Breathing Exercises for Labor and Birth

Breathing Exercises for Labor and Birth

Several Breathing Techniques to Help You During Childbirth

Most women find that breathing exercises are helpful for comfort during labor.

How Childbirth Methods including Lamaze Have Changed

Many of the early methods have focused on specific breathing exercises that corresponded to various stages of labor. For example, Lamaze classes taught mothers to use deep breathing exercises during the early part of labor and patterned breathing exercises for later stages.

However, what many childbirth experts have discovered is that while mothers do choose to use breathing exercises during childbirth, they are not always in a specific pattern at a certain phase of labor. Moms seem to know best when it comes to what techniques they prefer and which ones provide comfort during labor.

The Benefits of Breathing Exercises

There are many benefits of using breathing exercises, including helping to enhance relaxation, keeping an even flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide and to prevent the mother from holding her breath during contractions. Another benefit of using breathing exercises is that they provide a distraction. If a mother knows she needs to begin contractions with a cleansing breath and then use deep breathing until she feels the contraction ending as she finishes with another cleansing breath, it gives her a job to do.

Breathing Exercises You Can Use During Childbirth

Many Lamaze classes are now teaching very few breathing exercises. Here are a few of the more popular breathing exercises you can use for comfort in labor:

  1. Deep Breathing – Many women find they can use this breathing exercises throughout all of labor. Begin with a cleansing breath, start inhaling very slowly through your nose to a count of four, exhale very slowly out of your mouth to a count of four; repeat throughout contractions and finish with a deep cleansing breath.
  2. Shallow Breathing – Use this breathing technique any time you feel you need to breath in shorter breaths than deep breathing. Begin with a cleansing breath, breathe in for two seconds through your nose, breathe out for two seconds through your mouth; repeat until the end of the contraction; finish with a cleansing breath.
  3. Sigh Breathing – As contractions intensify, some mothers like to use a long sigh as part of the exhale. Use your cleansing breath and breath in deeply through your nose, then use a deep sigh as your exhale; repeat throughout contraction and finish with a cleansing breath.
  4. Vocalizing – Some mothers find that instead of using a deep breathing technique during contractions, they prefer vocalizing such as moaning, groaning or repeating a work or phrase. It is difficult to practice this ahead of time, since vocalizing this way is often a spontaneous exercise. The only caution with this exercise is to make sure you avoid sounds with an “eee” sound or those that are high in pitch since they increase tension in your body.

Childbirth Classes Should Include a Review of Many Breathing Exercises and Comfort for Labor

Since no one single method works best for each mother, you should make sure that any childbirth class you take includes a review of many exercises to choose from. For example, if your instructor only discusses deep relaxation or hypnosis, what will you do if this exercise does not help you for comfort in your own labor?

Be sure you ask all of the right questions before you register for classes and be open to doing spontaneous techniques that may actually feel better to you than those things you have practiced.

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