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Learn from the Brant Study

1961 NZ Brant childbirth study

In 2015 I found a notation referencing this important and obscure NZ study in The Trouble With Women. The study was hard to track down and am so glad I succeeded. When I read the full study, I could now tie Andrea’s 17 years informal practice-based evidence to forgotten a New Zealand formal research.

In other words, almost 60 years ago the benefit of birth skills was researched in New Zealand! Did you know this? Have you already read this research?

Why was Brant’s research not the basis for growing a skilled birthing population back then? My belief is simple. The 3 goals put forth by Grantly Dick-Reid were not the basis for Brant’s formal research.

Brant discovered broader benefits … birth satisfaction, appreciation by birth professionals, positive Apgar scores and more.

When I became involved in the childbirth conversation in the early 1970s and experienced the conundrums, I actually couldn’t make the connection from the previous childbirth generation in the US and certainly not in New Zealand as to the cause of the conundrums I noticed.

Nor could I have imagined I would one day immigrate to New Zealand or that New Zealand would lead the way with our precious Midwifery Model of Care and I would find the solutions to the conundrums in a little known New Zealand research!

After reading Brant’s study, the issues (the conundrums) obvious in the early 1970s had actually started in the 1950s, been ascerbated in the late 1970s and continue to plague the childbirth conversation today. Whether we call these conundrums:  ‘issues’ ommissions, oversights, confusion, miscalculations, misjudgments or errors is a moot point. Hindsight is 20/20.

Reading the Brant study, gave our Trust more confidence to put forward this 2-year training.  Andrea’s statistics are very compelling yet after 6 presentations she’s not found a receptive ear to The Concept that all families should become skilled to birth their baby. Brant’s study surely must inspire.

Our Trust knows how to achieve success. You and your clients will inspire one another knowing success is achievable.

This NZ midwife 2-year training is a specific pathway to heal the Past. You and your clients will lead the way to a sensible, pragmatic, realistic, inspirational shift in the conversation about childbirth for the immediate and long-term future.

New Zealand can truly lead the way with a strong partnership of highly skilled midwives working with skilled birthing mothers and skilled birth-coaching dads/others.


The history of childbirth in different countries began to become a more international conversation from the 1970s onward.

  • WHO got involved
  • More midwifery organizations formed in different countries and Internationally

The international childbirth/midwifery conversation was an aspirational aspect of our present Midwifery Partnership.

Brant’s study existed right at this period of change. There was a new philosophy about birth rising. Brant based his study on Grantly Dick-Read’s work. At the same time, Lamaze and The Bradley Method were popular in the United States where I gave birth.

1961 NZ Brant childbirth study

I want to point out important aspects of Brant’s study

Brant’s results support The Concept

From page 2

  • Notice that Brant did not evaluate ‘risk’ for those in either the treatment or control group although all those were first-time mothers.
  • No woman was taken into the study after 28 weeks.
  • Women in the treatment group were not given an option/choice of whether to participate … they were required.
  • ‘Labels such as ‘Natural Childbirth’ or ‘Dick-Read Method’ were carefully avoided, as these are a little misleading, and tend to evoke unreasonable emotional reactions in many who do not understand the terms’.   
  • ‘Patient co-operation with the scheme varied but in general, was good. Difficult patients were not excluded but given more attention’. 
  • ‘The aim was to be realistic, and not to present a picture of the ideal easy labour, which rarely eventuates’. 
  • ‘Patients were, therefore, warned that they would hear the cries of frightened women and that others in adjacent beds would moan and groan and become upset.’  This one sentence is WHY this 2-year training is so important. Why would any Society want birthing women to cry, moan and groan? Women do NOT cry, moan and groan due to ‘fear’ or lack of trust but rather a lack of skills. Because skilled and fearful, untrusting birthing women will still have a positive birth experience.

From page 3

  • … emphasis was given to explaining how she, as the chief performer, would feel and act’ and ‘ … she must maintain her self-control, be patient and be determined in carrying out the instructions she had received’. This is SO important to understand.
  • ‘Physical strengthening and stretching exercises, often reputed to improve labour performance, were omitted. Pelvic Floor contractions were taught as the most important exercise to be performed in the postnatal period’. Yeh! Finally, someone else who recognizes women should not be ‘tight’ down there as ‘birth preparation’. From 24 weeks onward, women should be opening up, creating space and internally reducing tension.
  • … patients frequently forget what they’ve been taught antenatally. They were, therefore, constantly reminded, reassured … ‘  It’s so important that women and men be praised and encouraged.

From page 4-7

  • The statistics in Brant’s study speak for itself.

From page 7

  • All who had the opportunity of observing the women in labour, were impressed by the calm cooperative attitude shown by the treatment group throughout labour, and by their reactions at, and following delivery.  This was the first benefit Andrea observed in the first year of getting her clients to become skilled.
  • .. clearly women of the treatment group had not been adversely affected by their labours — most were already looking forward to having their next baby and many were obviously elated by the experience’. Personal satisfaction absolutely is one of the primary goals of this 2-year training and one of the goals for The Concept.

From page 8

  • … those women who had long labours remained in good condition, were alert in the second stage and were able to co-operate fully.’  Yes, another important goal is simple … empowered birth no matter the circumstances.
  • This survey demonstrates that even though conditions may not be ideal, excellent results may be obtained … ‘

Brant’s voice 60 years ago highlights what Andrea has learned over the past 17 years and what Wintergreen experienced from the 1970s onward. Birth skills matter and always work!

Further reading:



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