What is the difference between the Bradley Method and one of the hypnosis-based birth classes, like Hypnobabies or Hypnobirthing? This is a common question I get from parents inquiring about my Bradley Method classes. All three courses promote natural childbirth (now commonly called "physiologic birth"), so how do you know which one is the right one for you?
Hypnosis methods of childbirth preparation have a number of enthusiastic advocates just as the Bradley Method does. When I was researching which childbirth education method I would certify with, I looked at all of the different certifying organizations, including the ones that use hypnosis because I was open to learning about various approaches to childbirth. I did a lot of website scrolling and scouring the curriculum before settling on the one that I felt was the best fit for me and for helping parents to be ready for the major changes of bringing a new baby into the world.
Since I have not personally taken any of the hypno classes, I have to rely on their respective websites to get their selling points. In both Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing the focus appears to be on the use of <tah-dah> hypnosis as the major tool to navigate the labor and birth process. Hypnobabies is a 6 week series and Hypnobirthing consists of 5 weeks. The Hypnobabies website states that parents learn and practice “medical-grade hypnobirthing techniques” and can listen to maintenance hypnosis tracks every day until their baby is born. The goal appears to be to “eliminate discomfort and fear” and to surround yourself only with “positive people and messages” so you can have a “beautiful, peaceful experience”.
Similarly, Hypnobirthing stresses a goal of eliminating the fear that leads to tension and pain with the goal of replacing that fear with instinctive knowledge and confidence. The website also states an advantage is the course will leave you feeling “alert, fresh, and awake with energy during your labor”. According to their site, Hypnobirthing also focuses on prenatal bonding and building connection between the partners.
I have to say some of the copy I read on the hypno websites sounded a bit too good to be true, specifically “medical grade hypnosis” and “alert, fresh and awake” during labor. Having personally given birth, supported many births and studied the nature of birth over the last two plus decades, it just doesn't make any realistic sense to me. Possibly this experience of hypnosis could be true for someone (I haven't seen everything in life - so who knows?), or maybe the words chosen are simply a result of the limitations we have to endure by having to sell childbirth prep as a product in a capitalist culture. Not really sure, but thanks for bearing with my processing that!
Having addressed my incredulity, let’s start with similarities I see between Bradley and the two major hypnosis methods:
A focus on reducing fear and interrupting the fear-tension-pain cycle which can make the labor process more difficult (this is approached in completely different ways, but none-the-less, it’s a major concept taught in all three of these birth preparation courses)
Building up a positive view of birth and the importance of the natural processes
Hypnobirthing and Bradley both focus on the importance of prenatal bonding, with baby being an active participant (not sure about Hypnobabies - they seem really focused on a “pain-free” or “comfortable” childbirth)
The importance of partners (although their partner role is approached very differently)
The desire to bring babies into the the world with conscious intention and gentleness
The goal to empower parents and to help families have better birth experiences
All of the above are important to include in prenatal classes and Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing and the Bradley Method will all address those topics.
There are definitely some major differences. Because I am most familiar with what I teach, I will focus on the Bradley Method and what I see are the advantages of its prenatal education:
All teachers of the Bradley Method have actually used the techniques taught in class for their own birth experience(s). It is a requirement to have had a natural birth (some teachers have multiple children - all natural births, and some teachers have births with intervention in addition to a physiologic birth). Some couples teach as a team (you don't want my husband doing that - he only shows up as the "pregnant mom" so I can demonstrate techniques). Bradley teachers also have at least a year personal breastfeeding experience. Having an instructor who has personal experience and has gone through labor and birth herself can inspire a lot of confidence - hence, why it’s a requirement. This is not true for the hypnosis methods - teachers may have used the method or not for their own births (I know teachers who teach who have never even given birth) and may not have experienced a natural birth - it may just be theoretical for some of them; you'd have to check in with the instructor about their own personal experience.
The Bradley Method is a comprehensive course not just focused on the birth but also on a healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding and many aspects of parenting. This means no matter what type of birth you and your baby end up needing, there are numerous other benefits to taking the course. Parents who have taken my classes plus other birth classes (including hypnosis based ones) have shared with me that Bradley is the most holistic.
Prepares the father/coach/partner on a deep and thorough level to support the mother and baby during pregnancy, labor/birth and postpartum in a practical way. Definitely aligns with DYI types and co-parents who want to be really involved. The course spells out ways they can help and advocate and not just sit on the sidelines.
Puts the parents in the power seat while also encouraging good communications with health care providers. Informed consent is covered through multiple avenues.
Setting up positive expectations for your baby’s birth and also approaching topics in a realistic, down-to-earth way.
Takes on “controversial” issues in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Discusses variations of labor so parents know they can make choices that are right for their family with confidence.
Preparation and tips for cesarean birth if this becomes the safest option for mom and baby.
Trusting the natural processes by understanding labor takes you where you need to go (you don’t need to rely on an outside source). Promotes trusting your body and instincts.
12 weeks long - and no it’s not too much. That’s the actual method of the Bradley Method - it’s not one technique but being exposed to different techniques and building skill sets which takes practice and time. Class is a safe container to focus on your pregnancy, the birth of your child, your belief systems, to gain knowledge and skill sets.
The Bradley Method has been around for decades and still has passionate advocates because it was always based on fundamental truths.
There are so many aspects I love about the Bradley Method. However, the Bradley Method does not teach hypnosis. We work on a variety of relaxation skills to prepare for and approach labor, but hypnosis isn’t one of them. Labor naturally takes you to a deep trance state so I don’t think it’s really necessary to teach hypnosis as a way to manage labor because your body and brain are going to do this for you if you are willing to go there.
However, hypnosis can be a great preparation tool for some people. Personally, I’ve enjoyed hypnosis for other purposes. Heck, I used hypnosis during a past life regression (it was both interesting and disturbing, but that’s another story). Some people find it a good way to experience relaxation. That basically is what hypnosis is - a state of deep relaxation that brings you into a deeper brain wave state (slower brain waves) and more open to suggestions. Some mamas may find it easier to start with guided and scripted relaxation or hypnosis sets.
It’s not “contraindicated” to listen to hypnosis tracks if you take a Bradley Method series. We don’t have any “rules” in our course. You do you. I’m a big believer in listening to your internal voice and exploring what you need. I do think it’s important to have practiced several different approaches to relaxation and not rely on only one because you don’t know exactly what you’ll need when you are in the throes of labor and you’ll be inside your own experience so it’s vital to know you can depend on yourself and not on someone’s recording.
I don’t believe there is any one way to prepare for labor and birth, or becoming a parent. People are attracted to different approaches. You can take more than one childbirth education series if you are attracted to different elements in preparation styles. Don't overwhelm yourself with too much, but also listen to what you think you really need and will help you be best prepared.
The Bradley Method had a large influence on my own preparation for my babies and I ultimately chose to become an affiliated Bradley teacher after looking at virtually every major program out there. Comparing it to other programs, the Bradley Method was the most down-to-earth, comprehensive and holistic - it resonated with me the most. It felt like the most responsible and helpful way to be there for new families. In the scaffolding of the program, there was lots of room for me to add my own signature and insights I’ve gleaned from years of education in the field.
I genuinely feel the Bradley Method offers the best overall value for new parents. And if you want to learn hypnosis as a tool, too - go for it. I’m a big believer in maternal self-direction - follow what calls you and trust your path of exploration. Your journey is uniquely your own.
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