When you hear the word Lamaze, I can guess your next thought is "Lamaze breathing"? Well, times have moved on. Classes are now geared towards plenty of information, evidence based research, and facilitating the pregnant woman and her support system (family members or others) in practical ways to prepare for birth, in all its possibilities.
Why go to a class?
It's helpful to get information that is evidence based, in a relaxing, fun atmosphere where you can ask all the questions loitering in the back of your mind. The internet has a wealth of information but a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) is required to update their information and stay current with Lamaze standards, ethics and certification. You can find a LCCE near you by visiting their site www.lamaze.org and searching for your city/ country.
There is also a new Lamaze "pregnancy to parenting" app available at the Apple store and Google play store.
When should you start classes?
Whenever you want to. If you would rather glean all the information and use it to optimise your choices in finding the right care provider for your birth, then an earlier start is better. Others may prefer to take classes later in pregnancy so that everything is fresh in their mind near the time of birth.
Who can come?
I always encourage the pregnant woman to bring who she wants, especially if others will be joining in the decision making process, which is likely to be an extended family. Also it's important for everyone to be on the same page so partners, dads, best friends, family and in-laws are welcome. (1-2 companions per class)
What are the "Six Steps to a Healthy Birth", as per the current Lamaze class material?
Of course, every LCCE will conduct their classes in a slightly different way but generally the minimum content should be as follows:
The physiology of how the process starts. The timeline of "term" pregnancy is 37-42 weeks. What is induction and how is it different to letting labour start of its own accord. Signs and symptoms of labour and what to expect.
Allow gravity to help you and your baby with the birth. This is really a practical and fun session to learn simple techniques that will help you feel empowered. How to use the gym/yoga ball as a "birthing" ball for comfort measures and gravity in labour.
What kind of support can I find as options and what are some of the tips for them to make it a better experience for me? What if my partner is afraid? Can I have a female companion? What if my husband wants to help me? What can he learn? Comfort measures and plenty of tips for the people who will support you during the process.
Must I have an IV in labour? What about enema and shaving? Is it possible to give birth without getting a natural tear or, episiotomy? What is better? What's a membrane sweep? An NST? Can my baby grow too big? If my baby has a cord round the neck do I need a caesarean? What is consent? Who is making decisions about my care?
What are pushing and optimal birthing, positions etc? What to expect during the actual birth? What about the placenta? How to create birth preferences notes for your care provider and team? Preparing your mind for birth. Letting go of fear, anxiety and expectations.
Beyond birth – lots of preparation for breastfeeding. What about skin to skin? What is baby wearing? When can I take my baby out? When should I bathe my baby? What about newborn baby feeding and eating patterns?
In our generation, we are losing community. It's great to find it here, online. It's also beneficial to "find your village" in your locality. There are groups for pregnant mothers and young babies. It's takes a village to raise a child and it can make all the difference to meet up with others in a similar stage of life to you. Often a Lamaze class naturally forms into a parenting group and new friends for life!