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Friday, March 6, 2015
In 1951, Dr. Fernand Lamaze introduced a method of childbirth in France by incorporating techniques he observed in Russia. Named after Dr. Lamaze, the method consists of childbirth education classes, relaxation and breathing techniques, and continuous emotional support of the husband and a specially trained nurse. Lamaze childbirth educators teach a series of classes for women and their partners during the last trimester of pregnancy that prepares them for labor and birth. These classes focus on the normal process of labor and birth, as well as strategies that women and their partners can use to enhance the progress of labor and to reduce pain and fear. The classes include information about complications and medical options, so that new parents can make informed decisions should they need to do so.
Women have always prepared for the birth of their babies. Until recent times, women learned about childbirth from their mothers and sisters. Birth took place at home, and family rituals and traditions ensured that women were confident in their ability to give birth. Family and/or wise women in the community provided comfort and encouragement through labor, as well as in the days and weeks after birth. Much of this family-centered or community-centered approach to childbirth has been lost as families are becoming more distant geographically and healthcare has become more hospital centered. Lamaze childbirth classes are designed to provide the knowledge, skills, and support that will help you give birth with confidence.
Lamaze classes focus on much more than just breathing. Most Lamaze teachers concentrate class time on normal labor, birth, and on the many choices that expectant parents have today regarding their childbirth experience. Pregnant women and their partners practice various positions that will facilitate the normal progress of labor and birth. Partners and other support persons learn massage techniques to ease the pain of labor and enhance relaxation. Comfort measures such as hydrotherapy, the use of heat and cold, and pressure are discussed and- when possible-practiced. Much time is spent on relaxation skills, including breathing strategies and skills that can be used throughout life in times of stress. Communication skills are practiced between the pregnant woman and her partner, and in preparation for communicating with the other members of the health care team. Class members discuss what they would like for the childbirth experience and what they can do to help make that experience happen.
Some time is spent on problems that occur during labor and birth and what the pregnant woman and her partner might need to know. Information is provided about anesthesia and medical procedures so that women can make informed choices about what is appropriate for their particular experience. Fear is reduced by learning what happens during labor and birth, and confidence is increased by learning skills which help the pregnant woman to manage the pain and stress of labor and birth. New innovations in maternity care are discussed. Most classes also spend time on breast-feeding, other aspects of the postpartum period, and making the most of shortened stays in the birthplace.
An exact number is not available but we do know that Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCEs) teach more than 150,000 Lamaze classes every year, which are attended by more than 2 million parents. This represents about one quarter of American women who give birth.
Last Reviewed: Mar 19, 2006
Thomas A deHoop, MD
Formerly Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology
Director, Medical Student Education
No longer associated
Arthur T Ollendorff, MD
Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati