In 1951, Dr. Fernand Lamaze introduced a method of childbirth in France by incorporating techniques he observed in Russia. This method, consisting of childbirth education classes, relaxation, breathing techniques and continuous emotional support from the father and a specially trained nurse, became known as “the Lamaze method.”
Word of mouth spread in the United States during the late 1950s, after Marjorie Karmel gave birth assisted by Dr. Lamaze and she wrote of her childbirth experience in Thank You, Dr. Lamaze. The book inspired many women to approach childbirth as a shared event for both mother and father.
Elisabeth Bing and Marjorie Karmel met in 1958 and began to work together to teach the Lamaze method to as many women as possible. In 1960, they formed ASPO/Lamaze (now Lamaze International), a not-for-profit organization composed of parents, childbirth educators, health care providers and other health professionals, to spread the word about Lamaze and to set the standards for Lamaze childbirth educators.
The Lamaze of Today
Forty years of research and learning from women’s experience of normal, natural birth have provided evidence that has gradually but dramatically changed Lamaze from being a method for giving birth to a philosophy that provides the foundation and direction for women as they prepare to give birth and become mothers. “Breathing” is no longer the hallmark of Lamaze. The Lamaze Philosophy of Birth is at the heart of Lamaze education and has been for nearly a decade the driving force for significant changes in Lamaze preparation for childbirth.
Today’s Lamaze affirms the normalcy of birth, acknowledges women’s inherent ability to birth their babies and promotes the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices. Our position paper, Lamaze for the 21st Century, outlines the evidence-based rationale for the evolution of Lamaze preparation for birth. The Lamaze Philosophy of Birth, supported by an ever-growing body of research, provides direction for today’s Lamaze preparation for childbirth.
The Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator promotes, supports and protects every woman’s right to give birth, confident in her own ability, free to find comfort in a wide variety of ways, and supported by her family and all members of the health care team.