Breathing Techniques for Labour

Labour is one of the most beautiful yet painful processes a woman can go through. It is true when a woman says there’s no pain like the pain in childbirth. However, the labor pain varies from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. 

Labor pain can feel like period cramps for some women and intense pressure for others. But the one thing that remains constant in relieving the pain up to some extent is breathing. Breathing techniques for labour can do wonders in helping a woman relax and calm down while she is having her contractions. 

This article is entirely dedicated to all the strong women out there who are expecting. Furthermore, this piece of writing will help you understand the importance of breathing during labor, different labour breathing techniques, and different types of breathing techniques for labor that can help you relax while you are in pain. 

What affects Breathing in Labour

During labor, everyone emphasizes the significance of breathing. Breathing appears to be such a basic and apparent thing to do that it’s difficult to think it may have such a significant influence on overwhelming labor sensations. But, miraculously, it does! 

While several labour breathing techniques help you relax and calms you down, few factors affect your breathing during labor. Some of them are excitement, pain, tiredness, worries/anxiety, fear, and contractions. A woman commonly experiences these factors during labor, and they might affect your regular breathing pattern in 2 ways:

  • Breath-holding
  • Panic breathing (hyperventilation)

How does Breathing help Labour

Most women do not know this, but deep breathing offers a plethora of advantages. It can help you relax, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and increase the amount of oxygen you get with each breath. 

It may also help you feel more in control and manage better with the agony of contractions when you’re in labour. Women must understand that how rhythmic breathing can do wonders while they are in pain due to labour. 

Usually, we tend to breathe faster while we’re stressed, agitated, or tensed. You start to over-breathe or hyperventilate when you are in a state of panic. Hyperventilation might make you feel like you aren’t receiving enough oxygen, which can exacerbate your anxiety. You may also feel dizzy and restless. You may have pins and needles in your fingertips, as well as chest aches. 

Now, if we talk about panic breathing, it is quite a common reaction to stressful situations. It’s perfectly natural and normal, but your body can’t stay in this position for very long before feeling fatigued. As labour is generally a long and tiring process, different breathing techniques during labour will help you conserve energy and deal better as you welcome your baby into the world.

Breathing Techniques for Labour

The breathing techniques for labour generally vary with different stages of labour. It keeps on changing as you progress with your labour stages. Few labour breathing techniques that may help you relax during your labour are mentioned below.

Breathing Techniques During Labour

1. When Contractions begin

  • The most important thing to remember throughout pre-labour and the latent period is to breathe rhythmically and slowly. 
  • This might help you relax, making it simpler for you to deal with the initial contractions. 
  • When a contraction begins, carefully inhale through your nose, pulling the air as deeply as possible into your lungs and belly. 
  • Exhale gently via your mouth after a brief pause. 
  • Try to relax your muscles as you exhale; each breath might be focused on a different region of your body.

2. During the First Stage of Labour

  • Your contractions will gradually get stronger and more painful as your labour progresses. 
  • As each contraction peaks, you might find it beneficial to breathe more quickly. 
  • About once every second, pant in and out through your mouth. 
  • As you exhale, you might also try making little “HEE” noises. 
  • Try focusing on anything in the room other than your pain as you breathe. It can be anything- a picture, a spot, an object, or even your spouse. 
  • Get back to breathing normally once the contraction subsides: inhale via the nose, exhale via mouth.

3. During Active Labour

You can follow the given steps while you go into the stage of active labor:

  • Begin with a calming breath.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply through your nose and mouth, respectively.
  • Slow your breathing as much as possible, then speed it up when the contraction becomes more intense.
  • Allow your shoulders to relax.
  • Switch to gentle breathing both in and out via your mouth (one breath per second) when the contraction peaks and your breathing rate rises.
  • Slow down your breathing pattern and return to breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth once the intensity of your contraction reduces.

4. During the Transitional Phase

Transition breathing can help reduce emotions of despair and tiredness when you progress to light breathing during active labour.

  • Begin with taking a deep breath.
  • Try focusing on anything in the room other than your pain as you breathe. It can be anything- a picture, a spot, an object, or even your spouse. 
  • At a steady rate of 1 to 10 breaths every 5 seconds, inhale in and out via your mouth during a contraction.
  • Blow out a long breath every 4th or 5th breath.
  • Take a long relaxing breath once the contraction subsides.
  • You can even verbalize your transition breathing pattern with a “HOO” for the longer breaths and “HEE” for each of the shorter breaths.

5. During the Second Stage of Labour

The second stage of your labour includes you pushing out your baby into this beautiful world. Follow your instincts and push as many times as you feel comfortable throughout each contraction. When you feel the need to push, follow your contractions’ strength and try breathing in the most comfortable ways.

  • Begin taking an organizing breath.
  • Concentrate on the baby’s movement down and out.
  • Slowly inhale, guiding your breath with each contraction.
  • To make yourself more comfortable, adjust your breathing.
  • Take a deep breath and gently exhale as you bear down when you feel the need to push.
  • Relax and take two deep breaths once contraction reduces.

Practice Labour Breathing with your Partner

It’s not always simple to breathe regularly and relax every time you exhale while you’re having severe contractions. You may also feel exhausted and as if your work is never-ending. This is where your birth partner’s support is important. 

By breathing alongside you, he can assist you in maintaining a regular breathing pattern. Another thing that helps is having eye contact with your spouse. He can even hold your hands or keep his hands on your shoulders while you gently lean on them. You can then follow his breathing pattern as he inhales via the nose and exhales softly. 

Try practicing this mirror technique during your pregnancy. To begin with, it might make you guys feel self-conscious and odd, but co-breathing is said to be quite helpful throughout labour, especially when you feel like you can’t go on any longer.

What is Lamaze Breathing?

Lamaze breathing is one of the most helpful breathing techniques for labor that focuses on the concept that controlled and regulated breathing can help women relax and feel less discomfort. The following are some of the essential labour breathing techniques:

  • Slow breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Rhythmic breathing
  • Nose and Mouth breathing
  • Diverting your mind to something else other than your labor pain; concentrating on a picture, object, your partner, etc
  • Keeping your eyes closed or opened while breathing as per your comfort

People who encourage this technique say that Lamaze is a comprehensive curriculum that instills confidence and keeps things simple to ensure a safe and healthy birth, and breathing is just part of it. 

Moving, slow dancing, position changing, massaging, etc. are a few of the recommended labor comfort strategies that can facilitate your breathing techniques for labour.

Our Advice

Regular visits to your gynecologist are advisable if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant to ensure your baby’s and your health. During one of those sessions, you might as well talk about different relaxation and labor breathing techniques like Lamaze breathing. 

When you practice various techniques throughout pregnancy, you’ll have more alternatives when you’re in labour. Pay attention to your body and figure out which strategies are most effective for you. 

When the big day arrives, your partner, along with your midwife, will be there to help you maximize the benefits of your preferred breathing patterns.

Laura is a trained primary teacher who takes a profound liking in interacting with and bringing out the best in children. She is also an ISSA certified pediatrician with an extensive practice of over 12 years. Laura comprehends the needs of infants and now compresses her expertise into writing thorough parenting guides to aid new parents.

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