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When to Start Taking Lamaze Classes

This article addresses basics about the Lamaze method of childbirth. The history of Lamaze is provided, as well as information about the Lamaze method, when to take a Lamaze class and how to locate a class near you.

The History of Lamaze

When people hear the word “Lamaze” they think “breathing” and envision a pregnant woman inhaling and exhaling during labor, with her husband beside her providing emotional support. The Lamaze childbirth method has a history in breathing exercises, but it has come a long way since its conception almost 60 years ago.
The Lamaze method was first introduced in France in 1951 by its namesake, Dr. Fernand Lamaze. Dr. Lamaze had observed Russian childbirth techniques consisting of breathing and relaxation exercises, a nurse and a supportive partner at the woman’s side. The Lamaze method made its way to the United States in the late 1950s thanks to the book “Thank You, Dr. Lamaze,” written by Marjorie Karmel, who gave birth under Dr. Lamaze’s care. The book changed the way the country viewed childbirth. Giving birth was no longer a passive event involving only the woman, but a shared event between mother and father.

What Is Lamaze?

A woman’s confidence and innate ability to give birth are at the heart of the Lamaze approach. According to Lamaze International, the not-for-profit organization that promotes and sets standards for the method, “childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom.” Approaching childbirth as a natural event rather than a medical situation benefits mother and child during labor and delivery.

How Does Lamaze Differ From Other Childbirth Classes?

Lamaze is one of many childbirth methods. Many share certain aspects but also have subtle differences. The Bradley Method, for example, also advocates natural childbirth. However, the Bradley Method doesn’t follow the philosophy of distracting during childbirth, as the Lamaze method suggests through deep breathing and relaxation exercises. Additionally Bradley Method instructors spend more time addressing issues related to pregnancy and postpartum, such as diet and exercise. Lamaze emphasizes labor and childbirth.
Women and their partners should research various methods prior to becoming pregnant or in the early stages of pregnancy to determine which practice complements their approach to childbirth.

When to Start Taking a Lamaze Class

Most expectant parents begin Lamaze classes during the third trimester, around the seventh month. It’s important to register early (6 to 8 weeks prior) since classes fill quickly. Some classes last approximately 6 weeks, meeting for 60 to 90 minutes each week. Other facilities offer “crash courses” that meet for full or half-days over a weekend.
Your Lamaze class will focus on labor and delivery. Other topics incorporated into the class include feeding, diapering, bathing and holding a newborn.
It’s important that your birth partner attends classes with you. Your partner plays a critical role, and his education about childbirth is critical.
Bring other items to help make the class experience positive, such as pillows, a floor mat, and water or juice. Dress comfortably in loose clothing.

How Do I Find a Lamaze Class?

Hospitals and birthing centers offer childbirth classes throughout the year. Your obstetrician’s office may also have information about local classes. The Lamaze International website (www.lamaze.org) provides class locator information.

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