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A Comparison of Childbirth Philosophies for Christians

by Emme Amble

Ever since God gave the command to "go forth and multiply," people have been doing just that, some with great joy and anticipation, and others perhaps with fear and trepidation, and for many, a mixture of all of these. However, we are fortunate to live in a time in history when birth is relatively safe, and there are many options available for birthing environment and birth attendants. Most women in our society can be assured that they will have a safe birth. But what about a birth that is truly joyful, and satisfying? With so many options available, trying to sift through the information, and settle on a satisfactory birth plan can be a bit overwhelming. To complicate matters, there seems to be many different philosophies behind much of the information we read about pregnancy and birth. For a Christian, understanding the underlying philosophy behind our choices can be of utmost importance.

One of the first things many couples will do after receiving word of the pregnancy, is begin to look into signing up for a childbirth preparation class. On the surface, they may all look the same, most of them teaching the traditional, "Lamaze" style breathing and relaxation methods, going over pain relief methods and interventions that are available, and what goes into the makings of a healthy pregnancy. However, the basis of the class may be different depending on the education and beliefs of the instructor. It is helpful to know what these influential philosophies are so that one can discern whether or not it is in line with the truth of scripture.

There are three main philosophies of prepared childbirth education out there, Lamaze, Dick-Read, and Bradley. Click on the method to learn more about each one.

  • Lamaze
  • Dick-Read
  • Bradley
  • Quick comparison chart

    Also, when attending any childbirth class, Christians should be aware of the New Age practices that are creeping into the pregnancy and childbirth arena, through such practices as spiritual yoga, hypnosis, and ideas which elevate women as childbearers to a kind of goddess like status--completely ignoring the Creator, and His gift of childbirth. Be on the lookout for words such as "transcendence," "altered state of consciousness," "centering," "mind power," and other New Age terms. Of course, these terms are not always bad, and it will depend on the woman to make sure she is not using these or any technique inappropriately, or in any way that may actually be appealing to dark forces.

    So, what's a Christian couple to do in the face of many choices and some auspicious philosophies? Kathy Nesper, President of Apple Tree Family Ministries, says, "The ideal is for Christian couples to find a childbirth class that incorporates biblical principles throughout, and prepares them to birth as closely to God's design as possible. That means a 'Christian class,' of course--but it also means a teacher who honors the beauty and empowerment of truly natural birth, and teaches the couple how to strive for it. When such a Christian class is not available, I recommend that the couple seek out a secular class that honors God's design for natural birth (even if it doesn't acknowledge the Designer), and then supplement their studies by reading good Christian books." (See suggestions under Resources, below)

    Certainly, the instructor's background and personal beliefs may be the biggest factor to consider. A Christian instructor will be most conscious of keeping the focus on the Lord, and His gift of childbirth. She will likely draw from several aspects of each birthing philosophy, keeping the best, and shying away from some of the questionable philosophical viewpoints. Christian childbirth classes, like many others will consist of 8-10 classes, usually starting in the second trimester, and will cover the physiological process of birth, breathing and relaxation exercises, and what kinds of pain management, including medical interventions, are available. Choices in birthing environment, as well as birth attendants, and advice on pregnancy nutrition and health will usually be covered. Christian classes will also usually include prayer and scripture study, focusing on God as the provider of all strength and peace during childbirth.

    Pain in childbirth is neither "all in our heads," nor an evil to be avoided at all costs. God does not mean for our birth experiences to be overwhelming or unbearable. God has given us bodies that are miraculously designed for birth, and minds that can learn to cope better with the sensations of pain and feelings of fear. He has promised to sustain us as we look to him for strength, as we prepare for and go through our labors!

    We are fortunate to be childbearing women today, as more and more choices for birthing are available to us. Whether we choose a hospital or a home birth, doctor or midwife, we can be assured that when we prepare for birth, trusting in the Lord to lead us, we can all achieve a wonderfully satisfying start to our baby's life.

    Suggested Reading/Resources

    The Christian Woman's Guide to Childbirth, by Debra Evans
    The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Childcare, by William and Martha Sears
    The Birth Book, by William and Martha Sears
    The Joy of Natural Childbirth: Fifth Edition of Natural Childbirth and the Christian Family, by Helen Wessel

    Apple Tree Family Ministries seeks to draw couples closer to God, to one another, and to their children, through a positive childbirth experience. It offers training and certification for Christian childbirth educators and works closely with other Christian birth professionals such as doulas and midwives. For information, contact ATFM, PO Box 2083, Artesia, CA 90702-2083, (888) 925-0149.

    copyright 2000 by Emme Amble
    Used by permission

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