In the 1940s French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze introduced an alternative to medical intervention for women who wanted a natural labor and childbirth. However, it wasn’t until 1959, when Marjorie Karmel wrote about her own personal experiences in her book, Thank You, Dr. Lamaze, that it became popular in the United States. She described the breathing and relaxation technique in her book, and suddenly it became the most common childbirth class in America.
Evolution of Lamaze
When Lamaze was first introduced to Americans, the focus was solely on breathing and relaxation. The goal for pregnant women was to get through labor and childbirth without medical intervention. However, modern Lamaze classes teach women a lot more. Lamaze has become more than a method for giving birth; it’s now a philosophy that provides a foundation and direction for women who are preparing for birth and motherhood.
What is Lamaze?
Lamaze classes are generally small, consisting of no more than 12 couples for at least 12 hours of instruction. The class covers many different aspects of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, such as:
- Teaching you how to be an active and informed participant during the birth
- Allowing labor to begin naturally, on its own
- Relaxation techniques and natural strategies to help you work through labor pain, such as walking, massage, changing positions, and hydrotherapy
- Teaching your partner how to be supportive and encouraging
- Managing pain without medical intervention
- Understanding the medical interventions that may be necessary
- Being receptive to medical intervention when it’s needed
- Increasing comfort
- Being in control during all stages of labor
Lamaze empowers women, helping them to gain confidence in their bodies and to make informed decisions about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting. Pregnancy and childbirth can be natural, safe, and healthy if you apply the education and training that can be provided by a Lamaze educator.
Is Lamaze for You?
Many pregnant women are encouraged by their healthcare providers, friends, and family to join some type of childbirth class. Lamaze is the most commonly taken childbirth class today, and for good reason. If you’re pregnant, you’re a candidate for the Lamaze technique. It’s important to decide early in the pregnancy if you want to join a Lamaze class. This way you can learn the techniques and exercises early on and practice them daily in preparation for labor and birth. It’s equally important for your partner to learn these techniques and coping skills so that both of you are prepared when labor begins. There are many resources online and in your community to help you find a Lamaze class in your area.