Breathing is a tonic for relaxation. Your breath can be utilised to support you during the birth of your baby.
Breathing techniques can used to help you with the discomfort of contractions. The following breathing techniques can reduce the need for medicinal pain relief during labor.
5 Tips on Preparing For Birth
Breathing techniques for labor relieve anxiety, improve the level of oxygen to your baby, and to create a more positive birth experience.
Deep breathing allows for the pain-relieving hormones, endorphins, to be released which has a calming and relaxing effect.
When fearful or in pain the body releases less of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Practicing these techniques will support you to become confident and relaxed.
Spending 10-15 minutes a day practicing breathing techniques will support you to be more comfortable during labour.
Tips for Breathing Techniques During Labour
Slow breathing during early labor
Use slow breathing during early labor when your contractions start to become more regular.
You can switch to another breathing technique when you feel that the one you are using is no longer working for you.
1. When a contraction begins, take a deep breath and consciously release all tension as you breathe out. Focus your attention on your breathing.
2. Slowly inhale through your nose and then slowly exhale through your mouth. You can count to 5 as you inhale and to 8 as you exhale to maintain your focus.
3. Pause for 1–3 seconds and repeat.
Light accelerated breathing as an alternative in early labor
This breathing technique can be used in early labor or when slow breathing is no longer relaxing or effective.
1. Start with a cleansing breath (a deep and slow breath in through your nose and out through your mouth) as the contraction begins.
2. Accelerate your breathing as the contraction peaks by inhaling and exhaling at an increased speed. Breathe in and out through your mouth, with light and shallow breathing. It can be described as ‘puffing’.
3. Go back to your normal or slow breathing again.
Variable breathing during the transitional phase
The phase when your cervix dilates from 8 to a full 10 cm is called the transitional phase because it marks the shift to the second stage of labor. This is the most intense part of labor. Contractions are usually very strong, coming every two-and-a-half to three minutes. It is also the shortest stage of labor.
1. Start with a cleansing breath.
2. Breathe in. When you breathe out, make the ‘hee’ sound three times and then one long ‘hoo’ sound.
3. When the contraction subsides, you can take another cleansing breath.
4. Go back to your normal or slow breathing again.
Expulsive breathing during the second stage of labor
Use this breathing technique when you feel the urge to push during the second stage of labor. Your cervix is now fully dilated at 10 cm.
1. Breathe comfortably until the urge to push becomes irresistible.
2. Then take a deep breath and hold it or slowly release it while bearing down for 5-7 seconds.
3. After bearing down, exhale any remaining air and breathe comfortably until you feel the next strong urge.
4. Repeat the same procedure. You may bear down 2-4 times in one contraction.
5. Finish with a cleansing breath. Some women find it helpful to grunt, moan, or make low noises while bearing down.