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Your Pregnancy After 35 - Pregnancy Encounters of the Usual Kind (part 2) - Major Childbirth Philosophies

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5. Major Childbirth Philosophies

Couples often wonder if one type of childbirth method is better than another. Any method can be the right one for a couple, but it’s best for partners to agree on the method. If the woman chooses a method that involves her partner greatly and the partner isn’t willing or able to provide that level of involvement, it could lead to disappointment and anxiety.

There are three major childbirth-preparation methods/philosophies—Lamaze, Bradley and Grantly Dick-Read. Each philosophy offers its own techniques and methods. Other childbirth methods are also taught; see the discussion below.

Lamaze is the oldest technique of childbirth preparation. Through training, it conditions a mother to replace unproductive laboring efforts with effective ones. It emphasizes relaxation and breathing during labor and delivery. Partners are an important part of Lamaze classes.

Bradley classes teach the Bradley method of relaxation and inward focus. Teachers place strong emphasis on relaxation and deep abdominal breathing to make labor more comfortable. Classes begin when pregnancy is confirmed and continue until after birth. Bradley class members have often decided they do not want to use any type of medication for labor-pain relief.

Lynne asked friends for suggestions for a pediatrician, and she and her partner, Ian, finally decided on one. They wanted to meet her before the baby was born. They weren’t prepared for the experience. Lynne had been used to reading a magazine in the relative peace and quiet of my waiting room. The pediatrician’s waiting room was very different. In one corner, a new mom was trying unsuccessfully to change a diaper. In another, two brothers fought over a book while their mom talked to another mom. Lynne and Ian were beginning to think they were in the wrong place when they were called to meet the pediatrician. They immediately felt at ease with Dr. Summers, who was busy but seemed competent and approachable. They were able to ask questions; when they left the office, they felt good about the choice they’d made. But they were sure it would take awhile to get used to the waiting room!

Grantly Dick-Read is a method that attempts to break the fear-tension-pain cycle of labor and delivery through education. These classes were the first to include fathers in the birth experience.

In addition to the three major childbirth methods described above, other methods are also practiced. Marie Mongan, a hypnotherapist, used the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read to develop hypnobirthing. She believes if you’re not afraid, pain is reduced or eliminated, so anesthetics during labor are unnecessary.

Physical therapist Cathy Daub is the founder of Birth Works Childbirth Education. The goal of Birth Works is to help women have more trust and faith in their ability to give birth and to help build self-confidence. Classes are taught once a week for 10 weeks and may be taken any time during pregnancy. Some suggest you take them before you get pregnant or during your first trimester.

Birthing from Within was developed by Pam England, a midwife. She believes birth is a rite of passage, not a medical event. Classes center on self-discovery. Pain-coping measures are intended to be integrated into daily life, not just used for labor.

ICEA, ALACE and CAPPA are three associations that share a similar philosophy. They believe in helping women trust their bodies and gain the knowledge necessary for making informed decisions about childbirth. The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) most commonly certifies hospital and physician educators. The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE) and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) usually offer independent classes. Each of these groups teaches the stages of labor and coping techniques. Class series vary in length.

6. Choosing Your Class

At around 20 weeks of pregnancy, begin looking into classes offered in your area. You may have to sign up weeks before the class begins. You should start classes by the beginning of the third trimester (about 27 weeks). Plan to finish at least a few weeks before your due date.

Childbirth classes are offered in many settings. Most hospitals that deliver babies offer prenatal classes on-site. Labor-and-delivery nurses or midwives often teach the classes.

Classes are not only for first-time pregnant women. If you have a new partner, if it has been a few years since you’ve had a baby, if you have questions or if you would like a review of labor and delivery, consider taking classes. Classes may also be offered for women without a partner, such as a woman whose partner is away, as in the military, or for a single woman.

Ask your healthcare provider to recommend classes in your area. He or she knows what is available. Friends can also be good sources, or check Childbirth Education for your area on the Internet. Some insurance companies and HMOs offer partial or full reimbursement for fees.

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