Lamaze 101

A childbirth education course that focuses on increasing your confidence and providing reliable, unbiased information for a safe and healthy birth, rather than a particular "method."

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In today's maternity care system, the care you receive may not always be based on current evidence, but may instead rely on outdated and potentially harmful practices. Unless you're informed, you could miss out on options that can actually increase your chance of a safe and healthy birth.

But what questions do you ask? And when? And how do you know if you're getting the whole story? And where can you find out more? Getting answers to these questions through a Lamaze childbirth class is critical in achieving the safe and healthy birth all women want for their babies.

Historically, Lamaze was known as the group that teaches you how to breathe through your birth – "hee, hee, hooo." Today's classes focus on increasing your confidence and providing reliable, unbiased information for a safe and healthy birth, rather than a particular "method." Lamaze classes also reaffirm that birth is a normal life event and demonstrate ways you can work with your body during labor and birth.

"Knowing your options not only helps you better prepare for the healthiest birth," says Tara Owens Shuler, Lamaze International President, "but it also allows you to think about Plan B and Plan C in the event that birth takes an unexpected turn. When you know what evidence-based care looks like, you have the tools you need to investigate whether an intervention during birth is helpful or harmful."

Perhaps one of the more important lessons you learn in a Lamaze class is how best to communicate with your care provider. This includes knowing how and what to ask during prenatal appointments as well as in labor. "Women who are told they need a cesarean because their labor isn't progressing should know that they may have safer options," said Owens Shuler. "There are questions a woman can ask to determine if a cesarean truly is necessary. Labor doesn't follow a magic formula – some women just need more time! And as long as baby and mom are healthy, they should be allowed to continue laboring."

Why bother with Lamaze when you can find so much information online?

Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) go through rigorous education and training, have passed an accredited certification exam, and attend ongoing education to stay current with practices and research. Everything the Lamaze educator teaches is based on solid research. The Lamaze educator promotes, supports, and protects every woman's right and ability to give birth, with freedom to find comfort in a wide variety of ways, and support from her family and all members of her health care team.

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When you attend a Lamaze class taught by a certified instructor, you can expect your teacher to:

Present evidence-based pregnancy and birth practices that are safe, healthy, and supported by research.

1. Help guide you as you navigate all of your options, including risks and benefits, without the biases that can come from other sources.

2. Provide information on how your body was designed for birth and encourage you to work with your body's abilities.

3. Teach and offer opportunities to practice strategies for natural pain management during labor, as well as how to reduce unnecessary medical interventions, and receive continuous support

4. Suggest ideas for bonding with your baby, stress the importance of skin-to-skin contact, and review breastfeeding and baby care basics.

5. Review the postpartum period – what to expect and signs of postpartum depression.

A Lamaze class can take many forms. First-time parents can expect 12 hours of instruction, which can take place over multiple sessions. Alternative forms of Lamaze classes are also available, including "refresher" courses, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) classes, and classes that focus just on movement and comfort measures during labor and birth.

A Lamaze class can take place in person or online, and may be one-on-one instruction or with other couples. If you find yourself wanting more information on a particular topic – whether during your pregnancy or after birth – you can contact your instructor, who has multiple resources at her fingertips.

It's true that a Lamaze class is an investment of your time and effort. You'll need to search for a class and clear a spot on your calendar. But time and again, women who take Lamaze classes report feeling more confident about birth knowing they have the best information and resources for a safe and healthy birth.

To find a Lamaze class near you, check out your local birth network's website, do a simple Google search for one in your area, or better yet, visit the "Find a Lamaze Class" directory on the Lamaze website.

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