So, as someone who is training in the Bradley Method of Childbirth to become a certified childbirth educator it may not be considered exactly "kosher" for me to speak of other childbirth education programs. However, I have always believed that with everything, there is more than one path to the top of a mountain. I don't think it is for me or for anyone else to tell you what your path should be as an expectant mom. It is up to you to learn about your options and make your own informed decisions. I do believe that a good childbirth education course is absolutely integral to having a birth experience where parents can feel empowered. Our culture has set us up to fear birth. As a society, we have so many misconceptions about the labor process and even about pregnancy itself. Why wouldn't you want to be prepared for one of the biggest and most important moments of your life? You would study for the SATs, right? You would train for a marathon or take swimming lessons before jumping into the ocean. So, it only makes sense that in a culture where we do not really have the option to learn by watching others give birth, that we prepare our bodies and our minds for the birth of our children.

Whether or not you are planning an unmedicated birth is not really the issue. You can still take a class geared toward "natural childbirth" because these classes are not intended to scare you or shame you into refusing pain medication. Rather, the goal of a class series such as the "Bradley Method" is to educate you about your options during labor and provide you with the benefits and risks of any interventions chosen by either you or your doctor (but, hopefully, by YOU with your informed consent). These classes work on providing you with informational support that take the mystery and fear out of birth. If we can understand the process and surrender to the experience, we can relax. Relaxation occurs when we can let go of our fears. Relaxation is the key to birthing comfortably. When you are able to relax your mind and your body, you release tension and thus, experience less pain. The Bradley Method teaches us to do that and while I am a big proponent of this method (I used it for the birth of my own son and I am planning to teach it), I have recently been introduced to hypnobirthing as well.

As a doula, I have had the opportunity to witness two families giving birth who had studied hypnobirthing. At both births, I was fascinated by the peaceful, quiet energy of the laboring mother. Both of these moms (one was a young, first-time mother and the other was a second time mother) had very different labors, but they were equally beautiful. These moms never appeared out of control or afraid. They just paid attention to their bodies and had their babies. They felt confident, self-assured and well-supported by their caregivers, loved ones and hired support.

The curriculum of hypnobirthing is very similar to that of the Bradley Method. Both focus on teaching physical, mental and emotional relaxation. They teach natural, abdominal breathing. While some of the acutal exersizes may differ, the concepts are incredibly similar. If I had to point out one significant difference, it is that the Bradley Method is a series of 12 is a long series because there is a lot of material to cover. The Bradley series spends quite a bit of time stressing the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and that is discussed at every class. Prenatal exersize is also discussed at each class. The repetition serves a purpose as well because in general, the more a person hears something or practices it, the more engrained and natural it will become. I am still in the process of auditing a hypnobirthing series taught by a friend and fellow birth-worker, Lorie McCoy of Amazing Births and Beyond in Boca Raton. She has been doing birth work for many, many years and I am greatly enjoying the opportunity to learn from her experience. I am sure that in the next couple of weeks, I will observe more similarities and differences between these two childbirth methods. Right now, though, I feel like I can become a better teacher and a better doula by learning about additional paths that can be taken to the top of each metaphorical mountain.

Check out the following websites if you are interested in learning more about childbirth:

If you are interested in finding a good childbirth education class near you, feel free to contact me for a referral. I am not currently teaching, but love to send expectant families down a good path! Not all childbirth education classes are created equally, so it's important to find a qualified teacher who is teaching a method that feels right for you!