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Are Lamaze Classes Right for You?

Laura Agadoni
July 29, 2015

Heard of Lamaze classes but aren't sure if they are really right for you? Here's an overview of Lamaze classes and their benefits.

When you think of Lamaze classes, you might picture a bunch of pregnant women making the sound "hee-hee." That is Lamaze, but it's only one part of it. "Lamaze focuses on evidence-based childbirth education," says Gaby Merediz, a Lamaze-certified childbirth instructor. Are these classes right for you?

What Is a Lamaze Class?
Lamaze classes offer support during pregnancy, birth and early parenting. "Our goal is for women to learn about their options so that they can make informed decisions that will ultimately lead to healthier babies," says Robin Elise Weiss, the president of Lamaze International. According to Weiss, "Lamaze International bases classes taught by certified instructors around the scientific evidence on what helps moms and babies have the safest birth." For instance, Lamaze teaches pain management and relaxation techniques that you can use while in labor to avoid medical interventions. A series of classes typically totals 12 hours.

Where Did Lamaze Originate?
Lamaze traces its roots to Dr. Fernand Lamaze, who introduced "the Lamaze method" to France in 1951. Dr. Lamaze learned this technique by watching Russian births. At the time, this method incorporated childbirth classes, continuous emotional support from the father during labor, breathing techniques and relaxation. Lamaze International formed in 1960, after an American woman gave birth with assistance from Dr. Lamaze and wrote a book called, "Thank You, Dr. Lamaze." Before that time, a common childbirth scene in the United States involved heavily sedated women and nervous husbands pacing in hospital waiting rooms.

What Can You Expect to Get From Lamaze?
Lamaze helps simplify the birth process. "We've boiled the information into a format that is easy to remember and employ, called the 'Healthy Birth Practices,'" says Weiss. Classes will encourage you to let labor begin naturally, unless you or your baby have a health problem. They will also teach you how to avoid medical interventions, and will encourage certain behaviors to ensure that you have a safe and healthy birth.

Lamaze instructors will urge you to walk around and change positions as necessary during labor, and will suggest that you have a support person or doula with you during the birthing process. In addition, instructors will show you how to avoid lying on your back during delivery and how to push when your body is ready. They will also encourage you to stay with your baby after delivery for bonding and breastfeeding purposes.

Which Parents Will Benefit From Classes?
These classes are beneficial for any expectant parents who wish to take control over the birthing process. "Lamaze takes the fear out of birth," says LaToya Murray-Johnson, a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator. "First-time and repeat parents who want to be prepared with as much control and information as possible benefit," she adds. You typically attend classes in your third trimester.

What Are the Benefits of Lamaze Classes?
You learn a healthy approach to childbirth when you attend a Lamaze class. The classes "tend to focus on how to boost confidence, manage pain and learn about options for the type of childbirth the parent is looking forward to," says Merediz. You'll also learn about your body. Classes "help moms realize that they are the experts of their bodies. This gives them the confidence to take control of their childbirth experience," says Merediz. According to Murray-Johnson, "Lamaze offers not only mothers but also fathers a more satisfying experience and memory of their birth."

Tips on Getting the Most Out of Lamaze Classes
According to Murray-Johnson, you can get the most out of a Lamaze class if you come in open-minded, but it's also OK if you already have an idea in your head about what you want from your birth. In this case, you can come in to your first Lamaze class with specific questions in mind.

According to Weiss, you should "participate in the learning," and "check your worries at the door." She suggests that you sign up for a class early on in your pregnancy, because classes often fill up quickly.

After you finish a Lamaze class, you'll no longer think of childbirth as "something to simply get through or be afraid of," says Merediz. "You'll have a connected, empowering birth experience."

Laura Agadoni is a parenting writer and mom whose articles appear in various publications such as Modern Mom, The Penny Hoarder, Tom's of Maine, Global Post and Livestrong.

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