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  • Writer's pictureJessica Lagrone

The Best Breathing Techniques During Labor and Delivery


pregnant woman in birth tub breathing

When it comes to giving birth, keeping calm and collected is essential for Mom and the little one. A big part of keeping your cool? Nailing those breathing tricks during labor and delivery. So, let's dive into some breathing techniques to help expecting moms handle the ups and downs of labor like champs. We'll see how taking proper deep breaths can change the game, giving women the strength and courage to tackle childbirth head-on.


Benefits of Breathing Techniques for Pain & Birth Preparation


If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about breathing during childbirth, we have info to share. The proper use of breathing during labor has numerous benefits for the mother and the baby, as you’ll see below:

  • Focusing on deep, slow breaths can help manage labor pain and discomfort during contractions, leading to a more relaxed and controlled labor experience. 

  • Controlled breathing helps increase oxygen flow to the baby, promoting their well-being throughout the delivery process.

  • Practicing breathing techniques at home before labor begins can help Mom feel more prepared and confident through each stage of childbirth.

  • Breathing exercises help Mom focus and calm during an intense and transformative experience.

  • Incorporating proper breathing into labor can positively impact both mother and baby's physical and emotional well-being.

  • Staying calm and relaxed helps regulate Mom’s heart rate and can calm the baby.


Keep these benefits in mind as you practice breathing techniques. It will keep you motivated and prepared for the big day.


What can happen if Mom's breathing is not stable during labor and delivery?


Believe it or not, Mom’s breathing plays a big role in the health and safety of her and baby. If Mom's breathing becomes unstable, serious risks can arise.


Decreased oxygen levels can impact the well-being of both Mom and baby, leading to potential complications such as fetal distress or hypoxia. Also, unstable breathing can cause Mom to become fatigued more quickly, making the labor process more complex and potentially longer (which no one wants). In severe cases, unstable breathing can even lead to emergency interventions such as emergency cesarean section or the need for assisted ventilation. Therefore, proper breathing is really important to ensure a safe and smooth delivery for both Mom and baby.


Different Breathing Techniques for Labor and Delivery 


As mentioned, breathing techniques are wonderfully beneficial in helping moms manage pain and stay calm during treatment. Here are two major breathing techniques that laboring women utilize:

  • Paced or slow breathing. This involves deep inhalation and exhalation to help focus and relax the mind (inhale slowly through the nose and exhale through your mouth). This can be particularly helpful for pain management during contractions and is what we highly recommend to pregnant women.

  • Patterned breathing. This technique involves breathing in a specific rhythm or pattern ("pant-pant-blow" and "hee-hee-who"). While this is a popular relaxation technique, we do not recommend it for pain management. (More on why below)


It's important to remember that every birth experience is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's worth exploring different breathing techniques during pregnancy to see what feels most comfortable and practical. 


The Two Stages of Labor


Giving birth is quite a journey, full of twists and turns. It's like a rollercoaster with different stages, each with its challenges. The labor and delivery process involves two main stages. 

  • First stage: This is the longest and most challenging part: the first stage of labor. This is when the body gears up for the big moment by getting the cervix ready and ramping up those contractions.

  • Second stage: Next comes stage two: game time. Here, all attention is on pushing that baby out. It's a real team effort between Mom and her support crew as they work together to welcome the new arrival. It's a wild ride of physical and emotional intensity as they bring new life into the world.


Understanding these stages will help you know what type of breathing or breathing pattern best suits each moment. 


More Helpful Breathing Technique Tips


When it comes to improving your breathing techniques, a few more tips may be helpful for you to consider. 

  • Diaphragmatic breathing. This involves focusing on belly breathing rather than shallow chest breaths. This can help increase your oxygen and reduce stress and anxiety. We recommend slow, deep breaths beginning at the start of your contraction, until the end.

  • Practice breathing regularly. Practicing breathing techniques often can help improve your lung capacity and overall respiratory function. 

  • Pay attention to your posture. Good posture can actually significantly impact your breathing. Sitting or standing up straight can help open your airways and make it easier to take deep breaths. 

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids and incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine can also help improve your breathing techniques by keeping your lungs healthy and functioning efficiently. 

  • Consider using visualization techniques. Breathing deeply and imagining a peaceful place or scene can help relax the body.


These are just a few more tips that you can incorporate into your life to help improve your breathing abilities and take them to the next level.


How to Practice Breathing Techniques with Your Partner


Practicing breathing techniques with your partner can be an excellent way to strengthen your connection and promote relaxation. Plus, practice makes perfect! Here are some tips to learn and practice breathing exercises with your support person:


  1. Find a quiet and comfortable space to sit or lie comfortably. 

  2. Take a deep breath (slowly inhale and exhale) through your nose and your mouth. 

  3. Match your breathing with your partner’s, creating a synchronized rhythm. 

  4. You can also place your hands on each other's chests or stomachs to feel the rise and fall of your breath. 

  5. Be patient and supportive as you try out different relaxation and breathing exercises together. 

  6. Communication is very helpful, so check in with each other throughout the practice to make sure you both are on the same page.


Including breathing techniques in your routine with your partner can deepen your bond and create a sense of calm and connection. This will also build confidence before labor comes! We dive into this extensively in our Birth Class for Couples!


Conclusion


For years, deep and mindful breathing has served as a powerful tool for managing pain, reducing anxiety, and maintaining a sense of control during childbirth. You can channel your energy and remain centered throughout each contraction by practicing specific breathing techniques that are best for you during labor.


It's also helpful to practice these techniques regularly so they become second nature when the time comes. Remember, the goal is to stay calm and focused during labor and delivery, and proper breathing can be a powerful tool in achieving that.

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