Childbirth and going through labor is just like running a marathon. And just like an athlete, proper breathing can help you go through the whole stretch. During pregnancy, your breathing rate at rest and amount of oxygen inhaled is also increased. This affects how you will go through childbirth. And though breathing is a natural thing for you to do even while you are asleep, practicing breathing is necessary for breathing correctly during childbirth.
- Determine your breathing rate at rest. This is your baseline before you do any breathing techniques. It helps that you have breathing partner who will be present during childbirth. He will monitor your breathing, count aloud for you and help keep you focused. Count how long you inhale and exhale at rest.
- Do cleansing breaths. A cleansing breath is best done at the beginning and at the end of a contraction. Inhale through the nose in 3 to 4 counts and exhale through the nose or through thin lips in 4 counts. Try to exhale longer than you inhale to really clear your lungs. This helps you avoid panic breathing or fast paced breathing which can tire you out quickly. The cleansing breath helps to release tension and is a good marker for timing contractions.
- Choose visual focal points. During contractions and during cleansing breaths, it helps to have a visual focal point. It can be an object that reminds you of a relaxing experience like a photo of cascading waterfalls or even a teddy bear. Practice this at home and bring this object with you in the labor room. A mental picture can also help.
- Do slow paced breathing. Here you have to focus on relaxed, slow, even and controlled breathing. Again, keep your mind away from the pain and visualize your baby in your arms or enjoyable things you can do in the future. Avoid taking short breaths at this time. In case you do go into panic breathing, cup your mouth and face with your hands and try to breathe slowly.
- Take two short breaths in and one long exhale out. You may get the urge to push even if you are not fully dilated. Your doctor or midwife will give you the cue when to push so you must resist until then. Otherwise, you are giving yourself and your baby unnecessary pressure. When you feel rectal pressure and it is not yet time to push, take two short breaths in through the mouth and a slow exhale also through the mouth. Practice this at home too. You might hear yourself saying, “hee hee shoo” as you may tend to vocalize your breathing. Your partner should also breath with you this way to help keep your focus.
- Exhale as you push. When it is time to push, take two cleansing breaths. Do not hurry your breathing just so you can push when you hear the word, “now” from your doctor or midwife. Take another deep inhalation, tuck your chin in your chest and exhale quickly while pushing. Continue pushing as long as you can. Inhale again and exhale as you push. It is not necessary to do one long push during a contraction. Holding your breath is not advisable either so just focus on continuously inhaling and exhaling. Pushing will come naturally for you. Remember to try to go back to slow paced breathing when you are not pushing.
As early as now, keep in mind that proper breathing ensures you and your baby have the much needed oxygen you both need. And it also diverts your focus from the pains of labor. The strength your need during childbirth is proper conditioning of the mind more than your physical well being. It is like a marathon but you are not racing against anyone. So take it easy, breath and look forward to the finish line rather than the long and tiring race.