The Lamaze method of childbirth is probably one of the best-known childbirth preparation techniques, and yet the stereotypes are probably more familiar than the philosophy itself. As soon as you hear “Lamaze,” you’ll probably picture a scene that you’ve seen repeatedly in movies and TV: a pregnant woman and her partner sitting in a class, huffing and puffing as they practice breathing through labor. But what is Lamaze really about, and what does the Lamaze method entail?
The Lamaze method of childbirth was developed in France by Dr. Fernand Lamaze in 1951. As its popularity grew, it spread to the U.S. and became more widely known throughout the late 1950s. Today the Lamaze method has expanded beyond the well-known breathing techniques to include a broader philosophy that promotes a woman’s inherent ability to birth her baby and supports the six care practices that support birth.
Six Care Practices of Lamaze
- Labor should begin on its own
- A laboring woman should be free to move around during labor
- A laboring woman should have continuous support from others during labor
- There should be no routine interventions during labor and birth
- Women should not give birth on their backs
- Mothers and babies should not be separated after birth and should have unlimited opportunity for breastfeeding
A typical Lamaze class will be held at a hospital education room, a doctors’ office, or a birthing center. You will attend a series of classes with a partner, who will ideally be your partner throughout your labor. The classes will give you examples of normal labor and birth, teach you focused breathing and relaxation techniques, and help your partner understand how he or she can help you during the delivery.
The Lamaze breathing technique begins with a deep “cleansing” breath and then is followed by a variety of different kinds of exhalations – either slow breaths or short puffing breaths through which you repeat sounds such as “hee, hee, hoo.” The idea is to concentrate on your breathing to focus your mind away from the pain.
The Lamaze technique also helps you learn how to stay in control during the birth process. You will learn how to use a variety of tools to comfort yourself during labor, including massage, repositioning, muscle relaxation, and heat or cold for soothing. Lamaze does not frown upon the use of pain medication, but it helps women learn to be educated so that they can make “informed consent” or “informed refusal” of various procedures offered to them.
Sometimes the class is offered as an intensive one-day session, but it is often better to take the class broken up into several sessions over a few weeks. This way you will have the opportunity to review and reinforce information and think of more questions that may come up before or after each class. While it is best to be in a small class, it is definitely an advantage to have a class with at least a few other couples. Being exposed to other partners who are going through the same thing will give you the opportunity to share the experience and benefit from others’ questions and insights.
To learn more about the Lamaze method, you can visit their web site at www.lamaze.org, and you find certified educators who offer Lamaze classes. And as always, you can visit the Just Mommies online community to hear about other moms’ experiences with Lamaze and other techniques. Once you review all of the information, you can make an informed decision about which technique is the best for you.