In 1951, and again in 1955, Dr. Fernand Lamaze, a French obstetrician, traveled to the Soviet Union to study “psychoprophylaxis,” a method designed by Soviet psychologists, obstetricians, and neurologists to help women overcome pain and fear during childbirth. The method, which was rooted in the medical use of hypnosis and suggestion to alleviate pain, involved training women to take their minds off uterine contractions by concentrating instead on other bodily functions, such as breathing. Lamaze refined the method and brought it to the West.
Lamaze's account of his indebtedness to Soviet scientists suggests that it may be useful to learn more about Soviet women's experiences during pregnancy and childbirth. Perusal of the literature, however, indicates that, while general descriptions in English of Soviet obstetrical care are available, very little is known about Soviet women's perceptions of and attitudes toward pregnancy and delivery.