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Lamaze Birth classes: are they really l’amazing?

If you’re exploring your options for birth classes, you’ll probably stumble across the Lamaze program. While it was only officially brought to Australia in 2012, the theory behind it has been around since 1951. 

And OK yes, it was developed by a man (we know, we know: ‘no uterus no opinion’), but fear not. The program has come a long way since the 1950s and is run almost entirely by women now. And these women know their stuff! Lamaze-affiliated researchers actually led a recent groundbreaking study (based on the She Births class) to prove the effectiveness of antenatal classes.

 Lamaze classes are backed up by a solid history of research and evidence about how women can achieve the healthiest, most natural and informed birth possible. So here’s what you need to know.

Why would you choose a Lamaze birth class?

Lamaze classes are based on six healthy birth practices that are proven to assist in improving birth outcomes:

  1. Let labour begin on its own.
  2. Walk, move around and change positions throughout labour.
  3. Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support.
  4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
  5. Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push.
  6. Keep mother and baby together: it’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding.

But while this au naturel approach to birth sounds all well and good, there’s thankfully also a healthy dose of realism in the class. While the Lamaze methodology helps women cope with labour pain, communicate with care providers, advocate for the type of birth they want and learn the basics of newborn care, it also touches on intervention techniques that could be required (because anything goes with birth!).

You might choose a Lamaze birth class if you want to go beyond what a hospital class covers to also explore postpartum care and early parenting. And if you’re hoping for an intervention-free birth but still want to be informed on what could happen if medical assistance is necessary, it’s a good option.

What does a Lamaze birth class cover?

Birth planning

The Lamaze Australia website says:

“Classes will help you advocate for the birth you want and assist in your communication with your care provider.”

This is a great inclusion, because many birth classes glaze over your rights, but it’s important to know what you’re entitled to as a woman giving birth. Having good communication strategies and doing some planning in advance can help you achieve an amazing birth experience.

Coping methods for birth

So, labour hurts. A lot. Going into it with no idea about how to manage the pain can be full-on. Lamaze classes equip you with “coping methods and strategies, helping you to better understand how your body works and what you can do to benefit yourself and your baby during the childbirth process”. 

You’ll learn about how labour works, natural methods for pain management, and pharmaceutical options that may be available to you.

Ways you can help the process

Beyond just managing pain, Lamaze classes teach you methods for assisting the natural process of birth. This includes “breathing, visualisation, massage, support techniques (for your partner/support person to get involved) and everything you need to know about pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting”.

Lamaze is also a big advocate for breastfeeding. This often isn’t spoken about in birth classes, but it comes into play very quickly after your baby comes out. It can help to understand the basics of breastfeeding so you’re not totally stumped when that tiny, slimy being is dumped on your chest. (Obviously not an issue if you choose not to breastfeed.)

Are there downsides to a Lamaze birth class?

We haven’t been able to find someone who’s done a Lamaze birth class to ask about this (Please reach out if you’re willing to share your story with us!).

This tips us off to the fact that Lamaze birthing classes aren’t as widely available in Australia as some of your other options, such as Calm Birth or HypnoBirth. For example, we couldn’t find any classes in the online directory for Tasmania, only two in WA, four in QLD… only a few around the whole country to be honest.

Lamaze International (the global organisation) offers an online class which could be very helpful for mums who want to access something from home and work through it at their own pace. (Or, a lifesaver for mums in lockdown!)

Have you or someone you know done a Lamaze Birth class? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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