breathing childbirth

Breathing, Childbirth Pain Relief in Labour

If you harness the power of breathing, childbirth can become much less of an ordeal. Learning how to move with the rhythm of labour is essential so that you can harness the force of your own body and gravity for birth. Contractions, breathing, childbirth – in fact everything to do with producing new life works in a rhythmic manner. Being in time with your body’s own contractions can reduce discomfort and encourage you through the process.

breathing childbirth

You will instinctively know to some extent what to do and how to draw breath and at what rate. The midwives will be a great help to you also. It is important to enable your body to respond to the timing and intensity of your contractions.

Correct Breathing, Childbirth First stage

Harnessing the power of oxygen as you breathe helps you to concentrate during contractions and enables you to recover between them as it naturally helps relieve pain during childbirth and reoxygenates your blood. The muscles cannot work without oxygen and this is going to be one of the times in your life when they are called on to do their utmost. The umbilical cord is still not cut and so your baby needs all the oxygen it can get too. Once you discover how to apply the different rhythms of breathing, childbirth can be experienced in its various stages with more control.  Learning to breathe properly before birth takes place will prepare you for when the time comes. Yoga can be a great help during pregnancy and what you learn through it can work in tandem with your own natural instincts to take deep breaths during labour. In fact, anything you can do to increase your fitness levels and flexibility will help. The result of being fit is that you have a greater lung capacity. Therefore, because you have become better at breathing, childbirth can become easier too.

The more breath that you can inhale, when called upon to do so, not only strengthens you but also keeps your mind focused and reduces pain levels during birth. To increase the effect, prolong the exhalation by sighing or making some kind of sound as you breathe out. This can also take your mind off the pain and help you relax more. There may be times when you become exhausted or even panicky as you feel like your contractions are running away from you, and you lose touch with the rhythmic movement of your lungs and diaphragm.  Just re-focus and labour, breathing, childbirth  and everything else, will fall back into time.  Giving birth has its ups and downs but do not worry as you can soon get back into a steady rhythm with the help of your birth partner and midwife.

Correct Breathing, Childbirth – Contractions

It’s important that once you start to feel tension, to try and relax and breathe as deeply and as slowly as you can. Try not to get tense in the neck and shoulders but consciously relax them as you breathe. Every time you inhale visualise energy flowing to your baby, and to every part of your own body, especially the muscles that you use to push with. Let the pain flow out of your body as you exhale. Be conscious of where the pain is and as you let go of your breath visualise the pain leaving you. Exhale fully prior to taking in more oxygen.  If you really focus on breathing, childbirth related pain is no longer at the forefront of your mind – and this is key to reducing discomfort.

Continue to do this, taking in as much air as is comfortable and letting go of the pain until the contraction ceases. As your contractions increase in intensity, focus your mind even more on releasing the pain as you breathe out. Try not to let your breaths become short and stunted, as this rapid type of breathing will do little to aid you at this time. To apply short, fast, tense breathing, childbirth must progress to a later stage.  That is covered below.  For now, confront any feelings of panic by taking control of your lungs and you should find that you can return to the slow deep rhythm once more.

Contractions will come and go in ever increasing intensity, but you should be able to minimise pain and maximize your own Life Energy and that of your baby’s.  Whilst maintaining this form of breathing, childbirth takes its natural course.  Whatever you do, don’t hold your breath at this stage. That comes later when the cervix is fully dilated. At times you may feel like you are losing the battle, and discomfort and tension will build up. Your natural instincts may be to hold your breath. If you find yourself doing this from time to time, try to take back control and return to the rhythmic breathing. The key thing to think about here is that breathing, childbirth and your own muscles work best in unison to repeated patterns of actions.

Nature has provided women with powerful natural painkilling endorphines. But they rely on the supply of oxygen and if you let panic take over you will find that pain will increase, not subside. If worry and stress affect breathing, childbirth does not flow as it should. It creates tension in your body and that of your baby’s. This is because oxygen levels would have dropped and the body can no longer function optimally.

This is known as hyperventilation and it will make you feel faint, weaker and only make things worse. When you return to the controlled pattern of breathing, childbirth will progress as nature intended.

Positive Affirmation

Telling yourself things are OK and that you can do it is key to getting back on track when panic and weakness would otherwise takeover. Concentrate on positive thoughts and even chant them as you exhale. This repetitive positive affirmation will strengthen you psychologically and help you stay in control. Positive visualisation can also help. Imagine that every time you exhale you are pushing your baby further and further towards your vagina. You can even count your breaths and make it your goal to make 10 deep exhalations. This will help you to keep a rhythm going.  Remember that while you maintain this type of controlled breathing, childbirth moves forward according to nature’s own timing and rhythm.  Another important point is that controlling your intake of oxygen rhythmically is key to helping you ride out the contractions.

Breathing and Movement During Transition

You may find that you want to push prior to your cervix being fully dilated. At this point you need to switch from very deep breaths to lighter ones. You can use body movements and talking to yourself as aids to help you through this stage of transition. It is still very important to maintain a rhythm,, almost musically.  Another way you could look at this type of breathing, childbirth, in all its stages, is like a symphony in some respects with slower movements and faster ones. You need to be able to adjust when the time calls for it and your birth partner and midwife will help you to do this.

Optimal Breathing Childbirth Second Stage

During the second stage you need to change the rhythm of breathing, childbirth now having moved on closer to the actual exit of the baby’s head.  You will naturally sense this as your contractions also change and you prepare yourself for pushing. You are going to need to use all the force of your midsection and diaphragm. Your abdominal muscles will work in conjunction with shorter, punchier breaths. At this stage to increase the force of pushing, it is now acceptable to hold your breath for short periods of time – up to 20 seconds if needed. After such a pause, you need to exhale powerfully and then take another deep breath and then push once more, possibly twice more during the same contraction. It is best not to hold your breath during the entire contraction as you will probably not get enough oxygen to the muscles.  With this change in the pattern of breathing, childbirth progresses further to the final stage as lungs and muscles work together.

Your muscles will need to rest in between contractions. At this point try and take slow deep breaths again, similar to what you did during the first stage. Try not to return to the more rapid breaths until the next contraction builds up sufficiently, as you need as much time as possible to recover before pushing down hard again.


Even though it is difficult at this point, because of sharp pain you may feel between your legs, try to concentrate on releasing that pain. Through deep breathing, childbirth will then be able to proceed at a more natural pace and with less pain. Controlling your oxygen intake in this way will revitalise you to some extent and prepare you for the next contraction. Once you get to this point you will find that your uterus will take over to some extent and you will not need to push so hard. As you focus on deep and rhythmic breaths once more, anxiety levels should drop off and you will also find that you can relax your vagina and perineum.

Rapid Breathing Childbirth Final Stage

When the time comes and birth is near, you should let your contractions take over and stop pushing so hard. If you push too hard at this point, it can force the baby to exit too soon. Midwives know when the time is right and will tell you to start breathing at a faster pace and with shorter breaths. If all goes well, the first part of the baby to be born will be its head, forced out by a powerful contraction. After this, the last contraction will follow, and your baby’s body will emerge.  So hopefully, now that you realise the importance of rhythmic breathing, childbirth seems less daunting to you.

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