Everyone bigs up breathing during labour, but what’s it all about and how do you make sure it helps
Breathing seems such a simple and obvious thing to do, it’s hard to believe that it can have much impact on the overwhelming sensations that come with labour. But amazingly, it does – it’s your path through your contractions, so make sure you learn a few techniques.
Why does it help?
During labour, controlling your breathing is the most important natural pain control mechanism you have. The reason is two fold. Firstly, slow, rhythmic breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen available to you and your baby – and the more oxygen you can keep supplying your body with, the better you’ll feel and the more likely your labour is to progress smoothly.
But also, slow breathing will stop you from tensing up, which would otherwise make the pain of a contraction feel worse. The more you focus on breathing slowly and steadily, the more you can let the sensation of a contraction wash over you.
Find your natural pattern
Close your eyes for a moment. Focus on your breathing, and notice how rhythmical it is. You breathe in, then there's a slight pause before you breathe out. You should pause slightly before your lungs draw the next breath in.
During labour, replicate this natural pattern, but try to make sure you’re out-breath is longer than your in-breath as this will encourage your muscles to relax and reduce the pain you feel.
During labour, controlling your breathing is the most important natural pain control mechanism you have
Try the candle method
As you feel a contraction coming, take a deep breath through your mouth and blow away the pain in short bursts as you would a candle. Imagine the pain disappearing with every puff.
Count during breathing
Counting can be a good way of controlling your breath and also giving your mind something to focus on during each contraction. As you breathe in, count slowly up to four or five. Then as you breathe out, try making it to six or seven.
The Golden Thread Method
Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose. Then purse your lips slightly and breathe out slowly through the small gap in your mouth. As you do this, picture a golden thread swirl away from you.