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Lamaze: An Overview

by Jane Wangersky | May 21st, 2013 | Pregnancy

new babyAs noted earlier, Lamaze is probably the best-known name in childbirth education. It’s gone from being simply the name of a French doctor who wrote a book on his observations of births in Russia, to a method of managing labor, to a “philosophy” as it’s called today.

At the heart of that philosophy are  six “healthy birth practices”: letting labor start on its own, changing positions during labor (this includes walking), having a support person, avoiding unnecessary interventions, following the body’s urge to push and not giving birth on your back, and keeping mother and baby together. Of course, some of these (having dad or another loved one in the birthing room) have become standard practice in hospitals, while others may be harder to carry out (I was persuaded to have labor induced my second time instead of letting it start naturally, but on the other hand I was walking around freely 20 minutes before the baby was born).

Avoiding medical intervention doesn’t mean a woman just has to put up with labor pain. In fact, an important part of Lamaze training for mothers is learning to “alleviate your fears and manage pain” according to Lamaze.org. In their book Lamaze is for Chickens (chickens meaning “those of us who are afraid of pain”),  Mimi Green and Maxine Naab explain that Lamaze techniques counteract both the psychological causes of  painful labor, like fear and conditioning, and the physical causes like tension, insufficient oxygen to the uterus, and the baby’s position. They say “The Lamaze breathing and relaxation techniques are difficult to perform, and therefore are capable of creating a level of [brain] activity sufficiently high to prevent most pain impulses from being acknowledged. You will know that you are having a contraction, but will not feel its full intensity.”

If this sounds good, you may want to look into learning the full Lamaze techniques of “breathing, relaxation, concentration, and stroking”. Lamaze.org can help you find  a certified instructor. You should plan to take the classes around your seventh month, however the length of the course can vary. Some are spread out over a month or more, while some instructors will give a minimal course over one weekend.

Lamaze has worked for many families — it may be for you.

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