Benefits of practicing breathing
* Breathing becomes an automatic response to pain and contractions
* The mother remains in a more relaxed state and will respond more positively to the onset of pain and contractions
* The steady rhythm of breathing is calming during delivery
* Provides a sense of control
* Increased oxygen provides more energy for both the mother and baby
* Brings purpose to each contraction, making contractions more productive
At the beginning and end of each contraction remember to take a deep, cleansing, relaxing breath.
Breathing patterns for the first stage of labor:
Begin slow breathing when contractions are intense enough that you can no longer walk or talk through them without pausing. Use slow breathing for as long as you find it helpful. Switch to another pattern if you become tense and can no longer relax during contractions.
1. Take a breath, a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension as you breathe out.
2. Focus your attention.
3. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, allowing all your air to flow out with a sigh.
4. With each exhale, focus on relaxing a different part of your body
Light Accelerated Breathing
Most women feel the need to switch to light breathing at some time during the active phase of labor.
1. Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension as you breathe out.
2. Focus your attention.
3. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Accelerate and lighten your breathing as the contraction increases in intensity. If the contraction peaks early, then you will have to accelerate early in the contraction.
4. As the contraction decreases in intensity, gradually slow your breathing rate, switching back to breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
5. When the contraction ends, take your finishing breath—exhale.
Breathing to avoid pushing at the wrong time
There will be times throughout both stages of labor when you will want to push or bear down, but it is not the right time. Most women want to hold their breath during these, particularly difficult moments. Avoid holding your breath by breathing in and out constantly or by raising your chin and blowing or panting.
Breathing patterns for the second stage of labor
Used once the cervix is fully dilated and the second stage of labor has begun.
1. Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension (go limp all over – head to toe) as you breathe out.
2. Focus on the baby moving down and out, or on another positive image.
3. Breathe slowly, letting the contraction guide you. Accelerate or lighten your breathing as necessary for comfort. When you cannot resist the urge to push (when it “demands” that you join in), take a big breath, tuck your chin to chest, curl your body and lean forward. Then bear down, while holding your breath or slowly releasing air by grunting or moaning. Most important of all, relax the pelvic floor. Help the baby come down by releasing any tension in the perineum.
4. After 5-6 seconds, release your breath, then breathe in and out. When the urge to push takes over join in by bearing down. How hard you push is dictated by your sensation. You will continue in this way until the contraction subsides. The urge to push comes and goes in waves during the contraction. Use these breaks to breathe deeply providing oxygen to your blood and baby.
5. When the contraction ends, relax your body and take one or two calming breaths.