Breathing Exercises for Labor

Since the earliest beginnings of childbirth education, educators have emphasized using breathing exercises as a complement to relaxation during labor. Here are even more reasons to use breathing patterns while you are in labor:

Breathing Exercises Can Enhance Relaxation

Childbirth experts have recognized the benefit of mothers staying as relaxed as possible during and in between contractions. One way to help mothers relax is to use slow, deep abdominal breathing during contractions. In some cases, mothers can also combine their breathing and relaxation exercises to achieve even greater relaxation.

Breathing Exercises for Labor Maintains an Exchange of Oxygen and CO2

Using patterns of deep breathing during labor will insure that the mother keeps a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide during labor. If mother is breathing erratically, it can lead to hyperventilation. Maintaining deep, relaxed breathing exercises during even the most intense contractions will make it nearly impossible for mothers to hyperventilate during labor.

Rhythmic breathing techniques that encourage slow breaths inhaling for about 4-5 seconds and then exhaling for 4-5 seconds will help to maintain an even flow of respiration which is essential during the long hours of labor. Mothers’ bodies are working hard and using deep breathing is essential to get good blood flow and oxygen to her muscles and other body parts.

Breathing Exercises Can be Used as a Ritual

A ritual is anything you find yourself doing again and again. Penny Simkin, author of The Birth Partner, explains that rituals used in labor often occur with a rhythm in order to help the mother cope with the pain. Breathing patterns are one of the best rituals that can be used to complement any other comfort technique that also has a rhythm to it such as massage, rocking, swaying, and the like.

Breathing Exercises for Labor Provide Distraction

If mom is focusing on breathing exercises rather than on the intensity of contractions, it can help to reduce her discomfort by providing her a distraction. She can use her breathing patterns by counting her breaths or using her breathing to help her relax her body during contractions. Her labor partner can also count breaths for her during contractions. Focusing on the pain of contractions will only make the pain seem that much harder.

Breathing Exercises for Labor Can Help Prevent Breath Holding

A natural response to pain is often holding one’s breath. Mom may instinctively do some breath holding during the pushing stage, however holding her breath during early or active labor is not good for her or her baby. Over time, holding one’s breath does slow the blood flow to the mother which means less blood and oxygen ultimately for baby. Using a breathing pattern can help prevent the temptation to stop breathing when intense contractions come.

Did you use any breathing exercises during your labor? What worked for you? Leave a comment here.