Expectant mothers have probably seen enough movies and television shows that depict labor that they know how important breathing is to help them focus during labor. Lamaze breathing used to be quite popular as it taught mothers patterned breathing, such as hee-hee-hoo. While Lamaze has moved away from patterned breathing, focusing on the breath and using breath as a tool for labor has been found to be very beneficial. Below are some simple breathing exercises that your birth doula can teach that may be beneficial and helpful during labor.
General Breathing Tips:
- Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth
- If you find that you are getting dizzy or lightheaded, change your breathing. Change the pace or depth, focus on the exhales until you no longer feel dizzy or lightheaded.
Deep cleansing breaths are good indications for your birth team that a contraction is starting and ending. Take a deep filling breath through your nose when you feel a contraction starting, and exhale completely through your mouth, letting your body relax. When your contraction is ending, take in another deep breath in through the nose, and fully exhaling out your mouth, letting go of the contraction at the same time. Deep cleansing breaths at the beginning and ending of each contraction helps with your mental focus.
Slow, deliberate, full breaths complete with a pause at the top of each inhale and bottom of each exhale. This style of breathing will help you to remain focused and calm your mind. Slow breathing is especially useful when you are no longer able to walk or talk through contractions with ease.
As labor progresses it may be necessary to switch from slow breathing to quicker, lighter breathing. Light breathing is the practice of breathing in and out through your mouth, at about one breath per second. To prevent yourself from getting lightheaded, focus on the exhales more than your inhales.
Breathing to Avoid Pushing
Sometimes during labor, you might get the urge to push before you are fully dilated, or you are advised to not push as to protect your perineum as your baby is crowning. Here are a few tips to avoid pushing:
- Don’t hold your breath—keep breathing!
- Mix it up with a longer exhale every few breaths
- It might be helpful to keep your chin up as well
- Pay attention to your exhales instead of your inhales
Breathing During Pushing
When you are ready to start pushing, use your breath to help deliver your baby. Be sure to conserve your energy for the peak of your contractions when the urge to push and bear down in unbearable! Let your contraction build, breathing slowly, until you have to bear down! Take a big breath in, tuck your chin down, and bear down. Some women might find it more helpful to hold their breath for a few seconds, while others might not.
During labor, your birth doula can help you with your breathing to ensure that you are comfortable and using your breath to help with labor and delivery. Remember that your breath is a useful tool for relaxation and to helps you focus. There is no right or wrong way to breath during labor, do what makes you feel the most comfortable.