thousands of women that have their babies in hospitals today, because this is the social norm.

Did you know that it wasn’t normal to go to a hospital to give birth, it was even thought extremely dangerous to do so, 100 years ago? In the 20th Century, upper class women decided that they wanted to be different than other women, and wanted doctors to deliver their babies for them rather than midwives. Doctors started delivering in homes, but then upon the arrival of anesthesia for the possibility of a pain free childbirth, it shifted to hospitals. Unfortunately there were lots of complications, lots of infections, it didn’t have the effect that women desired.

However, instead of labor shifting back to midwives, it was the dignified thing to do to have your baby in a hospital rather than at home, and doctors started fighting for it. Since then many new interventions have been created, and women have been treated very poorly. Today, from the moment that you step foot in the hospital to have your baby, you essentially lose your right to choose. Women are all being told to be flexible with their birth plans and to allow the doctors to do their jobs. But each and every one of the medical interventions used works directly against the natural process of birth.

This is where natural childbirth comes in.


Why Natural Childbirth? Won't That Be Painful?

Honestly, when you follow Dr. Bradley’s plan, you eat the right foods during pregnancy, do the exercises that keep you comfortable and prepare you for labor, and you learn how to relax, you have not only the pregnancy you desire, but can also have a relatively comfortable labor as well. Doesn’t every mom want to have a beautiful labor story about the day that her children came into the world? And you should be the only one making decisions about your labor, in an environment that you are comfortable in, able to do what you wish and eat what you wish when you want to.

I have a couple of beautiful labor stories to tell myself. Here are some other beautiful natural childbirth stories like mine that you should read for yourself. They will seriously bring happy tears to your eyes.

  1. The Painless Natural Home Birth of BabyE by Shannon here at GrowingSlower
  2. The natural hospital birth of her second baby by Justine at The Lone Home Ranger
  3. Vaginal Hospital Birth of TRIPLETS at Birth Without Fear
  4. The chaotic home birth of her second child by Luschka at Diary of a First Child
  5. A surprise unassisted home birth by Lauren at Hobo Mama

The kind of pregnancy, labor, and birth these children experience has a profound and lifelong effect on their health, including their mental, emotional, and physical health.


Why Not Natural Childbirth?

The general idea is that you get to have your baby wherever you find most comfortable, and with every woman, that’s going to be a different place. Your body, mind, and partner are prepared for what is to come in the best way possible, so you can relax and enjoy the experience rather than dread it.

Labor doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. In fact, you don’t even have to tell anyone that you are in labor until it’s all done and over, and avoid most of the stressful complicated situations that involve friends and family members. Both homebirths that we had, I just knew that I wanted to be at home and wanted to do it basically all alone with just my husband and I. It was nice having a smiling female face though, that knew what she was doing, to let me know I was doing exactly what I was supposed to, and that I was doing great.

Unlike many women, I have a positive story to tell with both of my children. And if anything happened that did need hospital intervention, the hospital was literally less than 5 minutes down the street. They were peaceful, private and relaxing. I wouldn’t have done either of them any other way. What do you want your story to look like? What kind of story do you want to be able to tell everyone afterward, to tell your children when they grow up?

There are tons of great resources available to you, and you have a dozen different options. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Good luck and I’d be glad to help or answer questions in any way I can.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Victoria Van Ness


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      • VVanNess profile imageAUTHOR

        Victoria Van Ness 

        22 months ago from Fountain, CO

        haha I'm so glad you were able to have a natural childbirth. Instead of using the word pain for my first labor, I would have used the word pressure. I didn't have the ring of fire, or any of the normal pain, as I had a surgery scar over my cervix that had ripped open at dilation that over-rode all other feelings. And that just burned bad the entire time.

        For my second, it was super fast and once again I would have said that there was lots of pressure as my body was doing most of the work. It really doesn't have to be painful. But for a minute there as my second was passing through the birth canal at the speed of lightening, I thought I was dying. Thankfully it was honestly like 30 seconds of pain, and then no more.

      • VVanNess profile imageAUTHOR

        Victoria Van Ness 

        22 months ago from Fountain, CO

        haha I'm so glad you were able to have a natural childbirth. Instead of using the word pain for my first labor, I would have used the word pressure. I didn't have the ring of fire, or any of the normal pain, as I had a surgery scar over my cervix that had ripped open at dilation that over-rode all other feelings. And that just burned bad the entire time.

        For my second, it was super fast and once again I would have said that there was lots of pressure as my body was doing most of the work. It really doesn't have to be painful. But for a minute there as my second was passing through the birth canal at the speed of lightening, I thought I was dying. Thankfully it was honestly like 30 seconds of pain, and then no more.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        22 months ago from Central Florida

        I had my son naturally. He was brought into this world by a midwife at a birthing center. The only people in the room (which was a bedroom decorated in Victorian style. No hospital bed) were my two midwives, my husband and me. I never had an ultrasound done, wasn't prescribed prenatal vitamins (I had a healthy diet) and no drugs during labor. . Also, no episiotomy; my midwife believed in tearing naturally. Christopher was placed on my belly when he emerged and Dad cut the umbilical cord. We had to have my son looked at by a medical doctor, which we did on the way home, in order to have his birth certificate certified. That's the law in Florida. Mom, Dad and son were back at home when he was just ten hours old.

        I'm glad we went the natural childbirth route. However, anyone who says it doesn't hurt is being less than truthful.


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