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    Effective breathing techniques for labour

    Written on 14 August 2018

    Once a woman becomes sure about the arrival of a tiny one into this world, lot of preparation ideas come to mind. Listing the things that will be needed after the birth of their baby and the stuff parents must stock their homes with, is one such activity. Besides, ideas also start popping up about baby names, choosing the right doctor and hospital, comfortable clothing, photo sessions for future memoirs, packing a hospital bag and dealing with anxiety and fear of childbirth.

    While all these are important, it is worthwhile to educate yourself about various aspects of the whole labor and delivery process and explore breathwork as an alternative method to ease the pain and stress during labor.

    How breathwork can help during labor?

    The more you learn about labor and birth, the more you will find out about different patterns of breathing that can be used at various stages of labor. You will be taught to use breathing so that you can focus on making each contraction productive for the process of birthing. Patterned breathing is extremely helpful in making a woman cope with the various types of discomfort, pain, fear, and anxiety.

    Learning breathing techniques early on in pregnancy is a great way to put them to work for you. Practice your breathing techniques throughout your pregnancy to ease anxieties and stress. By the time your labor arrives and you have to put these techniques to actual work, you will almost be like a professional in breathing.

    What are some helpful breathing techniques?

    During labor, you should aim to have rhythmical breathing. You must not let the inhaling or the in-breath get longer than the exhaling or the out-breath. In the midst of extremely strong contractions, your breathing can get shallower. It is absolutely normal to have shallow breaths as long as you maintain a rhythm and your breathing does not become faster and faster and cause you to do panic-breathing. These days, many hospitals have breathing experts to guide you and even your doctor can advise you about the correct breathing techniques and patterns you should follow. They can tell you right way of breathing during and between contractions.

    Some effective breathing techniques during pregnancy are:

    Relax Breathing – It is simply a way of using the two syllables in the word ‘relax’ which are “re” and “lax”. While inhaling, just think "re" and while exhaling just think "lax". Try to release any tension in your body while breathing out.

    Counted Breathing – An effective breathing technique, counted breathing involves counting slowly upto four or five while inhaling and counting four or five again while you exhale.

    Lamaze Breathing – Lamaze is a popular birthing method especially in the U.S.A and rhythmical breathing is one of its key aspects. These rhythmical breathing techniques focus on concentration and help in relaxation thereby helping women turn their attention away from painful contractions. Specialized Lamaze teachers and classes are available and you can consider going to one.

    Another effective way is to try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. You should make your mouth very soft as you exhale the breath out. Some women even find making a sound such as ‘oohhh’ or ‘aaahh’ while exhaling to be very relaxing.

    You can do slow breathing during early labor when your contractions begin to get regular. Then you can move to various other breathing techniques during the advanced stage of your labor. But, it is important that you do not feel bound by a specific breathing technique. The trick is to be aware of and practice different breathing techniques beforehand. This way, you can switch to a different breathing technique if you feel that the one you have been using is not working for you or you simply have the urge to do something different.

    How can your partner provide a helping hand?

    It is often very tough to maintain a breathing rhythm and stay relaxed when you are having painful contractions. A tired, stressed and helpless kind of situation faced by women during labor makes it even more difficult. In such a situation, a labor partner who could be your husband can play an important role.

    • He can help keep your breathing steady by breathing with you.

    • Eye contact by him can be helpful and relaxing for you.

    • He can help you relax and maintain a breathing rhythm by holding your hands.

    • If you are finding it difficult, you can just follow his breathing pattern.

    You should practice with your breathing partner during the early stages of pregnancy, it may feel weird to begin with but slowly both of you will get used to it. Co-breathing with your breathing partner is seen to be very effective and useful during labor when you just feel like giving up and think that you can’t go anymore.

    Breathing and pushing

    During the advanced stage of labor, you have to push your baby out. You should simply try to push as many numbers of times during each contraction that feels right to you. Women generally have the urge to push four to five times in each contraction and taking several breaths in between. You must maintain rhythmical breathing between contractions as it is very important since it helps maximize the oxygen available to you and your baby during labor. Women are also strongly advised against holding their breath and pushing for long duration as it may damage your pelvic area and also disrupt the oxygen supply to your baby.

    Does breathwork help in an epidural too?

    If you have opted for epidural, it is advisable to not push for at least 50-60 minutes from the time you are fully dilated. This should be followed unless the baby’s head becomes visible or you are getting exceptionally strong urge or feeling to push. Also, you must stay calm and composed if don’t feel like pushing. It happens with a lot of women and your doctor is there to guide and help you and tell you when to start pushing.

    It can be concluded that breathing which is such a normal part of life otherwise, plays a very important role during delivery. It can not only help reduce your stress and pain during labor, but also help in having a safe and relaxed delivery experience. All you need is to be aware, practice during early stages of pregnancy and follow the simple but effective breathing techniques during labor.

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