I often get asked by patients what the best method is for going "natural" during childbirth. Many patients are becoming more educated and realizing that often the things we "routinely" do in the hospital may pose added risk of c/section, infection, etc. Some of things such as pitocin use, rupturing membranes artificially, frequent vaginal checks, placement of monitoring tools internally, etc. have likely lead to some of the above mentioned interventions that are not preferable. Therefore, the trend is leaning once again toward self education and reliance that your body can do this without unnecessary interference. That being said, labor is still a painful process and is a lot of work for your body, and therefore, knowing the best option to help you cope and succeed with the delivery you desire is important!
So, first off, let's talk about the Bradley method. This came about many years ago by a Dr. Bradley and I believe it is the method most women will succeed with because it is the most normal and reasonable. I would estimate that >90% of my patients who use this method or take classes for this do succeed. It encompasses the attitude that labor and delivery are normal processes and don't usually require interevention unless necessary for the life of the mother and/or baby. Notice how I used the word "usually.." This method still requires intermittant monitoring of the baby and mom (vital signs, etc) and if abnormalities are noted, intervention may still be necessary. This method focuses much on nutrition and proper eating and weight gain for the mother. I believe this is crucial to pregnancy! They encourage 80-100 gms of protein per day...which I thought was a lot, but it certainly makes sense to help maintain sugars and help with weight gain and diabetes prevention. Plus, a normal weight infant is less likely to have or cause birth trauma than a very large one:) The Bradley method also focuses on knowing the mechanisms of labor and how your body functions, so it is less mysterious and scary. They focus on natural breathing vs lamaze which is very regimented breathing that sometimes leads to hyperventilation...which is not good for the mom or the baby. I think when you understand your body as a labor machine capable of doing this, and give it the proper diet and exercise to prepare this is the method you can and will succeed at!
Hypno birthing is also a popular method and there are many great classes and instuctors in this as well. It is more mediation, breathing, and hypnosis focused, although I've only ever had one patient I've delivered that I believe was truly "hypnotized" for her delivery. I think most women can't get that deep into their meditations and when they are not they sometimes panic and have no other information to pull from. Then they give in to medications or epidural. Both of which I think are reasonable options, but do have side effects that would not otherwise be present if they you still going "natural."
Lamaze is a bit old fashioned. Although relaxation and breathing are critical components to natural, certain altered chest breathing in rhythm and focusing on this so much is probably not the best. I think it often leads to hyperventilation which alters the blood gas of the baby and mother. This is what makes you feel "tingly" and "dizzy" both common complaints we see in hyperventilating patients. This typically leads your nurse to think you need more oxygen and they put an oxygen mask on you making the problem worse! You need to slooooow down, relax and breathe into a paper bag if necessary to take in less oxygen.
So in a nutshell, those are my thoughts on those options. I do have information on classes for all of these methods at my office if you would like more information on this.
And as always, I believe the birth experience is about you. If you choose epidural or other medications don't feel bad! Labor is hard work and exhausting and not all labors are the same. It is not a race or competition to see how much better or equal you are to anyone else who has done it. There is more than one right way to have a baby. Good Luck!