What is the Lamaze method of childbirth?
The Lamaze method, developed by the French obstetrician Ferdinand Lamaze, has been used in the United States since the late ’50s and remains one of the most commonly taught types of childbirth classes. In the early days, the focus was on using controlled breathing techniques to cope with labor. But the vision of Lamaze educators has expanded a lot since then.
According to Lamaze International, the goal of Lamaze classes is to “increase women’s confidence in their ability to give birth.” Toward that end, women learn a variety of simple coping strategies, of which breathing is only one. The classes aim to help women “learn how to respond to pain in ways that both facilitate labor and increase comfort.”
The Lamaze philosophy of birth stipulates that “birth is normal, natural, and healthy” and that “women have a right to give birth free from routine medical interventions.” But Lamaze also educates women so that when interventions are needed, or pain relief medication is desired, women are able to give true informed consent.
What should I expect in a Lamaze course?
The typical Lamaze class consists of at least 12 hours of instruction and includes no more than 12 couples. Women are advised to begin a class near the start of their seventh month of pregnancy. Here’s what the class covers:
- Normal labor and birth (using videos of real births) and the early postpartum period
- How to be active and informed participants during the birth
- Focused breathing techniques for labor
- Other relaxation techniques and natural strategies to help you work with labor pain, such as massage, walking, position changes, and hydrotherapy
- Tips to help your partner encourage and support you during labor
- The value of one-on-one professional support during labor
- How to communicate with your healthcare team so your needs are met
- Complications that could arise during labor and birth, and interventions that might be medically necessary
- Epidurals and other options for managing pain with medication
- Early interaction with your baby