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Breathing and Relaxation Techniques During Labor and Natural Birth

Updated on March 24, 2011

Natural Pain Relief During Natural Birth

If you have decided to have natural birth than you know that breathing and relaxation techniques are very useful as a natural pain relief during natural birth.

Quality preparation for natural birth is very important for every woman and her partner. Preparation includes breathing, relaxation and pushing techniques because they can help you during natural birth as a natural pain relief.

Breathing Techniques

The benefits of breathing techniques are that they shorten the natural birth, act as the natural pain relief during contractions and increase the motivation of pregnant woman to give birth to her baby quickly and easily.

Breathing should be exercising during pregnancy and used during contractions and pushing as a natural pain relief. If you don’t have any problems, you can start exercising at week 16 several times a day for 2 to 3 minutes.

Even if you don’t become expert in breathing, don’t give up. It is better to use any breathing technique for any amount of time, than not using it at all or screaming.

Preparing for natural birth means mastering the following techniques:

  1. Breathing techniques
  2. Relaxation techniques
  3. Pushing techniques.

Birth has four stages and every one of the techniques mentioned above is used during one of the birth stages as a natural pain relief. Birth starts with cervix dilation (first stage). When the woman is dilated for 10cm, first stage ends and starts pushing and childbirth (second stage). After the baby is born starts the delivery of placenta (third stage). The last stage is a period of rest that lasts approximately for two hours (forth stage).

Breathing techniques are used during contractions in the first stage of birth as a natural pain relief. Relaxation techniques are used between contractions. Pushing techniques are used during the second birth stage to deliver the baby easier.

Breathing techniques will not release the pain completely. But, they will ensure enough oxygen, which is very important for mother and the baby to function normally.

Breathing and relaxing techniques are great natural pain relief during natural birth
Breathing and relaxing techniques are great natural pain relief during natural birth

First breathing technique

First breathing technique is used at the beginning of the first stage of the birth. But, you can use as long as it suits you.

Breathing exercise

Inhale through mouth. Exhale through mouth, but saying the letter s, like ‘sssss’.

During inhale stomach is tense and during exhale it is pushed toward your spine.

Put your palm on your belly and concentrate on its movement. That will also calm you down. During contractions you can inhale and exhale as many times as you want. If you start feeling baby’s movements, don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, because of specific air exchange.

When I started having painful contractions I first used this breathing technique as a natural pain relief. I practiced it very well during my pregnancy and I was used to hearing myself saying ‘ssssss’. So I started breathing like that in the delivery room and it really worked as a natural pain relief. I was calmed and thinking about my breathing instead of the pain and contractions. Just being calmed and relaxed helped me feel less pain and fear.

Possible errors you can make during the exercise of first breathing technique:

  • Moving your chest without moving your belly
  • Short exhale
  • Too deep inhale, which goes from your stomach, all up to your shoulders
  • Practicing breathing right after the meal.

First breathing technique is called deep belly breathing.

Second breathing technique

Second breathing technique is used as a natural pain relief during the major part of the first stage of the birth.

You should practice this technique very well, because you can easily make a mistake. Especially during longer and intense contractions it can be very hard to keep breathing correctly.

You should move your diaphragm as little as you can. If your breathing is too deep, your diaphragm will be touching your uterus, which will increase the pain.

Second thing that can happen to you, if you don’t use this technique correctly, is hyperventilation, during which you can have nausea or even start vomiting.

During the normal breathing, diaphragm is going up and down, enabling the air exchange. But, when you use second breathing technique, you will be breathing with short, shallow and fast inhales and exhales. That way you will minimize diaphragm movements and handle the intensity of contractions easier.

Breathing exercise

Inhale through nose shortly. Exhale through mouth shortly. Continue breathing through mouth with short inhales and exhales. When the contraction is over, exhale completely.

Listen to your breathing, its sound should be pleasant and relaxing.

When you start exercising, second breathing technique will be very demanding and exhausting. But, the more you exercise, the easier it becomes. Eventually, you’ll be able to breathe using second breathing technique for several minutes without feeling tired or exhausted.

Your breathing must have its rise, culmination and fall, just like contraction. Imagine you are running in front of contraction, you should always be ahead and exhale completely just before the contraction ends.

The length of the inhale can be compared with the length of your nose. When you inhale, try to feel when the air comes till the end of your nose. This is how long the inhale should last.

