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Baby Talk: Thank these women for modern childbirth techniques

Last week an amazing woman named Elizabeth Bing died at the age of 100. She was the co-founder of an organization called ASPO (American Society for Prophylaxis in Obstetrics). She and Marjorie Karmel, her co-founder, changed the way babies are delivered in this country. Many of you have not ever heard of either of them. However, if you had a loved one with you when you delivered your baby and were able to take a class to prepare you for the birth of your baby you have these two women to thank.

When I was in nursing school, I remember the chapter in our obstetric textbook addressing the physical injuries that happen to a woman while she was in labor. These injuries were a result of the woman being given medications that made her delirious, of being tied down to the bed, and other things that used to happen when a woman was in labor.

I remember being a student nurse and taking care of women after delivery and them asking me why their throat hurt so much. Their throat hurt because they were screaming during their contractions. After the contraction, they would pass out from the medications they were given. It was routine to give a drug called Narcan to babies to help them come out of the opiate stupor they were in because their mother was in an opiate stupor.

Bing decided that this was all wrong. She empowered women by teaching them about what to expect while they were in labor. Fate would bring Marjorie Karmel and Elizabeth together in New York. Marjorie was an American woman who had been lucky to have Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze deliver her second child while she was living in France. He had trained Marjorie to use certain breathing and relaxation exercises he had learned from a Russian doctor who was famous for his theories on the power of conditioning, Dr Pavlov.

Marjorie, now back in the United States and expecting her third child, met Elizabeth and took her class. She was able to share with Elizabeth things she had learned from Dr. Lamaze. After the birth of her third child she encouraged Elizabeth to write her book: "Six Practical Lessons for Childbirth."

They then decided there should be a curriculum to teach others how to teach this new approach to childbirth. That curriculum was then taught by people who had been trained by their organization: ASPO. ASPO teachers spread the word that women should and did have a choice in the birth of their child. Another wonderful organization began shortly after, ICEA, the International Childbirth Education Association. The classes became known as "Lamaze" classes.

Women became empowered and decided they would be involved in the birth of their child. They didn't want to be tied down or over-medicated. They decided they wanted to be a participant in the birth of their baby. They decided they wanted someone with them, preferable the father. Fathers became empowered by helping their wives during delivery and being present for the birth of their baby.

Hospitals and physicians had to change their practices if they wanted to keep their patients. Parents would travel long distances just so they could deliver at a hospital that welcomed them and supported their desires. Classes were attended by people that wanted to be part of this movement. Childbirth classes still make a difference.

I was blessed to have met, learned from, dined with and laughed with Elizabeth Bing at ASPO meetings. She was always so gracious and loved meeting the teachers she could claim as her own. She loved hearing about how much parents loved taking classes and being part of their baby's birth.

Thank you Elizabeth for starting the movement, changing maternal child practices, empowering families, and teaching us the importance of following a dream.

Dreams can come true and yours did. Rest in peace.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at