While many women would like to think that the only thing on their minds when they are pregnant will be their babies, many find themselves fixated on something else: labor. As soon as you discover you are pregnant, it is likely your mind will wander to the labor process and how you envision giving birth. If you have been planning this pregnancy for some time, you may have already made decisions as to the type of birthing experience you would prefer. If you haven’t made these decisions, you may find yourself on the receiving end of more advice, suggestions and horror stories than you know what to do with. You will have to take in all of the information you can and make the decision that is right for you. For many women, this starts with the big divisive question: to epidural or not to epidural? This is one of the most heated topics you will encounter throughout your pregnancy and most people who have gone through it will recommend that you make this decision either way as early as you can and be prepared to defend it for the rest of your pregnancy unless you would like to hear even more aggressive advice.

If you have made the decision that you are going to go the unmedicated route, you will have another important decision to make: will you go for Lamaze or the Bradley Method? While many mothers who choose to have a natural childbirth experience want to “go it on their own” without any real plan, most will go to some type of birth preparation class to learn coping techniques they can use throughout labor. Choosing between the two big names in labor, Lamaze and Bradley, will guide you to which classes you should take and may make a major difference in how you handle labor.

The major difference between these two approaches to labor is structure. The Lamaze technique is all about structured, rhythmic breathing exercises that are performed at the different stages of labor with the goal of distracting you from any pain you are feeling and giving your body the chance to do its important work. The Bradley Method, on the other hand, does not feature any of these breathing exercises. Instead, it focuses on relaxation and empowerment. Women who choose the Bradley Method for their labor will be encouraged to find strength in their partner and in themselves, reminding themselves throughout the experience that their bodies were made for delivery and that working with their bodies will allow for a safe, healthy, and even pleasant birth.

Deciding how you are going to bring your baby into the world is an incredibly personal choice, and its one you should make for yourself with the guidance of your physician or midwife.

Source: McKinney: A Qualitative Study of the Bradley Method of Childbirth Education. International Journal of Childbirth Education. September 2006