Learning how to breathing correctly can help you stay calm and focused during labour and prevents unhealthy breathing such as hyperventilation (breathing too quickly and rapidly) or holding your breath, which can lead to fatigue and dizziness.
It’s useful 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 breath during early labour
During both 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 normal as you can at home, or wherever you are, is to simply focus on the movement of your breath.
So… When you are ready, sit down comfortably, maybe on your birth ball, or leaning 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 that you have been listening to during your pregnancy, or just enjoy the silence.
Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out gently through your mouth, slowly and deeply, making sure 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 particular 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, if you prefer when you lengthen your out breath , 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 breath in and out and feel you 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 are finding it difficult to relax, especially during a surge, then why not ask your birth partner to do some light stroking or massage up your back. Whatever you have practised and enjoyed together in your pregnancy, this will act as trigger for you to relax, as you are both familiar with the technique.
Remember to tell you birth partner what your image, visualisation, or word is, so he can focus on the same thing and encourage you if you need it.
As your Labour progresses and you feel surges are more powerful, or if you think they are less powerful, or ineffective, then 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.
You may enjoy this letting go relaxation recorded live in class – have a wonderful birth!