Elisabeth Bing, the natural childbirth pioneer who co-founded Lamaze International died on Friday in her New York home. She was 100.
“Our founder and the mother of childbirth education in America lived a very full life,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page. “She will be remembered for her perseverance, her love of families, and her deep desire to help others.”
Known as the “mother of Lamaze,” Bing emphasized breathing and relaxation techniques as one way of easing the pain and anxiety of delivery. She authored the book “Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth” in 1967.
Today, an estimated quarter of American mothers-to-be and their spouses attend Lamaze classes each year, according to the New York Times. Lamaze International has about 2,000 childbirth educators located around the world.
A trained physical therapist, Bing became interested in childbirth in the 1950s, at a time when expectant mothers were often heavily medicated during childbirth and fathers were usually absent from the delivery room, according to the Associated Press.
Bing wrote in a 1990 article in Lamaze Parents’ magazine about a personally pivotal moment in her career, when her own mother observed one of her childbirth classes:
While my mother was watching my class, she suddenly spoke up near the end of the session and said, ‘I wish someone had told me all about labor and delivery, and I wish they had taught me to use my body correctly. I did not know how to help myself. And I wish someone had shown me how to relax. Nobody told me anything beforehand,’ she added. ‘I was frightened and helpless and very lonely.’
In a 2000 interview with the Journal of Perinatal Education, Bing said she was encouraged by the doctors who supported her during her initial advocacy for childbirth techniques that gave pregnant women more agency over their own bodies.
“These doctors were prepared to stick their necks out even though there was a lot of opposition from their colleagues at that time to ‘this crazy fad,'” she said. “I think they were uneasy about the overmedication of women and they probably had the same feeling that we had — that there must be better ways.”
Lamaze International’s president, Robin Elise Weiss, told the AP on Saturday that Bing’s continued influence in delivery rooms across the country cannot be overestimated.
“Even if people haven’t heard her name,” she said, “she’s impacted how they give birth.”