Everything You Need to Know About the Lamaze Method

Lamaze is a childbirth preparation method aimed at building confidence and teaching coping mechanisms for labor. Read more about the natural technique to decide whether it’s right for you.

Lamaze is the oldest and most popular method of childbirth preparation in the United States. It began in the 1950s with Dr. Fernand Lamaze, who was inspired by the natural relaxation and emotional support strategies for childbirth he observed in Russia.

While it may not be right for everyone, proponents of the method tout that Lamaze offers many benefits to birthing parents such as reduced pain, fewer medical interventions, and even faster labor. Keep reading to learn more and decide whether Lamaze is right for you.

What Is Lamaze?

Lamaze is a method of childbirth preparation that educates pregnant people and their partners by providing current and evidence-based information. It aims to build confidence, teach childbirth coping mechanisms, and encourage birthing parents to move around during labor to reduce pain and decrease the need for medical interventions.

Lamaze is popularly known for its rhythmic breathing exercises that reduce heart rate, anxiety, and pain perception during labor. The exercises work because when breathing becomes a focus, other sensations (such as labor pain) move to the edge of your awareness. Conscious breathing is an especially useful labor tool because it keeps you and your baby well-oxygenated and it's easy to learn and use.

And best of all, breathing is the one coping strategy that can't be taken away from you—even if you're stuck in bed attached to an electronic fetal monitor and intravenous fluids.

Teachers of the Lamaze technique also stress consumer awareness, and they introduce medication as an additional labor tool by explaining its pros and cons. Former Lamaze International president Deb Woolley says, "Like the rest of life, childbirth isn't as good when it's experienced through a haze of drugs or fear."

Lamaze teachers also encourage students to discuss all medical interventions ahead of time with their providers and labor support team so they can make well-informed decisions during labor. It can be more challenging to make decisions in the throes of labor, so Lamaze focuses on education and empowerment by preparing as much as possible ahead of time.

childbirth class

Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices

According to Lamaze International, the foundations of the method are based on six research-based principles, called "The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices."

1. Let labor start on its own

Letting labor begin naturally means no inductions and allowing all components (including your body, your hormones, the placenta, etc.) to signal that they are ready for birth.

2. Keep moving during labor

Stay active during labor by changing positions, moving around, and walking. Movement helps people cope with contractions, and it also encourages your baby to move into an optimal position for delivery.

3. Use a labor support team

Receive continuous support during labor from a doula or a loved one. The idea is that a trusting, loving environment makes childbirth easier.

4. Avoid non-vital medical interventions

Lamaze International says that unnecessary interference harms the "natural process of labor and birth."

5. When delivering your baby, avoid lying on your back.

Instead, you should assume whatever position feels most comfortable, and push whenever it feels right.

6. Stay together after birth

If possible, parents and baby should remain together immediately after birth and either initiate nursing or skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact promotes bonding and breastfeeding success, among other things.

The Benefits of Lamaze

Management of pain without drug intervention gives the Lamaze method widespread appeal among parents who seek a non-medicated "natural" childbirth experience. When allowed and encouraged, someone in labor will naturally move, moan, sway, change their breathing pattern, and rock to cope with contractions, eventually finding the right rhythm for their unique needs.

This active comfort-seeking helps the baby rotate and descend, and it also prevents labor from stalling. Then, as contractions get stronger, the body releases endorphins—nature's narcotic—to ease pain.

After taking Lamaze classes, many parents also feel more confident about labor and delivery. They better understand how to navigate the maze of modern obstetrics, which helps them have a healthy birth in their desired way.

When to Take Lamaze Classes

Lamaze classes are typically offered weekly over the course of five or six weeks for a total of about 12 hours of instruction, and it's recommended that you take them toward the end of pregnancy. In some areas, you can take a full Lamaze series in a single weekend.

Though most ASPO-certified childbirth educators (ACCEs) are nurses, Lamaze teachers can have a background in teaching, social work, counseling, clinical psychology, or physical therapy. Call Lamaze International at (202)-367-1128 or visit www.lamaze.org for a referral to a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in your area.

Updated by Nicole Harris
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