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Breathe during Labour: Essential tips to Prepare for Birth

breathe during labour

Learning how to breathe during labour correctly can help you stay calm and focused during labour and prevent unhealthy breathing, such as hyperventilation (breathing too quickly and rapidly) or holding your breath, which can lead to fatigue and dizziness.

It's helpful to practice this type of breathing during pregnancy. You and your partner can learn breathing techniques that will help you prepare for labour.

How to breathe during labour

During your Latent phase and/or 1st stage of labour, you may find that all you need to do, apart from trying to carry on as normally as you can at home or wherever you are, is focus on your breath's movement.

So… When you are ready, sit down comfortably, maybe on your birth ball, or lean over the back of a chair with a pillow in front of your tummy or on your knees, with your arms resting over the ball. Then, you can either play some of your favourite relaxation music you have been listening to during your pregnancy or enjoy the silence.
 Breathe through your nose, and breathe out gently through your mouth, slowly and deeply, ensuring your shoulders and face are relaxed. Allow the breath to come into your body easily. As you feel a surge starting, continue focusing on your breath, especially the out-breath. Simply by doing this, you may find that this is all you need to do, and you enjoy this rhythm throughout your first stage. So don't feel that you need to do anything else.

Find your focus

You may feel that you need to focus your breath on a particularly tense area of your body, for example, your shoulders, jaw or pelvis. You may find this helpful if you make your out-breath a little longer. Prefer when you lengthen your out-breath and allow it to drop into your abdomen, and if you place your hands on your abdomen whilst doing this, you will enjoy the lovely rhythm as you breathe in and out and feel your abdominal muscles draw gently in.

You may also like to visualise some opening images, like a rose opening in slow motion or a pebble thrown into the water, and watch the ripples as it spreads out and out.

You could breathe out for as long as this image lasts; for instance, try breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 6 or 8 seconds during a surge.

If you find it difficult to relax, especially during a surge, why not ask your birth partner to do light stroking or massage up your back? Whatever you have practised and enjoyed together in your pregnancy will trigger you to relax, as you are both familiar with the technique.

Remember to tell your birth partner what your image, visualisation, or word is so they can focus on the same thing and encourage you if needed.

The Flower or Waves

As your labour progresses and you feel surges are more powerful, or if you think they are less powerful or ineffective, it may help you to visualise your cervix to be like a flower opening up, with its beautiful petals unfurling as the power of the surge builds.

Or you can visualise soft waves moving gently with each breath; practice listening to the relaxation below with your breathing.

The more you can relax, practice and trust, the easier it will be. Join our weekly class for expectant mums or Calm Birth workshop for couples.

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