You might have heard about how breathing helps during labor and would have also seen videos in which a midwife motivates a woman in labor to take deep breaths. If you are a first time mom, labor can be the most intimidating part of pregnancy. Thankfully, you can handle it in a better way by practicing a few breathing techniques during labor. Breathing helps to ease pain and discomfort that accompany labor and help you stay calm during labor. Continue reading and get an idea about some breathing techniques which will help you to go through labor smoothly.
woamn breathing in labor

How Will Breathing Help With Labor?

When you are anxious or nervous, your breathing gets shallow and rapid. Panic breathing can make you feel dizzy and easily get exhausted as it cuts down the amount of oxygen you breathe in. During labor, you need to conserve as much energy as possible and for that you have to ensure sufficient oxygen intake for yourself and the baby. Moreover, during labor breathing is considered very effective and is a natural pain controlling technique.
You may wonder- “How is breathing going to help control labor pain?” Well, here are some reasons:

  • Slow, rhythmic pattern of breathing increases the oxygen supply in the body and more oxygen is available to you and your unborn baby. As you continue to provide more oxygen to your body, you will feel more energized, and this will in turn increase the chances of your labor to advance smoothly
  • Slow breathing technique will help you to relax a bit. Therefore, if you concentrate on breathing slowly and gradually, the pain and discomfort of a contraction will affect you less
  • As you have a contraction, if you concentrate on breathing, the contraction will be more productive and labor will progress fast
When To Start Breathing Exercises?

You can start breathing exercise during the early stages of your pregnancy itself. It has been found that women who practice breathing exercises throughout pregnancy are more in control of their bodies during labor and have a smooth labor. This is because, breathing exercises not only ensures adequate quantity of oxygen supply which is required for the healthy development of the baby but also provides energy to the mother. If you have been practicing breathing exercises throughout your pregnancy, it will become a habit and you will naturally follow these breathing techniques while you are in labor. Here are some of the breathing exercises you can practice during pregnancy:

  • Belly breathing: Sit down with the legs folded. Now breathe in deeply. You can control your breath through the counting method thus keeping your mind preoccupied with something. As you inhale, slowly count till four or five. Then as you exhale, take it up to six or seven. Do this breathing exercise 10 minutes daily
  • Nose and mouth breathing: In this technique, you breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth. Both breathe in and breathe out should be done at a slow pace. Just sit or stand straight while doing this
  • Ujjayi breathing: This is a yogic breathing technique, which helps you maximize your energy level during the pregnancy. Here you breathe in and out through your nose. Your mouth is shut throughout the process. Just concentrate on the sound of breathing. As you breathe in , you will make a hissing sound. While you breathe out, tighten your throat. Now the breath out sound will be similar to the sound of the ocean. Repeat it for at least 5 minutes every day

pregnant woman breathing

Some Breathing Techniques For Easing Labor

There are breathing techniques designed for different stages of labor. Some techniques that you can follow are:

  1. Breathing techniques for early labor:
    • Follow slow rhythmic breathing when you are in the early stages of labor
    • Ensure you take longer time to breathe out than to breathe in
  2. Breathing techniques for active labor:
    • Once you feel a contraction coming, breathe in deeply through your mouth and breathe out in short bursts as if you are blowing a candle. You can imagine your pain going away with every puff
    • Switch to light breathing that is inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth as the intensity of your contraction increases
    • When contractions are at peak, take short, quick breaths, like panting, in and out through your mouth (no need to involve the nose). You can combine this pattern with a deep breath here and there according to the intensity of your contractions
    • Remember to go back to the slow and regular breathing as the contractions slow down
  3. Breathing techniques for transition phase:
    • The major issue that you face during the transition phase is your urge to ‘push’. Pushing will be allowed only if you are dilated enough. Otherwise, the nurse or the doctor will ask you not to push. This is where pant-pant-blow pattern of breathing is helpful. Concentrating on this type of breathing helps to prolong your urge to push
  4. Breathing during delivery:
    • Once the pushing stage starts, do not hold your breath
    • Breathe in and breathe out gently through each contraction
    • When you feel the tendency to push, take a full breath in, tuck your jaw into your chest and exhale gradually as you bear down
    • Keeping your pelvic floor as relaxed as possible while pushing
    • Keep in mind to deep breath in before every push
    • If your partner is with you during labor, he can help you with the breathing strategy, which will be both energizing and relaxing for you. He can co-breathe and count with you as you breathe. This will help to distract you from the pain and concentrate more on contractions, making the contractions more productive

It is quite natural for your mouth to get dry while practicing the breathing techniques throughout labor. Sipping water or sucking ice chips in between the contraction will take care of your dry mouth.
Do let us know if the above breathing techniques helped you during labor.