Breathing Techniques for Labor

Breathing properly is vital for having an untroubled labor. This is the reason why most obstetricians emphasize on the importance of learning breathing techniques for pregnant women as they can help them in remaining relaxed during labor. Moreover, special breathing techniques designed for labor can also help soon-to-be moms pass the contractions easily as well as get through the labor process.

How Can Breathing Techniques for Labor Help?

Shallow and panic breathing are common when a person is frightened or is in a state of stress. During labor, if you are stressed, you might start panic breathing which would mean less flow of oxygen through your body and less oxygen for your baby. Moreover, you will start feeling light-headed and exhausted as well since you won’t be getting the amount of oxygen you need. This can cause you to lose control of your body and make labor a very hard process for you.   

However, breathing in a rhythmic manner during labor helps in increasing the flow of oxygen in the body. This ensures that there is plenty of oxygen available for both you and your baby during this crucial phase. In addition to this, employing a breathing technique would also make it easier for you to deal with the contractions that are a part and parcel of the labor process.

Studies have shown that the risks associated with caesarian or assisted birth can be avoided altogether through the use of rhythmic breathing and other relaxation techniques. To get a better understanding of this, doctors suggest pregnant women to learn about the risks of losing control of their breathing during labor.

What Is the Best Breathing Pattern for Labor?

While keeping your eyes closed, try to concentrate on your breathing pattern and feel whether it is rhythmical or not. For rhythmical breathing, you have to pause before breathing out and taking in a new breath. Moreover, you must make sure that the time duration of the in-breath and the out-breath as well as the amount of oxygen you draw in and breathe out during the two breaths is roughly the same. One important thing to keep in mind for rhythmical breathing is that the in-breath can be kept slightly shorter than the out-breath but not the other way around. It is normal to experience shallow breathing during contractions, but try not to start panic breathing during them. 

What Specific Breathing Techniques for Labor Can You Try?

The breathing can be done either entirely through your mouth or your nose, or you can choose to breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. The important thing is that you need to relax while breathing and its pace should stay even. And the breathing technique must comprise of a focal point and a cleansing breath.

1. Basic Breathing Techniques for Labor

  • Cleansing breath: Cleansing breath is an exaggerated long breath that you would have to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This breath must be taken before and after a contraction to tell your partner that a contraction has started and also to give yourself and your baby a healthy amount of oxygen. This breath is also going to serve as a signal for you to start relaxing your body both during the contraction and after it as well.  
  • Focal point: Having a focal point in mind can help you in concentrating better on your breathing. This focal point can either be an image of a beautiful scene or an object that is present in the room. However, during the course of labor when contractions get stronger, you might lose sight of this focal point. In such situations, it is better to stretch your legs and arms when taking deep breaths.    

2. Breathing Techniques for Different Stages

  • Breathing techniques for first stage labor

Breathing Techniques

How to Do It

Slow breathing

Slow breathing is done by taking in a cleansing breath first, and then you need to take in a breath through the nose and exhale comfortably with your mouth, keeping your lips in a pursed position. You will have to take a cleansing breath at the end as well. This breathing technique is also known as abdominal breathing or relaxed chest breathing, and it’s similar to how we breathe during our sleep.

Light breathing

Light breathing involves doing a cleansing breath at the beginning and at the end. Between these cleansing breathes, you can start to breathe like slow breathing. But if you feel the contraction getting stronger and your breathing becoming shallower, then start making sounds like “hee” or “hoo” while exhaling, and try to concentrate while making these sounds until the contraction subsides.

Patterned breathing

For patterned breathing, you would also have to start with a cleansing breath. Take in three shallow and quick breaths, and at each exhale, make a “hee” sound. Repeat to take another 3 quick breaths and make a slow “hoo” sound on exhalation after. And end the whole breathing process with a cleansing breath.

Variable breathing

Variable breathing is similar to patterned breathing. The only difference between these 2 breathing techniques is that you can make a “hoo” sounds wherever you want among the “hee” sounds.

  • Breathing techniques for second stage labor

Breathing Techniques

How to Do It

Spontaneous bearing down

Before feeling the need to push, breathe in slowly, then take a deep breath and bear down for at least 7 seconds while holding your breath or exhaling slowly. Now completely exhale and relax before gearing up for another push. You can grunt and moan during bearing down if you like.

Directed pushing

Directed pushing is for pregnant women who feel no urge to push. Before the caregiver tells you to push, you just breathe comfortably.  Then breathe deeply and hold on it or exhale slowly during the 7 seconds of bearing down. After that, breathe out all the left oxygen.

Prolonged pushing

Prolonged pushing is a type of directed pushing in which the mother will be asked to hold the breath for a period of over 10 seconds while bearing down. This technique is highly risky, so it is not recommended.

Want to know a belly breathing technique for labor and coordinated pushing? Check this video out: