Emotional Support and Guidance During Labor

In 2001 I came across the English edition of Dr. Lamaze’s biography. In the foreword of the book, the author expressed her motivation for writing. She related that she gave birth at a “big hospital . . . it was reputed to have the best equipment.”  She continues, “I felt let down that they didn’t take into account the mother’s strong emotions, her capacity to master pain and control her body.”

Caroline Gutmann researched her grandfather’s practice.  She explained that Dr. Lamaze trained everyone in the hospital in his method (relaxation skills and breathing patterns).  Each person that interacted with the labor patient was supportive.

When I read this I had a flash of insight.  A woman cannot advocate for herself when she is in labor, she needs support from the people around her.  I realized that many of my Lamaze students had entered hospital environments that were less than supportive of their approach to labor.

Childbirth care has moved in the direction of technology and away from emotional support.  Most labor nurses are good and kindhearted people, but they are tangled up in the technological approach to labor.  They are kept busy managing intravenous fluids, medications, and pumps. They insure that the fetal monitor is recording accurate information and document the progress of labor. Nurses are expected to treat pain, but time for emotional support and coaching is diminished.

One remedy for this gap in care is the service of a doula. A doula is a trained childbirth coach; her knowledge of labor and coping techniques can be a great benefit.

A friend or family member that attends Lamaze classes with an expectant mom can be an advocate for her, but may be limited by lack of prior experience with childbirth. The caring support of an informed friend or partner is a important during labor.

Gutmann, Caroline, The Legacy of Dr. Lamaze, St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2001. p. xxi.


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