Exploring the lamaze Technique of Childbirth

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
Expecting a baby comes with a lot of happiness, but also anxiety. Any mom-to-be who says otherwise is probably fibbing! Rest assured, these feelings are natural. We all want to have a normal, healthy baby and to experience a quick and easy delivery, but it does not always happen. However, there are ways to increase the chances of having a better delivery.
Prior to getting pregnant, you may have heard of a technique that helps expectant mothers to prepare for childbirth. It is known as the “Lamaze Technique”. This is one of the most original techniques introduced to women, often in the form of class preparation, while a woman is with child. It offers a rhythmic breathing method that can help a mother to relax more while giving birth. Lamaze also helps with focus and concentration through a series of breathing patterns that give the mother “something else to think about” besides the labor pains she is enduring.

What is the History Behind Lamaze?

The American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO) first promoted the Lamaze technique in the 1960’s; however it did not become widely popular until the following decade. As of this writing, it is estimated that one in four women who deliver babies are graduates of Lamaze, or at least have had some training in the form of videos and other tools now used to teach Lamaze breathing techniques.

For Moms Who Desire a Natural Childbirth

One of the biggest benefits of Lamaze training is that it helps mothers to manage the pain of labor and delivery without the need for drugs, including epidurals. Many Lamaze teachers help their students to realize they can actually enjoy the birth of their babies without the foggy cloud of drugs.

Most Lamaze classes are taken within the second to third trimester of pregnancy and last for approximately six weeks, depending on the area you live in. You can expect to take ten to twelve hours of Lamaze training. Women are encouraged to bring their spouses or partners with them, or whomever they have chosen to go through the labor and delivery process with. By training the partners and not just the moms-to-be, Lamaze instructors can help these parents in the delivery room. The partner then becomes a Lamaze coach to his wife, which can help her relax more through all of the most painful contractions.

Aside from the relaxation and pain management aspect, the best Lamaze classes also give women the confidence and mental mindset to make it through the most difficult times in the delivery room.

How Does the Lamaze Breathing Work?

Lamaze is also called “conscious breathing”, which can reduce heart rate, pain perception and anxiety. Because the breathing itself is the main focus, rather than the pain, it helps a mother in labor to focus and be more aware of her body. Another benefit is that it helps both the mom and baby to get enough oxygen through the gentle and rhythmic sensation.
When it is time, the mother is encouraged to move, sway, rock, moan and breathe in a ritual-like manner. By finding her rhythm, it can give the mother comfort and assist in a smoother delivery. That is because the Lamaze method releases “natural” endorphins that lessen the intensity of pain. There is not a specific pattern that must be followed, but rather a Lamaze participant is encouraged to find the right rhythm that works for her own body and pain. A visual image can also help her mind to rechannel the experience of pain and refocus on the breathing and outcome.

Some women who participate in Lamaze classes also find it useful in everyday life situations, whenever stress takes hold. Next time you feel the need for road rage, or work stress or even the stress of raising children, just breathe, breathe, breathe!


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