As you think about where you'd like to deliver your baby, you can also choose the type of labor experience you would like to have. Although the baby will push his way down the birth canal and into the world whether you're ready or not, it's better to be prepared. When you look for a childbirth class, you'll find that there are many different kinds. There are classes offered by hospitals, YWCAs, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), physician medical practices, and so on. Each offers a unique approach to pregnancy and childbirth, so look around to find one that reflects your beliefs and philosophies. The most popular include classes that teach the birth methods of the International Childbirth Education Association, Lamaze, The Bradley Method, Grantly Dick-Read, and Leboyer gentle birth.
The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
Classes sponsored by the ICEA do not emphasize any particular approach to childbirth. They offer general information about the process of labor and birth. They discuss natural childbirth, teach various methods of dealing with the pain of labor and birth, and present the options available for pain relief. All instructors are certified by the ICEA.
Lamaze is probably the most widely used method of birth in the United States. It was first introduced in France in 1951 by the French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze.
It emphasizes natural birth and offers a variety of relaxation methods to deal with pain (although an overview of anesthesia and pain relief is included for women who prefer this). Visualization, guided imagery, massage, and coaching from a partner are all part of this program. Lamaze is best known for its patterned breathing routine that teaches a woman to focus on certain breathing patterns and a concentration point (such as a mark on a nearby wall). This technique makes it possible to block pain messages to the brain. If practiced throughout the pregnancy, a woman's conditioned response to contractions becomes a relaxed method of breathing rather than muscle tension and fear. Official Lamaze classes are taught by teachers who are certified by the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO/Lamaze) and use the initials ACCE (ASPO-certified childbirth educator) after their names.
The Bradley Method emphasizes natural childbirth with the parents working as a team. Diet and exercise are practiced throughout the pregnancy to prepare the body for the rigors of birth. Bradley students are taught deep abdominal breathing and an understanding of the labor and delivery process. Rather than try to block out pain, the Bradley method encourages concentrated awareness that works through the pain. There is much emphasis on the education and training of the woman's labor and birth coach.
It was the Bradley Method that first introduced the idea of husband coaches in the delivery room. Before this method became popular, expectant dads stayed out of the way, paced the floor in the waiting room, and worried. Some men say they like it better that way, but many appreciate the fact that they can now participate in the birth of their child, support their partner, and be present the moment their baby greets the world.