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Elisabeth Bing, Lamaze Childbirth Pioneer, Dies at 100

Elisabeth Bing, the natural child-birth pioneer who popularized the Lamaze method in the United States, has died at age 100.

Bing, born in a Berlin suburb on July 9, 1914, died on Friday at her home in New York, her son Peter said on Sunday.

When Bing was 18, she fled her homeland after Hitler took power in Germany and moved to England, where she became interested in obstetrics and natural childbirth while working in a hospital’s maternity ward as a physical therapist.

She helped postpartum women regain their strength after they were heavily medicated during childbirth and ordered to remain in their beds for 10 days, she told The Journal of Perinatal Education in 2000.

“What I saw I disliked intensely and I thought there must be better ways. It was very frightening and upsetting to me. The women either had very heavy anesthesia or nothing at all,” she said during the interview.

In 1949, Bing moved to the United States, eventually settling down in New York, where she took a job teaching childbirth classes to expectant mothers at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

There she familiarized herself and began teaching classes based on the work of French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze, who emphasized relaxation, breathing techniques and emotional support from the father during childbirth.

“She was a charming, delightful and strong individual, who had to sometimes take on a medical establishment that was not comfortable with the things she was pushing,” her son said.

In 1960, Bing help found the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, now known as Lamaze International.

During the next two decades, Bing introduced the Lamaze method to the United States, giving interviews on television and radio talk shows and speeches about the benefits of natural childbirth and important role expecting parents play in childbirth.

“Prepared childbirth was easy to introduce in a way because the atmosphere was right,” she said during the interview, attributing the growing popularity of the natural childbirth to Women’s Lib and other social and political movements of the time.

Peter Bing said mothers would regularly stop Bing, known as the “Mother of Lamaze,” on the streets of New York to thank her.

“It was clear that she had a lasting impression, a human impression as a teacher,” he said.


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