How The Lamaze Method Actually Helps You Give Birth

by Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

I always thought of Lamaze as "that breathing thing" from back in the day (you know, the birth class featured on all the old television shows). In fact, Lamaze has evolved a lot over the years. So if you're wondering "how does the Lamaze method help you during childbirth," it's important to know that Lamaze isn't actually a method anymore, Deena Blumenfeld, a Lamaze teacher and teacher-educator at Shining Light Prenatal tells Romper.

Methods require birthing women to follow strict rules (like patterned breathing) to achieve a certain result. When Lamaze dropped "the breathing thing" in the 1980s, it transformed from a birth method into a birth philosophy. Yep — it's not your mom's Lamaze.

Lamaze is the oldest childbirth education organization around, established in 1960, according to the official website. Today, the international non-profit benefits from the immense volume of research that informs its recommendations, and offers classes all over the world. You can even take a Lamaze class online.

The Lamaze philosophy revolves around "six healthy birth practices." Individual instructors have different styles, but if they're teaching Lamaze, they're following and teaching these basic tenets, based on decades of careful research. Before deciding if Lamaze is right for you, check out how their evidence-based birth practices can benefit you on the big day.

It Coaches You To Wait For Labor To Start On Its Own

Lamaze advises against scheduled C-sections and inductions unless medically necessary. "Something that I really like about Lamaze is that the teaching practices are evidence-based. It is not just information pulled out of the air," instructor Nicia Platt, L.C.C.E, of Right Path Birth Class in Honolulu tells Romper. Waiting until labor starts on its own is an idea supported by plenty of evidence, and usually the safest way to go. Waiting can prevent accidental preterm birth (if your due date happens to be wrong), and benefits you by ensuring that your body is ready to go, hormonally and physiologically.

It Teaches You To Walk, Move Around, & Change Positions During Labor

"In my class, students learn how movement and positions can help ease labor along," says Platt. "Each woman finds comfort in different ways, so we practice contractions in a variety of positions." In recent years, Lamaze has also been experimenting with the peanut ball for birth. According to Platt, the peanut ball is a wedge placed between your legs that can be especially useful for women in bed with an epidural.

Movement during labor helps direct your baby deeper into the pelvis and birth canal, and encourages your body to keep labor going strong.

It Encourages You To Bring A Loved One, Friend, Or Doula For Continuous Support

During birth, a continuous support person — whether your doula, your partner, or your mom — can make all the difference in your birth experience. According to a review study in Midwifery, a better birth experience significantly decreases your risk of postpartum depression. Lamaze encourages you and your partner to make important decisions together before the big day, which helps you feel confident when it matters most.

In addition, the support partner "plays a crucial role in helping the mother cope with contractions and comfort," notes Platt. In her class, she encourages partners to communicate about what mom needs to feel supported. What sort of touch does she like? Does she prefer firm or tender pressure? Can any words or rituals help her through contractions? In Lamaze, you'll practice, practice, practice.

It Helps You Avoid Unnecessary Medical Interventions

Lamaze emphasizes knowing your options, and creating a birth plan to avoid routine medical procedures that don't necessarily benefit you or your baby. For instance, if you don't want continuous electronic fetal monitoring — which limits your ability to move around while giving birth — write it down. Platt recommends creating a simple, one-page, bullet-point document with your support partner, and encourages open communication between the mom-to-be and her care provider.

What if you know you want an intervention, like an epidural? Blumenfeld notes that the Lamaze philosophy isn't inflexible. "At Lamaze, we know there is no one right way to give birth. We support normal, physiologic birth while understanding that a woman many need or choose medical interventions."

It Keeps You Off Your Back & Following Your Body's Natural Urges

According to Evidence-Based Birth, only a small minority of women give birth in side-lying, squatting, or upright positions, though research shows that the pelvis widens when you use squatting or kneeling positions. In Lamaze, you'll practice positions that work with gravity and your body's anatomy for an easier birth. When it comes time to push, Lamaze encourages you to follow your instincts.

It Empowers Moms To Insist On Skin-To-Skin

Skin-to-skin contact right after birth is great for both you and your baby, according to Medscape, and even helps establish breastfeeding. Lamaze encourages you to ask your doctor or midwife to place your baby on your chest directly after giving birth. After nine months of pregnancy, weeks of birth classes, and hours of physically demanding labor, what better reward is there than holding your baby close just as soon as she makes her grand entrance?

Lamaze can be incredibly beneficial to you during childbirth, but it's not your only option. Talk to your healthcare provider about what's best for you, your baby, and your birth.