Since the 1950s, parents have turned to the Lamaze method for natural childbirth. Over the years, many similar programs have been created, but Lamaze remains one of the most popular. More than a method of natural childbirth, Lamaze has evolved into a philosophy of healthy pregnancy, safe and comfortable births and effective early childcare. Discovering the techniques and guidance offered through a Lamaze program takes time and commitment.
Most Lamaze courses take about 12 hours to complete. Meeting once per week for two hours is common, but some classes can be finished over one or two weekends with each session taking six hours. Classes should be taken during the last three months of a pregnancy.
Many people think of the Lamaze method as a breathing exercise. In fact, Lamaze began as an effort to reduce fear and help women relax during childbirth. Over time, Lamaze has expanded from the initial breathing techniques, and classes now cover many different approaches to having a more comfortable and less painful delivery.
During the 12 hours of class time, participants learn about Lamaze's approach to labor, birth and early childcare. Mothers and partners will be taught massage techniques, relaxation skills and communication methods and be given tips on how to position the body to ease labor pains. Healthy lifestyles during and after pregnancy are discussed, along with information on anesthesia, painkillers and other medical treatment that may be offered during labor.
Lamaze courses are often taught at local hospitals or health centers. Your obstetrician, midwife or doula should be able to recommend a course. If you're not sure if Lamaze is right for you, ask to speak to the instructor and discuss your concerns. You might also ask to observe a class before signing up. All Lamaze instructors should be certified by the International Lamaze Association.
Other childbirth courses include ICEA, Bradley and Hypnobirthing. All of these courses require about the same time commitment as Lamaze. While all focus on natural childbirth, some programs encourage no medical intervention, while others consider drugs and painkillers as reasonable options, depending on circumstances. Talk with the instructor before beginning a course to see if you feel comfortable with the philosophy behind the program.