The Bradley Method vs. HypnoBirthing: Two Moms Share Their Labor Experiences

the bradley method vs hypnobirthing

Should I deliver at a birthing center or in a hospital? What color should I paint the nursery? Should I eat just *one* California roll? Pregnant women make approximately 2 billion choices in the nine months before their babies arrive. And while you can certainly wing it and rely on your OB and nurse to walk you through the delivery, many women study a birthing technique to ensure they get the labor experience they want. When PureWow editors Alexia Dellner and Lindsay Champion found themselves pregnant at the same time, they immersed themselves in two different popular birthing techniques: Alexia tried the Bradley Method, while Lindsay did HypnoBirthing. How did it go? We’ll let them fill you in.

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Lindsay: Well, first off, congratulations! How old is your son now?

Alexia: Thanks, you too! He’s 7 months.

Lindsay: My daughter is 6 months. I’m so curious to hear what your experience was like, but honestly, I’m not sure I even know what the Bradley Method is. What is it exactly?

Alexia: I hadn’t even heard of it until a friend of mine gave me a book about it that her dad, who is a doctor, had given her when she was pregnant. I read the book—back in the pre-baby days when I had time to do that!—and there was a lot to like about it. There was also a lot that was a little weird and dated.

Lindsay: Wait, like what?

Alexia: The basic idea behind Bradley is that giving birth doesn’t necessarily have to be this traumatic and medicated process, which is mostly how it was when the book was originally written in 1965. Instead, Dr. Bradley proposed that birth can be intervention-free and that women could participate in the delivery of their baby. Remember, in the ’60s most women were drugged or unconscious for the birth of their babies, and their spouses were smoking cigars in another room! It’s also known as husband-coached childbirth, and although they do acknowledge that it doesn’t have to necessarily be a husband, the wording still feels a little weird. The partner or whoever you choose to have in the room with you plays a big part.

Lindsay: Hahaha, oh God, that’s right. I forgot about the husbands and their cigars.

Alexia: I liked the idea of being an active participant in the birth of my child—even if Dr. Bradley came to this method by observing animals, which, um, no. What about you? What drew you to HypnoBirthing?

Lindsay: About a year before I got pregnant, a friend of mine who was seven months along told me she was off to HypnoBirthing class after our lunch. And I was like, “What is that?” I’m a little bit crunchy in general about my approach to health and wellness, so when she told me it featured a lot of positive visualization and daily guided meditations, I was 100 percent on board—even though I wasn’t pregnant yet. I also wanted to take an in-person class, which is recommended in addition to reading the book, because it was something my husband and I could do together. He really hates meditation, so it was an excuse to force him to shut his eyes and imagine gushing waterfalls with me.

Alexia: That’s a great point, because I only read the book and I think a class would have been a different and more helpful experience.

Lindsay: Are there Bradley classes you can take?

Alexia: There are! You can check out their website and they list the different classes. Did you feel like the HypnoBirthing classes were helpful?

Lindsay: Yeah, I found them super helpful. It was also a nice way to meet a bunch of other pregnant women—at the beginning of every class we’d go around the circle talking about our feelings about the pregnancy and our fears. Kind of like a group therapy session for the most stressful time in our lives. We were all first-time parents and pretty terrified.

Alexia: Oh, that’s so nice. Do you still talk to any of them? Or know how their birth experiences went?

Lindsay: My teacher, Maeva Althaus [who, if you are in NYC, is the top HypnoBirthing instructor in the city], was also pregnant with her first baby at the same time, and it’s been really nice hearing updates from her after the class. She had a tricky labor and delivery, and it was comforting to hear that even someone who lives and breathes HypnoBirthing can still have interventions pop up. The concept behind HypnoBirthing is that you can teach yourself to relax over the entire pregnancy, so when you’re in labor, your body will open naturally because you are so relaxed, and the delivery will be much easier. Most women’s goals are to avoid being induced, getting an epidural and the “cascade of interventions”—a lot like the Bradley Method, it sounds like.

Alexia: Oh, that’s great, and another really good point. You can plan and read as much as you want, but ultimately, that baby is going to come out in its own way.

Lindsay: Yep, exactly.

Alexia: But that does sound similar to Bradley, where there’s a focus on women being healthy and happy during their pregnancy and labor. There’s even a part about how you should give the mom-to-be whatever she wants while she’s in labor, whether that’s socks because her feet are cold or a back rub. The latter I definitely asked for when I was going through it! The Bradley Method also advocates for placing the baby on Mom as soon as possible, which was something I really wanted to do.

Lindsay: HypnoBirthing advocates for skin-to-skin immediately too, and there are a bunch of breathing techniques.

Alexia: I used some breathing techniques that my doula taught me, too, and those were great.

Lindsay: I also used a doula—she taught HypnoBirthing and was very versed in it, so she helped me stay centered. Another big part of it is not to think of any of the process as painful. So contractions are called “surges” throughout the birth. And I have to say I really didn’t think the birth was painful. It was more of an ebb and flow of sensations, and something I was very able to handle without an epidural, even though I was induced.

Alexia: I found the process very painful actually, haha. But my labor didn’t end up being totally by the Bradley book either, probably because I only read the book as opposed to taking classes. But also because there were a few things about the method that didn’t totally jibe with me.

Lindsay: Like what?

Alexia: Well, even though the book is in its fifth edition, it still feels outdated. I remember reading a section about how women should wear skirts and dresses as much as possible!

Lindsay: What? Why?

Alexia: Because panties and pants cause irritation! Yeah…there’s a lot of weird stuff in there.

Lindsay: Ummm, so like, skirts with no underwear?! Who on earth wants to do that while being pregnant?

Alexia: There’s also a chapter on how to live with a pregnant wife.

Lindsay: Oh geez, yeah, that thing needs an update! The only thing that I was not really all about with HypnoBirthing was how anti-epidural they were. Even though I didn’t end up needing to get one, I got the vibe from the book that if you were practicing “correctly” you shouldn’t have to get one.

Alexia: That sounds similar to Bradley. There’s definitely a sense of “do this method and you won’t need any interventions, drugs or otherwise.”

Lindsay: I’d definitely take that with a huge grain of salt.

Alexia: For sure.

Lindsay: So do you think you’d recommend Bradley to a friend who is pregnant?

Alexia: Hmm. Great question. I’d definitely recommend finding out about the technique and taking a class so you can cherry-pick what you like about it. The idea that you can be an active participant in your labor and that your partner must give you massages is pretty great. But would I recommend it as the method? No, I don’t think so. What about you?

Lindsay: I’ve been recommending HypnoBirthing to a very specific type of friend: one who either already meditates or is very open-minded about holistic medicine. I think if the roles were reversed and my husband, who is very into western medicine and doesn’t “get” meditation or yoga or any of that, tried it for his pregnancy, haha, it would 1,000 percent not have worked.

Alexia: I would actually be interested in HypnoBirthing if I ever had another one.

Lindsay: Wait, we didn’t talk about our kids at all!

Alexia: Oh, right, those guys.

Lindsay: Is there any mention of the temperament of a Bradley baby? Like, are babies born under the Bradley method different in any way?

Alexia: No, they don’t talk about that in the book.

Lindsay: In HypnoBirthing, that’s a big thing. Like, you’re supposed to have a Zen baby. But my daughter gives off a lot of Lucy from Charlie Brown vibes. Definitely not a calm little girl.

Alexia: Ugh, speaking of which, he’s screaming, gotta go.

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