There are two ways to perceive childbirth; one is to view it as something a woman must endure through pain and suffering and the other, much more pleasant perception, is to understand that it is a natural process which should be celebrated and not feared. Although it is still the norm in the U.S. for women to give birth with the aid of pain relievers flowing through an IV or an epidural, the modern concept of drug free childbirth techniques was first introduced in 1933 by a British obstetrician, Dr. Grantly Dick Read. He believed that the pain most women experience during childbirth comes from fear and a lack of education on what is happening to the mother’s body during the birthing process. Several methods of drug free childbirth have evolved from that belief and are practiced today in hospitals across the country.
Evidence of success of these techniques was provided in my interview with Dr. Lisa Christian, an ob/gyn practicing in Boise, Idaho, when she said “there is a higher risk of C-section and instrumented deliveries with the use of epidurals during childbirth”.
One of the earliest and most popular methods for a drug fee childbirth is the Lamaze technique. Dr Lamaze, a French physician, adopted the concept of prepared childbirth from the Russians in the 1950s and taught the theories of relaxation and active participation in their labor to the women in his clinic for metal worker’s in France.
The theory behind the Lamaze method is that the success of a drug free childbirth is realized by self-control, self-awareness and reduction of pain through education of the mother. During the 7th month of pregnancy the education begins and prepares the mother to actively deal with her contractions by learning special breathing exercises. This method has achieved its primary goal of delivering a healthy baby to a healthy and alert mother millions of times since the middle of the 20th century.
The Bradley Method
Much like the Lamaze technique, the Bradley Method views birth as a natural process and believes that through teaching women not to fear that process they can have a drug free and positive birthing experience. The certified instructors of the Bradley Method teach the mother how to deal with her labor by trusting her body and not fearing the birthing process.
Dr. Robert Bradley focused on drugless techniques to minimize pain, and the all important education of the mother regarding the birth process, but he also added the concept of the husband coached childbirth. The couple approach to childbirth, where the spouse is encouraged to become an active participant, stresses that relaxation achieved through relaxed abdominal breathing is the safest and most effective way to ensure a drug fee delivery.
The purpose of the waterbirth is two-fold; relaxation and reduction of pain for the mother during labor and providing an easy transition for the baby from amniotic fluid to the cold, cruel world of bright lights and chilly air. During waterbirth a tub, which is large enough to comfortably seat the laboring mother, a midwife and spouse, is filled with water heated between 95 and 100 degrees that is clean enough to drink.
The baby is monitored during labor with special waterproof equipment and despite fears that the baby can drown during delivery, Barbara Harper, RN, founder and director of Waterbirth International Resource and Referral Service, says those fears are unfounded. She goes on to explain that the baby receives oxygen during labor and delivery through the umbilical cord just as it has for the previous nine months and as soon as the delivery is complete, the baby’s head is brought to the surface of the water.
One of the newest trends in birthing alternatives, Harper says that it is the goal of Global Maternal/Child Health Association to make waterbirth available as an option for all women in all birth settings by 2015.
One of main tenets of HypnoBirth is based on the concept that the language used for labor and deliver has a physiological effect on how we think of this process. This philosophy teaches mothers a new childbirth language, such as babies are not delivered through labor, they are birthed through the birthing process.
Unlike the Lamaze method of huffing and puffing, mothers are taught how to self-hypnotize and use very slow breathing methods which coincide with the natural surges of the babies.
Dr. Christian also commented in her interview, that “HypnoBirthing is the newest trend in alternative birthing”.