What follows is an article written by Rahima Baldwin, the founder of ALACE.
Our Mission and A History of Childbirth Education
By Rahima Baldwin
ALACE is one of the four major childbirth education organizations which certifies childbirth educators throughout the US and Canada (and we also have teachers in more than 10 foreign countries). The following brief description will help familiarize you with the various approaches in North America today.
The most well-known method of natural childbirth in this country, "Lamaze," was developed around 1950 by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze in France under the name "childbirth without pain." Lamaze had witnessed women in the Soviet Union giving birth without anesthesia after they had undergone Pavlovian conditioning to breathe and relax during contractions. These women were assisted by a trained "monitrice," whose voice was important in eliciting the conditioned responses. Lamaze further developed his own technique to include implementing the use of varying levels of shallow breathing, and staring at a fixed focal point. Marjorie Karmel journeyed to France to experience such an "awake and aware" birth and brought the movement back to America through her 1957 book Thank You, Dr. Lamaze. Her work was instrumental in founding the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO/Lamaze), the first such organization in America. Just as Kleenex has become nearly synonymous with tissue, Lamaze classes sometimes seem to be used as a generic term for childbirth preparation classes.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the influence of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read's pioneering work with natural childbirth in England was gaining a few adherents in America. Dick-Read had attended a woman in labor who refused his offer of chloroform. Afterward she sheepishly had asked, "It wasn't supposed to hurt, was it?" By emphasizing knowledge and relaxation, "childbirth without fear" became a way for women to give birth without being knocked out.
An American obstetrician, Dr. Robert Bradley, was influenced by Dick-Read and came to feel that women who were awake and aware should be sharing this important time with their husbands. Through his influence, husbands started "coaching" their wives and being admitted to the delivery rooms when their wives had attended prepared childbirth classes. "The Bradley Method" and "Husband-Coached Childbirth" are registered trademarks of Bradley's approach, which is known for teaching slow, deep breathing for labor contractions and for their students consistently showing an excellent record of avoiding drugs and anesthesia in labor.
As the natural childbirth movement gained ground during the '60s, another national organization, ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association) was founded with a more eclectic approach to childbirth education than ASPO, drawing from the work of Dick-Read, Lamaze, Kitzinger and others. Unlike ASPO, which trains mostly nurses and physical therapists, ICEA does not have a credential or college requirement, recognizing that women who are mothers already have the proper "credentials" to train to be excellent childbirth educators.
The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE) is a nonprofit educational organization formed in 1995 to promote and support the professions of childbirth education and birth assisting. It trains and certifies both childbirth educators and birth assistants (doulas, monitrices) through the programs developed and previously offered by Informed Homebirth/Informed Birth & Parenting.
Informed Homebirth (IH) was founded by Rahima Baldwin Dancy in 1977 in response to the need for information on how to prepare for a safe delivery at home; the original childbirth educator training program was developed in 1978. While most of the early IH teachers came from a homebirth background, they soon found themselves teaching hospital-bound couples as well. In 1981 the second name "Informed Birth & Parenting" was added so that pregnant women and couples could more readily identify instructors as having the information they wanted to know, regardless of where they were giving birth. More than 2,500 women have enrolled in this training program since 1977.
The internationally-recognized series of weekly preparation classes were among the first to emphasize visualization and the psychological aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenting, and consistently take a woman-centered, consumer-oriented stand toward obtaining maternity care. Developed by a woman who is herself a mother and midwife, the classes don't teach any "method," but emphasize tools for working with the intensity of labor, and stress the knowledge and confidence necessary to help achieve relaxation and to help with the decisions which labor and delivery often involve. Recognizing that relaxation is the key to natural childbirth, only the slow, deep breathing of relaxation is emphasized. Communication skills are also practiced, because only the laboring woman can know what she is feeling or what she needs.
The present program was developed in 1993, having been completely revised by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and Catherine Stone, with input from other IH/IBP teachers as well. In 1995 ALACE was formed to promote the two programs formerly offered by IH/IBP, leaving Informed Homebirth free to concentrate on midwifery and birth at home and the annual Magical Years Conference on the young child.
The ALACE Childbirth Educator training program combines the important psychological perspectives on birth that have always distinguished Informed Birth & Parenting classes with insights into the far-reaching sociological and anthropological influences that shape women's experiences of birth in our culture. The goal of the classes is to empower women in this important area of their lives, so they have the tools and the confidence to actively give birth and make the choices that will lead to the best possible birth for themselves and their babies.
The prime emphasis of the program is for pregnant women to make active choices to create the best possible birth experience--whether it be in the hospital, at home or in a birth center.
Copyright © 1995-2004 ALACE