Breathing Techniques During Labor
Breathing techniques during the labor and delivery of a baby is one of the most important aspects of the birthing process. Good breathing is beneficial to the mom, as it helps reduce pain, supplies the body with oxygen, and supplies the muscles with oxygen (so that they can handle the contractions better). Good breathing is beneficial to babies, as it gets the oxygen they need to them – labor is hard on a baby, too! When babies are getting enough oxygen, it helps prevent them from going into distress. Fetal distress is one of the main causes for an emergency c-section, or other medical interventions. Stress tends to make one hold their breath, and labor can be stressful, causing anxiety to some mothers. However, holding the breath does more harm than good; and it is very important for a woman in labor to breathe it out, and have someone there to remind her to breathe!
Each stage of labor can benefit from a different style of breathing, as the laboring woman's body is going through different changes at each stage. Breathing during the first stage of labor (beginning and transitional periods) is focused on relaxing, keeping calm, and building optimum oxygenation within mom and baby. A good, deep breathing technique to use is the cleansing breath. The mother should inhale through the nose, while keeping the body relaxed; and then exhale through the mouth, and release any stress, anxiety, and tension she may be having in her body. Slow, paced breaths are good too. They help the mom relax, especially when hit with a hard contraction. Breathing at a pace that is about half of the rate she normally breathes can help with oxygenation, too. Inhaling to a count of four (through the nose), then exhaling to the count of four, is a great pace to set. The infamous pant breath can be good for mom, too.
When mom is pushing, she may have a new energy, as she knows that she will see her baby soon. Breathing at this stage should be at a comfortable pace for the mother. Just as long as the breath is not being held, it should be okay. The cleansing breath is excellent for this stage in labor, as it gives the baby a boost, and mom the energy she needs to push effectively. A mother usually tires easily during the pushing stage, so it is very important to remind her how to breathe effectively for more energy.
It is a good idea for the mom and her partner to practice breathing techniques, before labor and delivery begins. Try practicing at a time when she is feeling particularly stressed. This will help her to see which breathing technique helps dissipate the stress the fastest.