The Lamaze technique, often referred to simply as Lamaze, is a prepared childbirth technique popularized in the 1940s by French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze based on his observations in the Soviet Union as an alternative to the use of medical intervention during childbirth.
The goal of Lamaze is to increase a mother's confidence in her ability to give birth; classes help pregnant women understand how to cope with pain in ways that both facilitate labor and promote comfort, including focused breathing, movement and massage.
Dr. Lamaze was influenced by childbirth practices in the Soviet Union, which involved breathing and relaxation techniques under the supervision of a "monitrice", or midwife. The Lamaze method gained popularity in the United States after Marjorie Karmel wrote about her experiences in her 1959 book Thank You, Dr. Lamaze.
The rise of the epidural injection route which had become common by 1980 and the widespread use of continuous electronic fetal monitoring as standard care practices changed the nature and purpose of the Lamaze method. Today, the Lamaze International organization promotes a philosophy of personal empowerment while providing general childbirth education. Modern Lamaze childbirth classes teach expectant mothers many ways to work with the labour process to reduce the pain associated with childbirth and promote normal (physiological) birth including the first moments after birth. Techniques include allowing labour to begin on its own, movement and positions, massage, aromatherapy, hot and cold packs, informed consent and informed refusal, breathing techniques, the use of a "birth ball" (yoga or exercise ball), spontaneous pushing, upright positions for labour and birth, breastfeeding techniques, and keeping mother and baby together after childbirth.
- Childbirth education: Get ready for labor and delivery, Mayo Clinic, July 25, 2009, accessed July 10, 2011.