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What is Birthing Breath?

Updated on April 6, 2013

Birthing breath is a deep breathing technique used during childbirth. It is meant to help with pain management during labor and delivery. It is simple to do birthing breath and can be practiced daily to help rest and relax your body.

In the HypnoBirthing labor method, birthing breath is used to describe the technique where you breath through the delivery, rather than forcing pushing. Instead of the typical, "puuuush, puuuush!" scenario, you follow your body's lead and bear down when you feel the need to. You keep breathing through the entire delivery, instead of holding your breath and pushing down for long periods of time.

There are a variety of breathing techniques that a birthing mother may choose to use during labor and delivery. Breathing techniques may improve the labor experience by reducing pain and increasing the mother's calm and feeling of control.

Prenatal Yoga classes teach deep, relaxation breathing.
Prenatal Yoga classes teach deep, relaxation breathing. | Source

The Importance of Breath during Labor

There are many good reasons to maintain a breathing pattern during labor. Some benefits of deep breathing include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Relaxes the laboring mother
  • Increases oxygen flow which is beneficial to both mother and baby
  • Helps to cope with discomfort, pain or anxiety

You might notice that when you are tense, stressed or anxious, your breathing becomes shallow and moves from deep in your abdomen up into your chest. In turn, your muscles tighten, your heart rate increases and blood vessels constrict. All of these occurrences will unintentionally cause a more difficult, and more painful, birth.

Deep breathing helps to manage pain during birth. It is a natural response to pain to want to hold your breath. If you notice yourself tensing up, focus your attention back on your breath. Focusing on taking full, deep breathing during labor will help your body to loosen and relax, slow your heart rate and increase the flow of oxygen through your body. Mothers who have had natural births will all agree that breathing techniques were one of the greatest comforts during birth.

Have a Happy Birth

Birth Happy: The Savvy Woman's Approach to a Satisfying Birth
Birth Happy: The Savvy Woman's Approach to a Satisfying Birth

This happy birth book also includes techniques for breathing during the birth experience.


How to Do Birthing Breath

The basic birthing breath technique is simply to breath in slowly through the nose and exhale through the mouth while focusing your attention on your breath. There are many variations of this basic breath that are used during labor. It is good to practice a variety of breaths before going into labor so when the times come, you have a variety of breaths to choose from and you can use what feels best for you at the time.

When you are in the first stages of labor, you'll be using slow and controlled breathing. It's very important to stay in control of your breathing early on and to maintain it throughout labor. This will really help you to feel relaxed, calm and focused.

As your labor progresses, you will likely use more intense breathing techniques. You might find that breathing during labor will give you something positive to focus on. People always make jokes about the woman in labor going "hee-hee-haaaaww," but in all seriousness, all this "hee-hee-hawing" will help during labor.

Sample Breathing Techniques

Breath Type
How to Do It
Cleansing Breath
Take a big, deep, slow breath. Inhale through the nose and out through the mouth
Start with a cleansing breath to center yourself and bring your attention to your breathing
Even Fluctuation
Inhale and exhale for the same count
Increase the counts as you become more comfortable. Start with 3 counts, then increase to 4, 5, or 6
Deep Belly Breathing
Focus on breathing all the way to your belly, rather than in your chest
As you inhale, expand your abdomen. As you exhale, contract your abdomen to expel all the air completely
Slow Paced Breathing
Slow breaths in and out, easily and evenly
About half the pace of your normal respiratory rate
Modified Paced Breathing
Even breathing, about twice the pace of your normal respiratory rate
Generally used for more challenging contractions
Patterned Breathing
Inhale, the exhale "hee-hee-hoo"
Can be adapted to whatever feels best. While "hee-hee-hoo" feels good to some women, others may prefer a quick "hee-hee-hee-hee-hee"

The best advice for labor is to go with the flow. Be aware of your body and do what feels best for you. What works for one woman might not work for you, and that's OK.

Be sure to practice your breathing techniques before the big day comes so that you are comfortable with the breathing patterns. Even though we do it every second of every day, deliberate breathing can take some practice. Be prepared.

Sometimes, it can help to have a focal point while practicing your breathing. During birth, it might help to remember your little baby and soon you will be holding that precious little one in your arms. Good luck!

When times get touch during birth, it might help to remember that it's all to hold your little baby in your arms.
When times get touch during birth, it might help to remember that it's all to hold your little baby in your arms. | Source


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