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Breathing techniques for labour and birth

Breathing is a natural physiological process, which is carried on by our body as a reflex. We do not think about how we breathe. However, in some cases, you must know how to breathe properly: for example, for more effective sports training, swimming, etc. Proper breathing has a special significance for a woman during childbirth.

The importance of proper breathing during contractions and labor

The importance of proper breathing during contractions and laborThe expectant mother has to learn to breathe properly prior to the onset of labor. The growing uterus eventually begins to put pressure on the diaphragm, which reduces available bodily space intended for the lungs. The less room left for the main respiratory organs, the more difficult it is for the expectant mother to breathe: breaths become more frequent, but not as deep as an ordinary person’s.

Labor itself is an extremely painful and unpleasant process. But not all expectant mothers know that through proper breathing during childbirth and labor, they can significantly reduce the level of pain, by focusing on the breath, instead of the pain. It will also ease the baby’s entrance into the world. Proper breathing assists a woman with relaxation during labor and also provides invaluable assistance during contractions.

[attention type=yellow]When giving birth, a woman must recall everything she was taught in labor classes, which are so popular nowadays: her proper breathing during contractions will affect not only the level of pain during labor, but also the future health of the baby. During contractions, the uterus undergoes a compression of the blood vessels – the main providers of oxygen for the baby. The lack of oxygen gradually leads to fetal hypoxia – the baby simply suffocates. The risk of this complication is significantly reduced when a mother follows proper breathing during labor and contractions. But if a woman does not breathe properly during labor, the risk of fetal suffocation increases dramatically.[/attention]

If the expectant mother learned to breathe properly by following the exercise regimen, then between labor contractions there would be enough oxygen in the mother’s body for the baby to travel through the birth canal without suffocating.

Fetal hypoxia is very dangerous to the baby’s health, as it may affect its future development: babies who suffer severe hypoxia can lag in mental and physical development, and demonstrate neurological disorders – this will obviously devastate the mother.

Breathing techniques during contractions and labor

How do you breathe properly during contractions and what is the process of proper breathing during labor? This is directly related to the stage of labor.

How to breathe properly at the onset of contractions

How to breathe properly at the onset of contractionsThe first contractions – signaling to the mom that’s a time to head to the hospital – as a rule, are not as painful. During this period, a woman can even engage in certain activities, or take time to put together a hospital bag. During this period, follow a technique of slow and deep breathing.

Slow deep breathing technique:

Inhale through the nose counting “1-2-3-4” and exhale through the mouth for a count of “1-2-3-4-5-6” (lips pursed) – in this fashion, the exhalation is longer than the inhalation, allowing the necessary volume of oxygen to travel through the mother’s body to the baby, and allowing the mother a break from the pain and a bit of relaxation.

How to breathe correctly during intense contractions

During this period of labor, the woman is in more severe pain. The biggest mistake of first-time mothers, is “tensing up” to suppress the pain. Remember, this only aggravates the situation and adversely affects not only your health, but also the birthing process! In some cases, labor activity ceases, the cervix can not fully dilate, and doctors have to intervene the natural process in order to re-activate labor. Remember also about the lack of oxygen to the fetus, as mentioned above!

During intense contractions you should try to relax the muscles and to remember analgesic breathing – now is the time to use it! This technique is called “panting.”

The Panting Breath technique:

At the peek of a contraction, slightly open your mouth, like a dog on a hot day. The breathing is fast and shallow. Typically, this type of breathing is used at the most crucial moment, when the contractions grow intense. The harder the contractions, the faster the breathing.

How to breathe correctly during cervical dilatation

How to breathe correctly during cervical dilatationThe stronger the contractions and the more dilated the cervix, the more difficult it becomes to breathe slowly. Therefore, at this stage of labor a slow and deep breathing should be combined with fast and shallow breathing. This technique is called a “steam train.”

“Steam train” breathing technique:

This is a combination of panting with a calm and slow breath. As the contraction begins, we pant, inhaling through the nose and exhaling quickly through the mouth – this is easier with pursed lips. When the contraction comes to an end, we return to deep, slow breathing.

Concentrate on the fact, that with each contraction the baby is closer to being born, and do not focus on the pain. To reduce the sensation of pain, it is best to assume a less painful position:

  • stretch the arms toward the floor and slightly lean forward – this posture will allow the abdominal muscles to relax;
  • get on all fours and slightly swing side to side to the rhythm of your breath;
  • squat on your knees and spread them to the sides;
  • make circular motions with the pelvis.

For pain relief at this stage of labor ask your spouse or midwife to massage your waist, back and stomach. Take a break to chat, listen to music, try reading a book.

How to breathe correctly when pushing

How to breathe correctly when pushingPushing is the most important step during labor. The midwives “run this show,” and the woman in labor has to have complete trust in their competence and experience. They are the “high priests of the maternity ward” and they will prompt you to breathe correctly, when to push, and when to stop and catch your breath.

Breathing during pushing goes as follows:  the mom takes a deep breath in through the nose and pushes hard as she exhales through the mouth, directing all of the air pressure on her uterus while exhaling fully. This is called ” blowing out a candle.” As you exhale, you can sing vowels out loud.

[attention type=green]When the baby’s head begins to crown, you need to switch to the “panting” breathing technique. With proper breathing and in the absence of any complications, the birth passes quickly: the baby can be born in only three-four pushes.[/attention]

Additional information about how to prepare for and breathe during labor

There are a few simple rules that can help the expectant mother to control the process of breathing during labor:

Additional information about how to prepare for and breathe during labor
  • the stronger the contraction, the faster and more intensive the breathing;
  • in order to reduce pain, stick with your breathing rhythm;
  • your breath should be completely controlled – do not breathe haphazardly;
  • relax as much as possible at the start of the contraction;
  • keep panic attacks at bay;
  • don’t wait for the contraction – just relax.

It’s ideal if a woman trained to breathe properly and attended classes for expectant mothers before delivery: they usually teach the various breathing techniques. Do not “wing it” and do not avoid helpful breathing exercises. Mothers who trained diligently encounter less breathing problems during labor, compared to those who “played hooky” from their exercises.

Sometimes, you may hyperventilate – experience an excess of oxygen – during training. If this happens, the expectant mother may get dizzy and black out. To remedy hyperventilation, inhale and hold your breath for 30 seconds.

Breathing with an open mouth during childbirth, can lead to a dry mouth. This can be avoided by keeping the tip of the tongue pressed to the palate, right behind the teeth, or breathing through the open palms.

Video about How to Breathe during Labor

The following video contains proper breathing demonstrations, as well as some general recommendations on how to breathe properly during pregnancy and labor.

[attention type=yellow]With the right preparation and diligence in your training, you will learn all of the breathing techniques used during labor. How did you learn to breathe? What breathing techniques did you use? Were you able to reduce your pain with proper breathing? Share your stories in the comments and recommendations section.[/attention]

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