- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2000

An expectant mother has many decisions to make. Among the most important: which way to go about labor and delivery. Each childbirth method has pluses and minuses that make it appealing or out of the question for each woman involved.
Grantly Dick-Read Dr. Grantly Dick-Read is considered the founder of modern natural childbirth. He theorized in the 1920s that by breaking the cycle of fear, tension and pain, women could have an easier, less-stressful delivery. Classes in this method, also called the Gamper method after the nurse who inspired him, are still available.
For more information, contact the Midwest Parentcraft Center, 627 Beaver Road., Glenview, Ill. 60025. Phone: 312/248-8100. The Read Natural Childbirth Foundation, PO Box 956, San Rafel, Calif. 94915. Phone: 415/456-3143.
Lamaze This popular method of natural childbirth, pioneered by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze, theorizes that the best weapons against pain are knowledge and relaxation techniques.
Women are conditioned to substitute useful responses to labor contractions in place of counter-productive ones (i.e., panting and focusing on an object rather than uncontrolled breathing and focusing on the pain). The father learns to coach the mother and assist her in the delivery.
"Lamaze focuses on no medications, but medical intervention as necessary, such as monitors, or episiotomies," says Northern Virginia ob-gyn Dr. Barry Rothman.
For more information, contact the Lamaze International, 2025 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Phone: 800/368-2128. Web site: www.lamaze-childbirth.com.
Bradley This approach, founded by Florida physician Robert Bradley in the 1960s, looks at pregnancy as a whole process to prepare for delivery. Women are taught to imitate their sleeping position during labor and to imitate sleep breathing, which is deep and slow.
Rather than using the short breaths of Lamaze, the Bradley method uses slow abdominal breathing. While Lamaze uses distraction to deal with pain, Bradley recommends that the woman concentrate on her body.
"Bradley teaches you to breathe," says Cathy Jungbluth, a Frederick, Md., woman who used the method with three of her four children.
The Bradley method also focuses on letting nature take its course, with no medical intervention (including labor-inducing drugs) involved.
For more information, contact the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth, PO Box 5224, Sherman Oaks, Calif. 91413. Phone: 800/423-2397. Web site: http://bradleybirth.com.
Medications Narcotics can be administered intravenously early in labor and will take the edge off pain but will not completely eradicate it, Dr. Rothman says.
Some studies estimate that nearly 90 percent of women opt for an epidural, a regional anesthetic that is administered directly to the area surrounding the spinal cord to numb the woman from the waist down. The medication can be altered, so a woman can have enough sensation to start pushing.
Side effects include a small chance of paralysis in the mother if the epidural is misplaced, a drop in blood pressure and slowing of the fetal heart rate.
Dr. Rothman says there is no proof to the theory that epidural use leads to a stalled labor and a higher rate of Caesarean sections.
He advises patients to explore all the options, and then come up with a plan that works for them. It is important to discuss your birth plan with your doctor ahead of time.
"I say, 'I'm not having the baby,' " Dr. Rothman says. "I tell them to do what works for them, and I'll be there to support them. It is important that patients have alternatives. They should go in with goals and know if they can't get there, there are other options."

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