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10 Things You Ought To Know About The Lamaze Technique

Carla Cain Walther
by Carla Cain Walther Published on August 23, 2014

Forget what you know about Lamaze! It's not just about breathing, birthing balls and overly attentive spouses. The Lamaze technique relies on the mother understanding her body and the process of labor so she can make informed decisions about what she needs during birth. That's pretty empowering, right?

OK, time for a history lesson!

​​The Lamaze technique was created by French obstetrician, Dr. Fernand Lamaze, after he observed child birth in Russia. The birthing method popularized breathing techniques, child prep classes, and spousal participation in Dr. Lamaze's home country. By the early 1950s, American women began to sing Lamaze's praises and it went on to become a preferred and widely known method.

TV and film regularly spoof Lamaze's classic breathing strategy ("hee, hoo, hee, hoo"), but over the past 50+ years Lamaze has turned into an organization that provides expectant moms with a supportive birth approach.

We got in touch with Michele Ondeck, President of Lamaze International, nurse, and certified Lamaze educator. The woman knows her stuff and schooled us on what Lamaze is really about for all you curious mothers!

1. It's a way of (giving) life

If you think Lamaze classes are just 40 minutes of trying to get your breathing right while your partner cheers you on - you're wrong! The method is a comprehensive approach to pregnancy and birth that expands beyond inhaling and exhaling.

​"Lamaze education offers much more than breathing and relaxation techniques," Michele says. "While Lamaze breathing is one of the tools taught in childbirth education classes, it fits into a larger picture of coping techniques that we teach to manage labor."

It empowers women to embrace their changing bodies during pregnancy and use the tools they have to make sure "babies achieve safe and healthy outcomes."

2. It's not just for natural births

Lamaze does encourage natural birth but Michele promises that you won't be kicked out of the club if you opt for an epidural in your birth plan. "Lamaze is for all women who want to have a safe and healthy birth," she asserts. "And that includes when women may want to use pain medication."

So if you're unsure about attending classes because of natural birth nuts, don't be! "Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) teach classes and offer online education to equip expectant parents with the evidence-based information to help moms and partners feel confident in making the best decisions for their birth," assures Michele.

3. Lamaze focuses on easing labor

The Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices is basically the groundwork for Lamaze's overall philosophy.

  • Let labor begin on its own
  • Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
  • Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
  • Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body's urges to push
  • Keep mother and baby together after birth to help with care and breastfeeding to let bonding begin

The six birth practices emphasis pain management, support system, listening to what your body is saying, and early attachment to your newborn. That's not too bad or strict, right?

4. Allow your partner to be a significant support

Since we're the ones, y'know, letting a baby slide through our birth canals it's understandable for us to want to control every aspect of our pregnancies and birth plans. Unfortunately, that can mean our spouses are regulated to the sidelines. Michele ain't about that.

"Moms and their partners are a team - helping write the birth plan, preparing to advocate for the mom during labor, communicating the mother’s needs and providing comfort, encouragement, information, physical and emotional support throughout pregnancy and childbirth," she says.

These​ are all ways partners can be positive influences on expectant moms. Don't push your man away. Instead allow him to be an invaluable part of your birth plan!

5. Bring in outside help to protect your birth plan

"Lamaze encourages expectant mothers to consider hiring a doula, to be present at the birth to provide professional consulting and guidance during a very emotional time," Michele recommends.

"Doulas are trained labor support professionals who will know what to do and when a mother needs to do it, with the end goal of delivering a happy and healthy baby with as few medical interventions as possible." Consider your doula a personal ally and confidante!

6. A support system increases the likelihood of natural birth

"Having a supportive labor team, including a doula and partner, can be most beneficial in helping women relax," she says. But the benefits exceed relaxation. Believe it not, people who are present throughout your labor can change the course of your birth.

​For the mommas who have got their hearts set on a natural birth, listen up! Michele explains that "continuous support during labor has proven to decrease risk of cesarean by 28%, decrease epidural use by 9%, and decrease use of Pitcoin for induction by 31%."

​If medical intervention isn't part of your plan well then having a team of loving and informed people is essential!

7. A birthing ball is an important tool for movement

Michele says that sitting on a birthing ball in the months leading up to birth "helps woman strengthen leg and back muscles, while offering a firm yet soft place to sit."

Then, Michele informs us, "during birth, it provides a place to sit or lean on, providing another option for movement and changing and changing positions during labor. We encourage women to stay active during labor to help cope with pain and use gravity to help pull baby through the birth canal."

8. Choose relaxation techniques that work that for you

Learning how to not freak out when pain ravages your body and doctors and nurses are poking at your insides is difficult but not impossible. Michele tells us that Lamaze helps women find ways to cope, stay positive, and be alert when making important decisions.

"Lamaze childbirth education classes teach a variety of relaxation techniques to help women relax and feel confident in giving birth. Some of those methods include: conscious and rhythmic breathing, muscle relaxation, imagery, hot shower or bath, massages and positive self talk." Pick whatever method works and stick with it!

9. The pain won't be as bad when you know what's coming

Having a baby is going to hurt but the pain can be managed through Lamaze.

​"Lamaze provides information, tools and pain management strategies for women and their partners to understand what is happening to mom’s body as she prepares to give birth," Michele explains. "The information helps parents become equipped to work through all of the stages of childbirth and not work against it."

10. When it comes to birth, knowledge is power

Lamaze is all about giving you facts about what to expect during birth because when you're ready for everything that builds your confidence and know-how during labor.

​"Having a baby is one of the biggest moments in anyone’s life," Michele says. "Being able to come into the process feeling ready to take it all in and own the process of giving birth is a gift in itself. Mom and dad are prepared to make educated decisions about the birth they want for their child."

The final word

The Lamaze technique puts a lot of responsibility on moms because it knows they can handle it. It's also important that no woman go through pregnancy and birth without understanding everything she's about to experience.

​"Women need the confidence to spot unnecessary interventions, such as inductions, cesareans, restrictions during childbirth including food, drink and movement, and how to avoid them," Michele concludes. "Knowing how to recognize good maternity care is a key to getting it!"

Will you be incorporating the Lamaze technique into your birth plan? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

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by Carla Cain Walther

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