The Lamaze Method of Childbirth

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You have a lot of choices when you are pregnant about what kind of childbirth education you want to take. While your doctor or midwife may not require a childbirth ed class, they can be great for expecting parents. In a good childbirth class, you can learn about what to expect from labor, birth, and early parenting alongside a community of people who are experiencing similar life events. Common schools of thought and types of classes you might be able to find include hypnobirthing, the Bradley Method, and Lamaze. In this post, we’ll discuss the Lamaze method and how it might help you have the birth that you’re dreaming of.

Dr. Fernand Lamaze created the Lamaze method of childbirth in 1951. His method forms the foundation of Lamaze today and included emotional support for laboring people from a specially trained nurse, childbirth classes, breathing techniques, and a focus on relaxation. After Marjorie Karmel gave birth with assistance from Dr. Lamaze, she collaborated with Elisabeth Bing and the two women started the organization that would become Lamaze International in 1960. Since then, the non-profit organization has grown and the method has matured to become an evidence-based foundation that can help expecting families feel confident and prepared for their labor and birth. [1]

As an expecting parent, you might want to search the Lamaze website childbirth education course that you can take in person or online. Classes tend to be either a full-day long—often on a weekend day—or happen several evenings over a series of weeks. Private classes and taking courses online are an option that might be best if your schedule is too busy. One myth about Lamaze is that it’s only about breathing, but in a Lamaze class you will hear about the normal course of labor and birth, what happens when things deviate from the norm, and how you can be prepared to cope with it all. Lamaze instructors try to empower parents to be able to advocate for themselves and their babies.

At the core of Lamaze as it exists today are the so-called “Six Healthy Birth Practices.” You can expect to hear a lot about these and how knowing about them can help you in your labor and birth in a Lamaze class. They are:

  • Let labor begin on its own. This principle ensures that your body and your baby are as ready as they can be for labor. If your labor must be induced for a medical reason, you can utilize the rest of the healthy birth practices and ask to wait to have your water broken in order to let it break on its own. [2]
  • Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor. Movement can help your baby get into the optimal position to be born, alleviate your discomfort, and allow you use gravity to your advantage during labor. [3]
  • Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support. Studies show that continuous physical and emotional support improve birth outcomes for birthing people and for babies. [4,5]
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary. Interventions—in which medical providers take some action that may change the course of your labor or birth—are fairly routine in the United States, but there is not always evidence for their effectiveness. [6]
  • Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push. Lying on your back does not allow you to take advantage of gravity to bring your baby down into your pelvis. In contrast, squatting, standing or kneeling upright, and side-lying all mean your body will have to do less work to allow baby to descend. Plus, research does not support the benefits of directed pushing, where a care provider instructs you about when to push. Instead, tuning into your body may mean you end up doing less work to help baby be born. [7]
  • Keep mother and baby together—it’s best for mother, baby, and breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin care demonstrates benefits for both birthing people and babies, regardless of whether you plan to breastfeed or not. It nearly all cases, whether you have a vaginal birth or a surgical birth, it is possible and beneficial to do as much skin-to-skin with your baby as soon as possible. [8]

References: 

  1. org, Our History
  2. Amis, “Healthy Birth Practice #1: Let Labor Begin on Its Own,” Journal of Perinatal Education, 2014.
  3. Michelle Ondeck, “Healthy Birth Practice #2: Walk, Move Around, and Change Positions Throughout Labor,” Journal of Perinatal Education,
  4. Green, B.A. Hotelling, “Healthy Birth Practice #3: Bring a Loved One, Friend, or Doula for Continuous Support,” Journal of Perinatal Education, 2019.
  5. Evidence Based Birth, The Evidence for Doulas
  6. A. Lothian, “Healthy Birth Practice #4: Avoid Interventions Unless They Are Medically Necessary,” Journal of Perinatal Education, 2014.
  7. T. DiFranco, M. Curl, “Healthy Birth Practice #5: Avoid Giving Birth on Your Back and Follow Your Body’s Urge to Push,” Journal of Perinatal Education, 2014.
  8. Crenshaw, “Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together—It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding,” Journal of Perinatal Education, 2014.
Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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