Elisabeth Bing

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Bing was born on the 8th of July 1914, in a suburb of Berlin. Hers was a home birth, and she was delivered before the doctor could arrive.

Her family were of Jewish descent but converted to Protestantism years before her birth, and on sensing danger with the rise of Nazi Germany, they decided to leave the country.

Elisabeth Dorothea Bing (8 July 1914 – 15 May 2015) was a German physical therapist, co-founder of Lamaze International, and proponent of natural childbirth.

She trained as a physical therapist in England after fleeing Nazi Germany due to her Jewish ancestry.

Her hospital work there made her interested in natural childbirth, and she taught it to parents in the United States after she moved there in 1949.

Her interest in obstetrics began after working with new mothers in hospital.

At the time, standard childbirth procedures involved giving mothers large amounts of medication, and keeping them in hospital for 10 days after they gave birth.

Bing’s job was to give physical therapy to these postpartum mothers.

After talking about her experiences at the hospital with one of her part-time private patients, she learned of Grantly Dick-Read’s book Natural Childbirth.

She was unable to meet Read or other like-minded individuals because of the outbreak of World War II, so she taught herself as much as she could about obstetrics.

Bing continued to teach natural childbirth methods in New York, and in 1951 she was invited by Dr. Alan Guttmacher to teach at Mount Sinai Hospital, which had just opened its first maternity ward.

It was here that she heard about the psycho-prophylactic method of childbirth developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze. Lamaze’s method incorporated breathing techniques as well as the natural childbirth techniques developed by Read.

Mount Sinai Hospital wasn’t able to afford to send Bing to France to learn the method from Lamaze, but she met Marjorie Karmel, who had published the book Thank You, Dr. Lamaze, in 1959.

Karmel had learned the method directly from Lamaze in Paris, and then in turn she taught it to Bing.

In 1960, the two went on to found the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, now known as Lamaze International.

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.

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.

“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.