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Lamaze 101: What You Need to Know

Photograph by Getty Images/Cultura RF

Whether you're a first-time mommy or you already have a little one—or two—Lamaze is a way to make it through labor and delivery in a less stressed, less painful, more educated way. If you think that Lamaze is only deep or ultra-exaggerated breathing, think again. This world-renowned method provides tips and techniques to prepare for childbirth in a natural way.

The Method's Roots

The French physician Dr. Fernand Lamaze introduced the "Lamaze method," incorporating into it various techniques that he observed in Russia, according to the Lamaze International website. The method spread across the Atlantic to America during the 1950s after writer Marjorie Karmel detailed her childbirth experience with Lamaze in her book "Thank You, Dr. Lamaze." In 1958 Karmel and Elisabeth Bing began co-teaching the Lamaze method to women in the United States. Together they founded what is now Lamaze International.

More Than Breathing

Even though the common picture of Lamaze is a soon-to-be mommy heavily panting during childbirth, the method goes far beyond breathing. The modern Lamaze method is an evidence-based pregnancy and birth program that's based on current research. While the method strives to help women through a natural birth process, an overarching education about pregnancy, labor and delivery is central to the strategy. Your Lamaze educator will give you options, letting you know about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of childbirth.

What You'll Learn

You know the background, you understand your teacher's credentials and now you're ready to take your first class. What should you expect? Most Lamaze classes feature roughly 12 hours of study that's spread over several sessions, according to the Baby Center website. During the classes you'll learn about the labor and birth process, natural pain and stress reduction techniques—such as relaxation and the trademark breathing—how your partner can support you during delivery and ways to communicate with the health-care professionals who are helping you to give birth. Your class will also cover non-natural options such as pain medications and epidurals as well as interacting with your baby after birth.

Birth Partner

Lamaze doesn't just educate the mother. Your birth partner is an essential part of the pregnancy, labor and delivery process. The Lamaze method recognizes that the mommy-to-be needs support and offers training to help partners understand their roles. During a Lamaze class both you and your birth partner will learn everything about the birthing process. Your partner will also learn how to support you during labor by using massage and other relaxation techniques, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. During labor and delivery your partner will put these skills into use, helping to ease your pain and reduce the stress that you're feeling.

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