A 62-Year-Old Organization Battling the Maternal Health Crisis: The Lamaze of Today


As the executive director of Lamaze International, I am pleased to see “Lamaze” mentioned in media publications. Some recent publicity, while exciting, was also a bit disappointing due to the erroneous and dated information about the organization. On August 2, 2023, the New York Times (NYT) crossword puzzle answer included the association. The clue, however, was “breathing exercises.” A revised clue is needed. The foundation of Lamaze is and always has been more than “breathing exercises.” It’s time to bury it once and for all, six feet down and three across. The Lamaze Board of Directors and I were also pleased to see that an article about Lamaze International appeared on parents.com on October 4, 2023, but the article included dated information about the organization. It is time to dispel the myths about what Lamaze International is and does.

Lamaze International is a 501c3 professional society representing approximately 2300 Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) whose backgrounds include midwives, nurses, doulas, parent/birth advocates, and primary care providers across North America and around the globe. Its mission is to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth, and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy. Lamaze childbirth education curriculum is based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) six healthy birth practices, 1: Let labor begin on its own; 2: Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor; 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. At its core, Lamaze International is about giving birthing individuals confidence and tools to engage in shared decision-making with providers leading to fewer disparities1.

Lamaze is NOT anti-epidural, nor is it anti-C-Section. Lamaze supports science and evidence-based maternal care and recognizes that there are medically necessary reasons for conducting C-sections and providing epidural and other pain management approaches. Lamaze works to ensure all parents feel confident, supported, and empowered as they ask questions, make decisions, and navigate their path through pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood. This approach is especially important today as it was back in 1960 when the organization was founded. While it is true that Lamaze seeks to increase access to its childbirth educator pool to underserved communities and populations, it seeks to address equity among all birthing people.

Parents have many choices these days and the internet has no shortage of information on pregnancy, birth, and early parenting—some good, and some not so good. Lamaze provides childbirth educator certification and publishes the only scholarly journal dedicated to childbirth education, the Journal of Perinatal Education. Lamaze accredits over 100 training programs for individuals to become certified and the organization offers continuing professional education courses for birth workers such as labor and delivery nurses, midwives, and doulas. Lamaze also offers online parent education classes which include resources that address childbirth education. As an organization on the front lines of the maternal health crisis, Lamaze also offers training scholarships to expand the diversity of the maternal health workforce. Lamaze partners with organizations like the March of Dimes and DONA International and supports advocacy efforts by hosting advocacy roundtables and supporting sign-on letters for maternal-infant health legislation.

The organization is forging ahead with new diverse members who are committed to addressing the maternal health crisis here and abroad. In addition to teaching, LCCEs are fighting to open and manage birth centers—in Detroit, Chicago, and New York—where birth outcomes for Black birth givers are disproportionately poorer. In Alabama, an LCCE runs the Alabama Prison Birth Project,  a program to mitigate the effects of being separated from the baby soon after delivery thus denying important baby bonding and breastfeeding time that can negatively impact infant and child health. The NYT covered important stories to educate and alert the public on the maternal health crisis, especially among Black, Brown, and Indigenous women, The May 6, 2023, article, Unwanted Epidurals, Untreated Pain: Black Women Tell Their Birth Stories to name one, highlights how healthcare practitioners disregard pain complaints and ignore birth plans among Black mothers regardless of socioeconomic status. Regardless of income or education, Black mothers have worse birth outcomes.2

The next crossword clue for Lamaze might be “a trusted global leader, with a mission to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth, and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy. To learn more, go to www.lamaze.org.

1. Sperlich, M., Gabriel, C., & St. Vil, N. M. (2019). Preference, knowledge, and utilization of midwives, childbirth education classes and doulas among U.S. black and white women: implications for pregnancy and childbirth outcomes. Social Work in Health Care, 58(10), 988–1001. https://doi.org/10.1080/00981389. 2019.1686679

2.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/06/upshot/black-births-maternal-mortality.html                                      By Claire Cain Miller and Sarah Kliff

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