Twelve weeks, 3 months, the last trimester of pregnancy. The standard series of classes in The Bradley Method® is 12 continuous weeks for many reasons. First of all it works. Our statistical analysis shows that students who attend a full 12 week class series are more likely to have an unmedicated birth. In looking at renewal information we have found that the fewer the weeks of classes the higher the rate of medication.
There are many reasons for this and perhaps the first is that there is a difference between learning information and preparing the body physically for an athletic event. No one would go out for an Olympic event with less than 3 months of training. Shortening the time of preparation for birth is like being in a rush to run a marathon and only starting to train the week before. Training to run in a race takes time and the human body takes time to prepare for birth.
Physical training: It takes time. Many women who attend our classes may not be active, and those who are may not be doing physical training to prepare them for birth. All of the physical exercises in the Student Workbook have been used by hundreds of thousands of women in preparation for birth and they feel were important for adequate preparation for birth. We encourage women to review any exercise program with their health care practitioner before starting.
Here are a few reasons why exercise can be important. Bradley Method™ teachers will include other exercises and reasons they are helpful for birth.
Squatting: Knowing how and being able to squat with ease can make a big difference in the birth process. It can open the outlet of the pelvis by 10-15% or more. Squatting is the only exercise we know that gives elasticity to the perineum making it more likely the mother will stretch without tearing and avoiding an episiotomy. Although squatting is normal for a toddler, most women gave it up by the time they were 5 years old because someone told them they could see their underpants. They haven’t squatted since. Other cultures squat as a way of life.
Kegel: The Kegel exercise can make a difference in how the baby’s head presents. If it is in good shape it encourages the baby to put its chin on its chest. This exercise also helps problems with incontinence during pregnancy and later in life. It takes 3 months of daily practice for most women to have noticeable results with the Kegel muscle.
Stamina: Birth is hard work. Labor can take a short or long time and we generally don’t know in advance which way it is going to go. Stamina can be very important for the long labor. This is why we encourage pregnant mothers to do some form of exercise that will build stamina, like walking or swimming.
All of these exercises plus others in Bradley Method™ classes were chosen to help pregnant women get in shape for the big event. All physical exercises take time to become expert in performing.
Confidence: Attitude and habits take 3 months to change. The natural process of birth is foreign to most people. It takes time to understand the process, have confidence that it works and form healthy habits to make it work. Learning takes time for most people. The first time you hear a new idea the response is generally "Oh that’s interesting." The second time you hear the same idea the response is "I think I heard that before." The third time, "I know that," and the fourth time, "Yes, that’s what I always say too." It takes time and repetition to learn and develop new habits and confidence.
Practice: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Students learn 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they see, 50% of what they read and 90 % of what they do. For this reason we incorporate labor information, practice and rehearsals right from the beginning of class one. The more a couple rehearses the better they get. Can you remember when you learned how to drive a car? The more practice you had the more confident you felt and the better you did on the driving test. The same is true for birth. Practice, practice, practice takes times.
Nutrition: The key to a healthy pregnancy and life is good nutrition every day. You are a reflection of what you ate 3 months ago. The human body does not change overnight. It takes time. Sure eating a balanced diet one day is good, but eating a well balanced diet for months is even better. The National Institutes of Health has reported that during the 1990’s there has been a 33% increase in what is often called toxemia, pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, or PIH. This is a life threatening condition where the mother can go into seizures and the baby can die. Dr. Tom Brewer tells us many of these cases are metabolic in nature resulting in metabolic toxemia of late pregnancy. In these cases nutrition is the key to prevention. Good nutrition the last trimester of pregnancy is critical to both the mother and baby’s health. Sharing nutritional information at early pregnancy classes is even better.
Relaxation: The key to labor is relaxation. The body works best when the mother is relaxed. Without relaxation the body produces epinephrine which interferes with the natural process of labor, stopping or causing dysfunctional labor. The National Institutes of Health, in a collaborative study on pain management, found that one of the most effective forms of pain management is relaxation. But since relaxation is a skill, it takes time to get good at it. This preparation is often time-intensive taking 12 weeks of sessions with practice in each session and practice at home. Learning about relaxation is not enough, because it is a skill it must be practiced over a period of time. The Bradley Method® classes offer relaxation techniques and practice every week.
Education: Dr. Bradley liked equating birth with swimming. If someone told you they would throw you into 10 feet of water at the end of nine months it could be very scary. Someone who did not know how to swim could drown or be saved by a life guard kicking and screaming along the way. If you took that time to take classes and learn how to swim it would be a different story. After getting in the water you could swim to the side and climb out. Birth is very much the same. It is so much easier if you know how. The problem of not knowing what is going on can be scary. If you were in a dark alley at midnight and someone tapped you on the shoulder you would tense up and scream. If you were at a party where you know everyone and someone tapped you on the shoulder you would turn around and say Hi. Twelve weeks of information, practice, education through lecture, discussion, videos and knowing what to expect can make a big difference.
Preparation: Getting ready for birth takes time. Dr. Bradley liked to say it is an athletic event. Birth is very much like climbing a mountain and it is wise to get in shape physically, mentally, and emotionally before making the climb. This is the birth of your baby. Commit to being the best you can be for your baby. Take the time to learn, practice and enjoy the thrill of birth. A healthy baby, healthy mother, healthy family is our goal. Twelve weeks is a small commitment for a life enriching experience.
Coaching/Doula: We have found that given the opportunity most fathers are willing and anxious to learn how to coach/doula at their baby’s birth. Much of class is directed at the coach to learn the natural process, how to make the mother comfortable and how to be an advocate for their family.
Standard of Practice: The standard of practice for Bradley Method™ teachers is 12 continuous weeks of classes. Because it works. Couples should ask for and receive the proven standard of 12 complete weekly classes. More couples are able to birth naturally with 3 months of practice than shorter classes.
Twelve weeks to learn and incorporate nutrition, relaxation, coaching, knowledge, exercise and rehearsals into birth is a small investment of time, making it more likely they will be able to birth without drugs. A healthy baby, healthy mother, healthy family and a labor that is natural is beneficial to the start or growth of a healthy family.
The standard series in The Bradley Method® is designed for small classes with lots of individual attention. The standard length of the classes is 12 weeks covering 12 units of instruction. The Bradley Method® Student Workbook is required in classes. It is 130 pages with over 75 pictures and illustrations. A Coach Card and Certificate of Congratulations is also included. Your local instructor in The Bradley Method® is an independent affiliated instructor. Some classes are video enriched.
Congratulations on being pregnant and have a Happy Birth-Day.