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R & R: The Key to The Bradley Method®

What are your first thoughts when it comes to natural childbirth? So often when I show birth DVDs in my Bradley Method® classes, I probe my students with, “What do you think?” Ninety-nine percent of the time I hear, “The mom was so calm! I always thought women scream during birth.”

Natural Childbirth – What are your thoughts?

The Key to The Bradley Method®

Why do we think this? Why do our minds immediately go to excruciating pain and torture? I have one word: Hollywood. Our society today has conditioned us to believe it takes a special kind of woman to birth naturally. I disagree, but, oddly, I simultaneously agree.

While I do not think it takes a special kind of body or level of athleticism or pain tolerance to birth naturally, I do believe it takes a woman who is committed to the natural process. That alone makes her special.

Knowing what to do

Another misconception within our society is, if a woman chooses to go the natural route, her body will naturally know what to do. Sure, we are perspiring mammals with instincts, but as humans, there are things we must be taught. We are one of the only species who has no natural sense of direction, must be taught how to swim, and we also need to be taught how to give birth. Why? Personally, I believe society has not passed down natural birth as a tradition, but also our intelligence can be a hindrance.

Where does this leave a couple who is choosing the natural route? Thankfully, there are many beautiful options for natural birth classes as well as healthcare providers who are supportive of their choice. One great option is The Bradley Method®.


The key to The Bradley Method® is relaxation. It sounds simple, but it depends on other factors in the couple’s life.  We live in a microwave society and tend to want things done quickly and easily, and yes, sometimes painlessly. Finding relaxation is easier said than done.

Establishing relaxation as the key is the first step, but then that breaks us off into three separate categories, as there are three different types of relaxation: physical, mental, and emotional. All three of these combined are the perfect formula to help regulate deep abdominal breathing. Why is this important? I’ll speak straight from the Bradley student workbook:

Benefits of Abdominal Breathing for the Bradley Method®

  1. Natural/normal and uses less energy
  2. Allows uterus to move forward
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Conducive to relaxation
  5. Self-regulating
  6. Uses capacity of the lungs
  7. Avoids hyperventilation, which may be dangerous

The opposite of abdominal breathing is chest breathing. Chest breathing, potentially, leads to tension, causing unnecessary pain, causing fear, which then moves to more chest breathing, and so on. Attempting to regulate relaxation by breath could have the opposite effect vs. finding these three types of relaxation first and foremost. In return, relaxation helps regulate deep belly breaths, then allowing the above list to be accomplished more efficiently.

Finding physical relaxation is the most obvious.

It is what is physically happening in the body. Mental relaxation is what the mother is thinking about and what/who/where her mind is focused. Emotional relaxation is how she feels about what is happening about what is going through her mind. Is she happy, excited, scared, nervous, anxious, weak, strong, emotional? This could come back to the vicious cycle of her thoughts running wild, then the body is unable to relax. Therefore, learning to master all three types of relaxation is absolutely the key.

How does one do this? This is where it is different for every couple, but the answer is simple. Practice, practice, practice. I encourage couples to have those tough conversations of what is making them afraid/happy/excited/terrified of becoming new parents. This can help with emotional relaxation. Picture a place that brings, or once brought them joy and serenity. A vacation or special place perhaps. Or just a moment that made them smile. This can aid in mental relaxation. There are many more ideas and options as well.


Lie down on a favorite side. Start with the crown of the head. Release the tension between the eyebrows and feel it move down the bridge or the nose. Relax the jaw. Pull the shoulders down. Unclench fists and allow the belly to rise and fall. Stack hips and use pillows in between the knees. Uncurl the toes. Most of all, allow the windows of the eyes to close. Deep belly breaths. Then come back to the cycle. Where is the mind focused and how does the mom feel?

It all goes hand in hand, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to be said but find this key ingredient to The Bradley Method®—relaxation. Practice will help master all three kinds. After all, who couldn’t use a little R and R?                                                                                                                         -Jenna Montgomery

Jenna teaches the The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth Class