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Lamaze: Why men must be involved

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/Maternal%20and%20newborn.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Despite increasing popularity of Lamaze birth technique among women, there is still widespread lack of awareness especially among men. Therefore, there is need for more sensitization on the importance of men being involved in this critical area of family life. In this article, Christabel Wesonga, Director of Maternal and Child health services at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi explains Lamaze and why men ought to be active participants in maternal and child health (MCH). she also explores the benefits of, and perceptions about male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is Lamaze birth technique?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">It is a child-birth preparation technique based on proven scientific method whose aim is to provide a positive birth experience for expectant couples. It focuses on labour as a natural event. It entails rhythmic breathing exercises that reduce heart rate, anxiety, and pain perception during labor. It is a variation of the natural childbirth where labor and childbirth are without medical intervention; no drugs are given to relieve pain or aid the birth process. It builds confidence, teaches childbirth coping mechanisms, and essentially serves as an alternative to medical intervention. Lamaze places emphasis on safe and healthy pregnancy, birth, and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy.  It is important to clarify that the method neither encourages nor discourages the use of medication during labor and delivery.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Is Lamaze an alternative to hospital delivery?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">No. It is simply a birth preparation technique regardless of the delivery method you will use- whether normal or caesarian section. Anyone desiring home delivery would benefit even more from this technique due to the limited availability of birth support systems at home. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Why is it important for men/ husbands to attend Lamaze classes with their wives?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth is very important. Ideally, both husband and wife ought to attend the Lamaze classes together. This helps especially the husband to stay involved during pregnancy and delivery, and to continue supporting the wife and the new born. In this technique, a mother learns about childbirth anatomy and physiology and practices pain management through relaxation, massage, and breathing exercises. Research has shown that it influences pregnancy outcomes, reduces negative maternal health behaviors for the woman, minimizes risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, fetal growth restriction and infant mortality. There is scientific evidence that by providing emotional, logistical and financial support, male involvement reduces maternal stress, increases uptake of prenatal care, leads to cessation of risky behaviors -such as smoking and drinking. It also enhances men&#39;s commitment to their future parental roles from an early stage.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is the man taught in a Lamaze class?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">By attending Lamaze classes, the man is empowered to be accessible - present, available, and a team player as well as responsible - concerned, maintains connection with the woman and is a caregiver, provider or protector. The classes also help the father to desire to be engaged - caring about the pregnancy and the coming child, wanting to be involved and to be supported by the health system to accomplish his roles.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What are some of the perceptions or fears men have about Lamaze?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">In the African context, men were not to be involved in childbirth - it was a taboo. Even though this has shifted and more men are readily involved in assisting their wives during pregnancy and after delivery, the traditional notion still has great influence in some communities. As such, some might see Lamaze as counter-culture. The other perception is that the technique is only about delivery and therefore has no place for the man. Additionally, some men would generally be hesitant to be present especially during delivery, and even in the initial days after delivery when mother and child need support. Traditionally it was the role of women. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What factors may hinder men from being involved in childbirth?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">In recent years, generally speaking, there have been deliberate efforts to promote male involvement in maternal and child health. However, involvement is still low.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Notably, patriarchal societal values and norms that influence gender roles have partly hindered male involvement in maternal and child care.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Men&#39;s participation in MCH is affected by multiple factors emanating from the community and health institutions. Involving men in MCH is critical, and therefore participatory and comprehensive approaches should be applied to encourage participation at all levels. Communities&#39; sensitization is fundamental for increasing awareness of the significance of male involvement in MCH.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">So what could be done to increase men&#39;s participation in Lamaze classes?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There is need to have workable strategies to invite men to participate in maternal health care at health facility, family and community levels. The couple strategy, however, is most effective but it&#39;s mostly used by educated urban residents. Use of a male-peer strategy is also effective and sustainable at community level. Overall, there is need for creation of awareness among men so that they sustain their participation in maternal health care activities of their female partners even in the absence of incentives, coercion or invitation.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Does AKUH have a Lamaze policy that supports men&#39;s involvement in maternal and child health?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The Aga Khan University Hospital has fully embraced the technique and offers Lamaze classes. We encourage both mother and father to attend classes to learn together.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>This article was first published in the Business Daily on April 22, 2022</em>

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