It is necessary to exchange the air during second breathing technique. This means that you should exhale the whole air through your mouth, inhale through your nose (shallow) and continue with short inhales and exhales through mouth.

You mouth will dry during this exercise and during actual contractions, so be sure to have a lip balm and a bottle of water with you.

Possible errors you can make during the exercise of second breathing technique:

  • Wrong air intake
  • Too deep inhale
  • Too deep exhale
  • Irregular rhythm of breathing
  • No air exchange.

Second breathing technique is also called dog breathing or gasping.

Third breathing technique

Third breathing technique is used as a natural pain relief at the end of the first and at the begging of the second stage of the birth. This could be the hardest part of the birth. You might have very strong urge to push, but you mustn’t, because baby’s head hasn’t lowered enough to start pushing.

Third breathing technique is similar to the second one, but it ends with very long exhale.

Breathing exercise

Start with second breathing technique; breathe with short and shallow inhales and exhales. When the contraction almost raises its maximum, have very long exhale. This long exhale will make just a little bit of room in your stomach to ease the pain from the baby’s head pressure.

After the long exhale, follows the short inhale and you continue with second breathing technique again. You can make as many such break ups as you like. Sometimes, during one contraction, you will have to make several break ups as a natural pain relief and control the urge of pushing.

You should apply third breathing technique when you feel baby’s head pressure, urge to push and during very long and intense contractions with no time to rest.

Possible errors you can make during the exercise of third breathing technique:

  • Short exhales
  • Insufficient inhales
  • Too long rhythm exchange.

I was dilating pretty fast as the first stage of birth was going to its end. In one moment, the next contraction was so strong and painful, that I instinctively switch to second breathing technique. Physically, I was so well prepared, that I managed to keep the breathing fast and shallow during my contractions.

When the baby’s head really started pressing and I felt the urge to push, I was asked to wait. I started using the third breathing technique, because very long exhales decreased the head pressure and pushing urge.

When I gave birth to by daughter, I was very pleased that I really mastered those breathing techniques, because that natural pain relief I decided to used when I was pregnant was the best decision I could have made.

If you are also planning a natural birth, learn about natural pain relief techniques and treatments, because they can be very helpful in decreasing the pain and the fear of birth.

Relaxation techniques

It is not very easy to tell the pregnant woman giving birth to relax between the contractions. A woman needs to be so well prepared for birth, to be able to relax completely between the contractions.

I wanted natural birth and was extremely motivated to learn breathing and relaxation techniques. I was searching for a natural pain relief I could use during contractions and this seemed right.

When that day came, I was so well prepared that I was able to relax completely between my contractions and even fall asleep for a minute or two. Those short sleeps acted as energy accumulators and gave me strength to go through every contraction that followed no matter how painful it was.

Sometimes, contractions are so frequent, and there is not enough time to truly relax and retrieve energy. Right preparation is essential and women who were very well prepared managed to avoid fear and despair that is very often seen in women giving birth.

Most women can prepare themselves for natural birth and use breathing techniques as a natural pain relief during contractions. There is one moment during first stage of birth when contractions become so strong and frequent, that most women say they cannot do it any more. This moment is known as transition and is a sign of the end of the first stage of the birth. But, before this stage is over, woman still have to go through some very exhausting contractions.

If you become afraid of every next contraction, thinking you cannot do it anymore, you will lose it. You will be caught by a panic and contractions will become even more painful. That is why it is important to help yourself with relaxation techniques.

Relaxation exercise

Choose the most comfortable position and change it when you feel pain in your back. Focus on your pelvis and sitting muscles. Breathe in a normal rhythm. During the exhale try to hold your sitting muscles tight. Repeat this exercise for couple of times.

Breathe in a normal rhythm again, without moving your sitting muscles. During the exhale, relax your sitting muscles.

The most important thing is to feel the difference between held tight and relaxed muscles, because this will help you keep those muscles relaxed during natural birth. .

And remember, if you want to have natural birth don’t be afraid of pain. Breathing and relaxing techniques are great natural pain relief which makes contractions and the whole birth lot easier to handle.


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    • EmmaMedu profile image

      EmmaMedu 6 years ago

      allaboutseo, thank you for your comment!

    • allaboutseo profile image

      allaboutseo 6 years ago from United Kngdom

      informative and detailed nice job.......