It's All In The Method

Throughout the history of mankind, women have passed on wisdom and experience from generation to generation... the older and/or more experienced women teaching the younger and/or less experienced through story, words of encouragement, apprenticeship, and being present at birth or inviting the younger generation to view birth as it unfolds.

We have lost that woman-to-woman wisdom and candid form of education in our modern day, busy, non-communal, nucleic lives. Thus, the birth of childbirth classes. That's right, childbirth classes are a new invention, but the wisdom that independent childbirth classes transfer and convey is not.

I am often asked about the differences between the different childbirth education methods. There are 5 major methods of childbirth education, although there are many more available. I will take you through each one, the history of each, and my personal experience with each.

HypnoBIRTHING is: Self-hypnosis by 'distraction' (focusing away) for, what you can hope is, a pain-free birth. They teach the physical make-up of labor and birth, and do teach a lot on the postpartum period as well. Some find the birth affirmations as very helpful and relaxing, giving them the ability to achieve a deep state of relaxation during labor and birth. Others find the affirmations a little to 'hippie' and the wording distracting. More 'new age' than Hypnobabies. Started by Marie Mongan, a professional hypnotherapist. I have a few experiences with Hypnobirthing. I am not sure how much is a reflection of the method vs a reflection of the parent's commitment to practicing, so take it with a grain of salt but I found this method to be not as successful in it's goal as Hypnobabies. (check out their website HERE)

HypnoBABIES is: Again, using self-hypnosis techniques for, what you can hope is, a pain-free birth. Between the two hypno's, this one seems to have more success, whether it is from method teachings or parent's commitment, I am not sure. This method teaches lots of physiology of pregnancy, labor, and birth... not as much postpartum as hypnobirthing, but it is still a complete and comprehensive childbirth class that balances intuition, discipline, and mother-centeredness very well. Created based on master hypnotist Gerald Klein's teachings for introverted self-hypnosis (focusing IN rather than AWAY). Started by Kerry Tuschhoff, a previous Bradley student/teacher. Medical-grade hypnoanesthesia. (check out their website HERE)

Bradley Method is: A method started by the Dr. Robert Bradley, a contemporary of Dr. Lamaze. He created the method with the understanding that, to stay healthy and low risk, diet and exercise was necessary. The method teaches diet, exercise, A&P of pregnancy, labor and birth, the signposts of labor mapping, and relaxation techniques. These are intended to alleviate unnecessary pain, although proponents of Bradley don't have a goal of a painless birth, only a comfortable one.  The focus of the method is breaking pain/tension cycle by negating fear through education/understanding, teaching S/Os how to help a laboring woman, and positive consumerism... as well as lots of postpartum and b/f education. (check out their website HERE)

Birthing From Within is: more of a free-method - taught through the bias of whatever teacher you happen to work with. They teach mainly through dialogues and exercises, not much 'formal education'. Lots of hands on and working through fear/tension cycle. Acceptance and embracing of birth process is a central focus. Lots of creative (drawing, painting, writing) exercises designed to help you through this. They teach breath awareness, mindfulness, self-hypnosis, and visualizations while also being open to the use of drugs and epidurals. Teach active birthing (moving, yelling, accepting pain, etc...) and good nutrition. Very loose in terms of a 'method' of natural birth. They teach from the POV that the only thing a woman needs to be able to achieve the birth she wants is dedication and trust... not an actual 'relaxation method'. Some consider it New Age or hippie - but it gleans from Native American practices oftentimes. I find it a great method for women working through birth/sexual trauma. Founded by Pam England. (check out their website HERE)

Lamaze is: Different from it's inception. Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze's original design was incorporating nutrition, exercise, and psychoprophylaxis to counteract acute pain in labor and birth. Current Lamaze teachings focus less on the altered breathing patterns of the original Lamaze, and instead focus on healthy birth practices. Lamaze classes are often the 'mainstream' childbirth class taught in many hospital settings (which focus primarily on hospital policy and procedures), although it does not reflect the education that you would find if you were to take an independent (non-hospital affiliated) Lamaze class. Current independent classes teach anatomy, exercises, positions for birth, and a wide range of relaxation techniques. (check out their website HERE)

All of these courses are considered complete and comprehensive - meaning that they cover pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum, and baby care. All can be found as independent childbirth classes (meaning that they are not affiliated with a hospital).

