Developed in the 1940s by a French obstetrician, the Lamaze technique is a method of preparing for childbirth using breathing and relaxation.
Most commonly used in the US, the focus of a Lamaze class is on "increasing women's confidence in their ability to give birth".
Therefore classes consist of a variety of coping strategies, including breathing techniques and the emphasis is on "learning how to respond to pain in ways that both facilitate labour and increase comfort".
As a philosophy, Lamaze stipulates natural birth and, as part of the course, followers of the technique learn to be well informed when it comes to any possible complications.
There is also a good deal of emphasis on the use of pain relief, allowing the mother to give informed consent to any pain relief medication that might be offered, such as epidurals.
Lamaze also teaches ways to better move and position the body to make birth more beneficial to the process itself and more comfortable for the mother.
As well as covering the birth itself, Lamaze also deals with the early days of parenthood including early interaction with your baby and breastfeeding.
A typical course of Lamaze classes involved 12 hour-long sessions, often with only 12 couples per class but, though the technique has been praised by many, it is largely based around the idea of coping with pain, and not a pain-free birth as you might imagine.