Breathing can be an effective way to stay calm, to have more energy, to have some more control, to work with your contractions and enable your body to work more effectively BUT what does that mean? We can all breathe, so why do we need to know how to breathe for labour and birth?
I have focused on Relax & Breathe for the past 10 years and I have seen how relaxed breathing has made a difference to how women feel in pregnancy, as well as how it can affect how they feel and work with their contractions during labour.
My practice is all about keeping it simple – you don’t need to learn a new way to breathe, it is all about slowing down your breathing and learning to switch off and to focus on just breathing.
To be able to relax and focus on your breathing, it can also help to know what to expect: to know what your body needs to do in labour and birth and to know what is going on if you need a caesarean or an intervention so you can trust what is happening and stay calm.
So many of the pregnant women I work with comment that they didn’t realise how much tension they were carrying – but having a session to slow their breathing and to relax their body makes them aware of their tense jaw and stiff shoulders.
Stress and tension isn’t that great for us – it can make us ache and it can make us tired and carrying this tension into labour isn’t helpful – it can have an impact on how effective your contractions are and it can inhibit your endorphin release so the contractions may hurt more than they need to.
In pregnancy, relaxing and focusing on your breathing can ease aches and pains, it can help you sleep and it can give you more energy.
During labour and birth, relaxing your body and focusing on your breathing can also give you more energy, it can help you to work with your contractions by keeping calm and this can give you more control. It is also about heading off any panic or anxiety if you should feel overwhelmed.
Knowing how to use your breathing can help you feel more empowered and in control of your labour and any decisions you may need to make and it is a powerful tool you can fall back on if you need to just stay calm and keep going.
How to practise?
Slow your breathing – take a gentle in-breath (ideally through your nose) so you can feel your belly rise when you breathe and have a long out-breath (through your nose or your mouth), relaxing your body.
Find your own gentle breathing pace – don’t force it or you may feel uncomfortable or dizzy. Just breathe in as deeply as you can.
Focus on your breathing throughout the day so it becomes easier to use and more familiar for you.
How to use your breathing in labour?
As each big contraction starts, breathe in deeply and gently and then focus on your out-breath as your contraction builds. Keep focusing on your breathing throughout each contraction.
Be aware of how your body feels, if there is any tension try to release it. If you are carrying too much tension in your body, you will create adrenaline which can slow your labour.
When a contraction ends, you can breathe normally and enjoy the pause in-between. As soon as another contraction starts, focus on your breathing and let go of any tension.
You can also use your breathing if you feel overwhelmed or panicky to slow your heart-rate and feel calmer.
Just get in touch to find out more about using your breathing pregnancy and for labour & birth.
Janine | Birth, Baby & Family
A specialist in pregnancy, birth & early parenting