Breathing Techniques To Ease Labour
You may have been introduced to breathing techniques and the benefits associated with it during your antenatal class or in your pre natal yoga class. However, if for any reason, you have missed learning about breathing techniques before, or just need a cheat-sheet, we are here to guide you. Now, you may be wondering, what is this big excitement around breathing exercises? Trust us, you will do yourself and your baby a big favour by learning to control your breathing.
Slow, rhythmic breathing increases the amount of oxygen available to you and your baby. More oxygen means you will have more energy to go through your labour. Many women lose control of their breathing during the strenuous hours of labour. They pass into a panic, taking rapid shallow breaths. This cuts down the amount of oxygen available to your muscles, aggravating the pain from contractions. Breathing slowly and steadily eases of the sensation of contractions.
Breathing techniques during early labour
During early labour, your aim should be to relax and conserve your energy.
Take deep, slow breaths as long as you are comfortable, switching to another pattern if you find it difficult to relax. Here are some steps to follow along with each contraction:
1. Cleansing Breath: At the beginning of each contraction, take a deep cleansing breath, similar to the kind of breath a yoga instructor uses to start a class. How to do it: focus your attention and inhale through your nose. Count up to 4 as you draw in air. Exhale through your mouth, counting up to 5, loud enough so others can hear the exhale. Try to release all the tension from head to toe as you breathe out. Pause up to 2 counts before you breathe in again. Another visualization you can use is to imagine a golden thread swirling away from your lips as you exhale.
2. Slow, relaxed abdominal breathing: After the cleansing breath, take slow breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth, at half the speed you would normally breathe. Imagine the air moving in through your nostrils as you inhale to fill your lungs and expand your diaphragm. You may feel the need to switch to another pattern as your contraction builds up. Just remember your aim is to keep your breathing in sync with the contractions.
3. Light “Hee-Hee” Breaths: As the intensity of the contraction increases, you would want to increase the rate of your breathing. Take shallow breaths (faster and lighter), making a soft “hee” sound. (Imagine how you breathe after you have taken the staircase to your fourth-floor apartment). Keep your body relaxed.
4. Panting: As the contraction peaks, you would want to pant like a dog. Take a deep breath at intervals through your mouth and blow out in short bursts as you would blow out a few birthday candles.
5. Gradually decrease the rate of your breathing as the contraction dies down. Return to slow, relaxed abdominal breaths; breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
6. Take another cleansing breath to release tension at the end of each contraction. This helps to signal to your partner and medical support that a contraction has passed.
Breathing during the Transition Phase:
During the transition phase, you would want to combine light shallow breathing with a deep exhalation at intervals. There are times in the different stages of your labour when you feel overwhelmed or exhausted. You may feel a desperate need to push. However, you should not give in to this urge until your midwife gives permission to proceed. You should also avoid holding your breath during this phase. Instead, try this technique at that juncture It appears like panting and blowing out at intervals:
1. Take a deep cleansing breath to focus your attention. Loosen your body.
2. Take light “hee-hee” breaths through your mouth in rapid succession.
3. “Hee-Hee-Who” Breaths: Similar to “hee-hee” breaths, but after 2-5 “hee-hee’s”, do a deep exhale like you are blowing out a candle. Stick to a pattern to help you relax.
4. End each contraction with another cleansing breath.
Breathing patterns for the second stage of labour:
The second stage of labour begins once the cervix is fully dilated.
1. Start each contraction again with a cleansing breath, releasing all the tension as you breathe out.
2. Draw your attention towards the movement of your baby down and out. Allow the pace of your contractions to guide you. Start with deep slow breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As the intensity of your contraction increases, switch to light shallow breathing. When you cannot resist the urge to push, take a deep breath, tuck your chin into your chest and breathe or blow out slowly as you bear down. Most important of all, relax the pelvic floor. The urge to push comes in waves during the contraction cycle. You can use these breaks to replenish your supply of oxygen by breathing deeply.
3. As your baby crowns, you may be told to stop pushing. At this time, it is wiser to pant.
How to Practise Breathing
You can practice the various breathing routines that you need when you’re doing ordinary daily tasks, whether it’s watching TV, reading a book, doing laundry, or right before going to sleep. You should be able to use each type of breath for two minutes without feeling out of breath. If you start to feel light headed, take a deep relaxing breath and start over.
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