For years, Lamaze has been associated with a particular style of breathing during labor. What many pregnant women may not realize is that there is much more to this method of birthing than just Lamaze breathing.
Until the 1860s, it was unheard of to give birth under anesthetic. Common labor practices had women giving birth at home, surrounded by their own mothers and sisters and often aided by a midwife. However, as the 1900s approached, the focus on a natural birth began to shift towards a medical one.
During the Twentieth Century, the idea that a woman should be an active participant in her labor seemed to fall out of vogue. Instead, women were rendered completely unconscious. At one point, it was common for women to not only be unconscious but also be strapped to the delivery table during birth.
Not surprisingly, by the middle of the century, many women began to feel that this method of giving birth was just not acceptable. Luckily, the Lamaze method of childbirth, developed by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze, came along at just the right time. By the late 1950s, many American women had begun to utilize Lamaze techniques. Since then, Lamaze has evolved from a birthing method to a birthing philosophy.
Going for Lamaze
According to Lamaze International, the basic principals behind the Lamaze Philosophy are:
- Birth is normal, natural and healthy
- The experience of birth profoundly effects women and their families
- Women’s inner wisdom guides them through birth
- Women’s confidence and ability to give birth is either enhanced or diminished by the care provider and place of birth
- Women have the right to give birth free from routine medical interventions
- Birth can safely take place in birth centers and homes
- Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom
Clearly, Lamaze classes are not just about breathing anymore. Rather, Lamaze strives to help a woman feel confident in her natural ability to give birth. Practitioners of Lamaze look to empower women by helping them learn all they can about the birthing process. They believe that, through education, women are better able to make informed decisions about their child’s birth and thereby become an active participant in the labor process.
What About the Pain?
Contrary to what many people may believe, Lamaze does not actually aim to make the labor process less painful. In fact, the Lamaze philosophy believes that the pain you experience during labor acts as a protective force for your body. Through Lamaze, you learn how to understand and work with the pain that normally occurs with labor.
Having to deal with the pain associated with labor is often one of the biggest fears of pregnant women. Through Lamaze classes, though, you learn how to become more attuned to your pain and contractions. This helps you to better move and position your body in such a way as to be more beneficial to the natural labor process. With the focus on the natural and working with your body, it would seem that the use of an epidural would be a big no-no according to the Lamaze philosophy and in some ways it is.
The use of an epidural can numb you and make it difficult to alter your birthing position or walk around. Through Lamaze classes, though, you are able to learn more about the use of drugs during labor and the effects they can have on your body. Armed with this knowledge, you can then make your own, informed choice as to whether or not you want pain medication during labor.
In the typical Lamaze class, you will learn about:
- Lamaze breathing techniques
- Different labor positions
- Incorporating movement and birth balls into your labor
- Hot/cold therapy
- Labor, birth and the early postpartum period
There also tends to be less emphasis on having a labor coach, or someone who instructs you on what to do, and more focus on having a supportive partner with you during labor. The Lamaze philosophy also discourages the use of medical interventions except when medically necessary since numerous studies have shown that these interventions don’t really have any benefits and may actually be harmful to both woman and child.
The typical Lamaze course will generally involve 12 hours of instruction and are often limited to 12 couples or less. To find a Lamaze class in your area, visit the Lamaze International website.