Beyond these childbirth methods, there are many many independent childbirth classes that are not taught as a 'method'. This means that the information within the class will be greatly influenced by the individual teaching it. These include:
  • Doula-formulated childbirth classes - these will vary greatly by doula, philosophy, scope of practice their certifying organization allows, their experience, and their 'specialty' (any type of birthing situation or circumstance that they specialize in or have a great amount of experience in). These are great because of the amount of experience doulas have attending birth, unlike the average childbirth educator 'only'.
  • ICEA - a neat concept, providing educators with the education and tools necessary to design their own class. Usually covers diet, exercise, A&P, relaxation techniques, positions for labor and birth, medications, interventions, breastfeeding, and postpartum options.
  • CBI - The same as ICEA, but, additionally, they train their educators in dynamic teaching skills.
  • CAPPA - much of the same as ICEA and CBI, with an additional focus on supporting young families through their HUG Your Baby program.
  • Birthworks - from their website "each woman finds her own way through birth and labors in her own unique way. Our childbirth classes and doula services honor each woman’s wholeness and individuality and encourage integration of the mind, body, and spirit through the human values of truth, right action, peace, love, and nonviolence. "
  • And many more...
Benefits to an independent childbirth course:
  • you will not be limited in your education to what the hospital wants you to adhere to (i.e. policy and procedure)
  • you will learn a variety of coping techniques that have a focus on natural, active, and autonomous
  • you will learn about nutrition and exercise, staying healthy and low-risk for your pregnancy. Something that hospitals rarely do.
  • you will learn about parenting options and how to do them (i.e. baby wearing, cloth diapering, alternative vaccination schedules, intact penis care for the newborn male, breastfeeding, and more)
  • you have the possibility/opportunity of having your course tailored for you, individually, and your needs

A limitation of independent childbirth classes is that you need to be sure that you agree with the educators philosophies and ideals, as it often colors the course/classes. Interviewing a childbirth educator is very important when you choose to take an independent childbirth course. For more information on how to interview a childbirth educator, see here. And to see if your childbirth class is mother and baby-friendly, see here.


Rebecca said...

What a great post! I'm going to add it to my "first-time moms advice kit" to help people understand their options for childbirth ed.

Mary Tighe said...

I teach GentleBirth classes here in Ireland - hypnobirthing is a part of it, but it is only one element. And we do not guarantee pain free (who can guarantee that!), the emphasis is on fear free. Hypnobirthing is only one tool however in a toolbox for labour so we offer other options and tools to use during the labour as needed. I didn't know Marie Mongan had a religious element to it (I used HB on my first and never noticed this aspect), in what way is it?

Nicole D said...

Hi Mary, thank you for your additional information on GentleBirth.

I love the concept of an emphasis on fear free - that is delightful and what every CB educator hopes to teach.

You can take a look at her book, and one of the first chapters has the information on her religious views. I actually revisited a more recent publication of the book and didn't receive the same religious issues I remember seeing in the past... so, either my memory is wrong or they changed that part of the book. :)

Regardless, I edited the post to reflect this and THANK YOU for leading me to reassess/review that review. :)

Koala Bear Writer said...

My hubby and I read the Bradley book when we were expecting our first; friends recommended it to us, though there wasn't a course available here in Canada. We really appreciated his perspective and advice. My midwives offered the Birthing From Within course, so we did that together; it was good as well. I still have those books and will probably read them again next time I'm pregnant... :)

Brittany said...

I teach Hypnobabies and I want to clarify that our goal is not a pain-free birth either. We teach tools for easier and more comfortable birth, and *some* women will describe their births as pain-free, but we emphasize that we don't guarantee it, and I think it's important for women to not be dissapointed in themselves if they don't describe their birth as painless--I wouldn't call either of my Hypnobabies births completely pain-free, but I do call them wonderful, successful experiences!

O Bella Naturals said...

I birthed my second daughter at home using hypnobirthing - I found this method to be more accepting the state of labor for what it is, rather than focusing outwardly. I didn't take a class, instead I read the Hypnobirthing book by Marie Mongan and found it was all I needed. I didn't find my labor to be pain-free, but I accepted the pain and learned how to work with my body and process the pain as something natural, rather than something to fear. I would highly recommend this method, I loved the breathing exercises for the different stages of labor and learned that staying positive was so important. It taught me to go within myself and really listen to my body. Great post!


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