Lamaze - Breathing Techniques

The Genesis of the Lamaze Method

About 60 years ago, a French obstetrician by the name of Ferdinand Lamaze developed a method of pain control based upon the training principles used by Pavlov (the same man who established classical behavioral training with dogs in the 1920s). By using these principles, Lamaze created a technique that helps women change a negative concept of the birthing process to a positive using learned responses and coping skills. During the training of Lamaze breathing techniques, women and their partners are also taught relaxation techniques and patterns of breathing to ease discomfort during labor and delivery.

Lamaze Classes - Learning about Pregnancy and the Fetus

Lamaze classes teach the participant and her partner about the anatomical, physiological, and emotional changes that go along with pregnancy, especially as they relate to the third trimester. Coping skills, understanding what is normal in terms of discomfort in pregnancy, nutritional needs and the benefits of nursing are all covered in the first class. Relaxation techniques are taught as well as using positive affirmations. In the second Lamaze class, the participants learn about the fetus, how the baby is developing and growing, how to count fetal movement and recognizing the sleep patterns of the baby - which will be the same once the baby is born. Lamaze videos or Lamaze DVDs are used at this point to show birthing to the students. Further training is given in relaxation and developing the technique of mentally going to a place of comfort and relaxation. This particular technique is used frequently in other situations outside of pregnancy to help people calm down and reduce stress.

Studying Labor Pain and Learning How to Work with It

The third Lamaze class addresses pain, the perception of it and the understanding women have about labor that they've developed through things they've heard or believed. To diffuse the fears and misunderstandings, teaching the physics of birth is part of the class. It helps to take the mystery away, and once a woman understands what is going on and that she can adapt her behavior to positively affect the process, she is better able to enjoy the experience rather than fear it. In this class, the famous Lamaze breathing techniques are taught. The woman learns to focus and breathe, and her partner works together with her to help her stay focused and breathe. By the fourth Lamaze class, active labor is explored and explained and the woman and her partner learn how to go through early labor and through to the point where the baby's head crowns. Touch relaxation is taught as a way to deal with labor pain. Focus is put on muscle groups by the partner touching that group of muscles, the woman focuses on them and on relaxing them. Pushing techniques are taught in the fifth class - this is where the woman is taught how to work with the urge to push in order to birth her baby. Coping skills for postpartum are also taught at this time. The use of Lamaze baby toys is part of the process in these classes. The Lamaze toys allow a woman and her partner to have a visual concept of the progression of the baby's exit and postpartum process. The final Lamaze class reviews everything the participants have learned and they go through a dress rehearsal, using the Lamaze baby toys to seal in the teaching.

The Bradley Method of Childbirth

Just as Lamaze dispels the myths and fears of childbirth and empowers a woman to give birth without unnecessary stress, the Bradley Method of childbirth embraces the concept that childbirth is a natural process and, with proper training and preparation, a woman can have a natural childbirth without the use of pain medications or routine interventions. Robert Bradley, an American obstetrician, developed this method in the 1940s. Today it is taught as a 12 week course and is more intensive than other types of childbirth education classes. The classes are smaller in number in order to make them more intimate and the course involves nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques, partner involvement, and making a birth plan, along with many other facets of pregnancy, labor and delivery. The Bradley Method has been the source of confidence for many women having babies in a hospital setting where they have been able to have a natural birth without being pushed into interventions they don't want.

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