The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth is an approach to childbirth that teaches you to trust the natural process of birth by providing information about how the body works during labor and delivery and by suggesting non-medicated pain management techniques. Natural pain management includes a focus on natural breathing (as opposed to specific breathing patterns taught in Lamaze courses). The Bradley Method also provides education about common medical interventions such as electronic fetal monitoring, epidural or other pain medication, and the use of forceps and other devices so that you can make informed decisions if those options are presented to you. A key component of the Bradley Method is the concept of incorporating your partner into the birthing process, which is usually referred to as "husband-coached" childbirth.
Although the course is 12 weeks long, many instructors shorten it to 10 weeks by combining some of the materials. Either way, with a class that long, you'll need to start a class at the beginning of your sixth month of pregnancy at the latest. Depending on where you live, you may not have many instructor options, but if there are several instructors in your general area, this "how to" will help you find the best fit for you and your partner.
- Look at the list of Certified Bradley Instructors. Go to the provided website for a list of everyone located within a reasonable driving distance.
- Call each one and ask to schedule a time for a phone interview. Many Bradley Instructors have other jobs, including being stay-at-home moms, so they may not have time to address all your questions in the initial call.
- Call the instructor back at the agreed-upon time and use this as a guide for what to ask.
- Prices. You'll likely find that all of the instructors charge generally the same amount in your area, but you might as well ask about fees and anything you need to know about deposit requirements and other matters.
- Dates/Locations. Many of the instructors post class dates on their website, hyperlinked from the list of Certified Instructors. Verify class dates with them anyway since the site may not be completely updated or they may be thinking of adding another class if they get enough people. Some instructors are even willing to hold a separate course just for one couple, depending on the couples' circumstances (for example, one member of the couple has frequent business trips and can't attend the classes every week). You won't know what might be available unless you ask!
- Education. To be a Certified Bradley instructor, everyone has to go through the same training and testing, but the instructor may have other education or experience that she brings to her teaching.
- Personal experience. Ask the instructor about who attended her birth(s) and where they took place (for example, she used a doctor in a hospital or birthed at home with a midwife). Also ask how many classes she's taught and how many births she's attended as doula (more on that below).
- Use of other natural birth techniques. Some instructors follow the Bradley Method materials exactly as designed and others deviate a bit. For example, some instructors also incorporate some hypno-birthing techniques or techniques from Pam England's book, Birthing From Within.
- Opinions on hospital and doctor-attended births. If you've chosen a hospital or doctor-attended birth, or are seriously considering it, be forthright with the instructor about your plan. You may find that some are more supportive than others.
- Doula services. A "doula" is the term used for a woman who provides support to a woman and her partner either during labor ("labor doula") or after the baby is born ("post-partum doula"). All Bradley instructors have doula training but not all instructors choose to offer doula services as part of their business. If that's something of interest to you, be sure to ask whether the instructor is currently doing doula work and inquire about her fees. Just because you choose an instructor who is also a doula doesn't mean you have to hire her, but it may be nice to have the option.
- Personality. This is something you'll just sense throughout your interview. The instructor's personality may not matter to you, but if you are considering hiring her to be your doula, then making sure you choose an instructor with a compatible personality will matter more.
- Opinions on other local instructors. If the instructor doesn't have a class you can take due to location or time, ask her who she recommends in your area. You may gain some otherwise-unavailable, yet valuable insight into other local instructors.
4. Keep good notes. Good note-taking will make your final decision on an instructor much easier.
5. Choose and instructor and take the class. Enroll as soon as you decide on an instructor so you are guaranteed your spot.