Breathing through labour
Breath is life and at no time is it more important than in pregnancy and childbirth. Your breath is always with you and if you use it correctly then you’ll always be able to relax and give your body oxygen and nourishment. Taking slow, deep breaths will help calm your nervous system, reduce stress and tension in the body and focus the mind. It will also ease energy blocks within the body and nurture your unborn child.
Both Ujjayi and Brahmari will naturally lengthen your exhalations. You may also wish to use sound – perhaps repeating a sound, such as OM or OM MA, OM MA is believed to invoke the maternal spirit giving guidance and protection through childbirth. Some women also find it is useful to imagine they are “breathing out” of the vagina.
Breathing will help you still and calm the mind – creating space for positive affirmations.
The power of the mind and breath is HUGE – think of your breath as your key to labour – it will unlock your body and allow it to open up to the birth.
The UK swimmer. Lewis Pugh, “willed” his body to warm up before he swam for 1km at the North Pole. So you see – anything’s possible with breath control and positive thinking!
When you are pregnant, breath retention should only be for a few moments
Deep diaphragmatic breathing – either in relaxation or easy sitting pose, breathe from the diaphragm to the outer ribs and sternum. Exhale and feel the breath flow out from the sternum to the outer ribs and diaphragm.
Use this breathing practice to help you relax between and during contractions. You may find it helpful to breathe to the words: Let go… “Let” – letting you draw in energy and “go” letting go of pain and tension…
Next place your hands to different parts of the body and try to “send” the breath to these areas. (Practice this with your partner). Close your eyes and focus on the breath.
Ujjayi pranayama – This is known as the king of breath. It reduces blood pressure, relieves insomnia and mental tension. Builds the strength of the lungs and diaphragm, provides greater oxygen to the brain and of course, the baby.
Partially contract the glottis at the back of the throat and inhale and exhale through the nostrils, so that a slight hissing sound is heard, like a baby snoring!
Bharmari pranayama – also known as the buzzing bee breath
Relieves mental tension, anger and some of the mood swings you can encounter with pregnancy. Also reduces blood pressure
Sit upright in a meditative pose. Take the arms out at shoulder height to the sides. Bend the arms and place the index fingers in the ears with slight pressure. Relax the other fingers. Relax face and jaw. Inhale and exhale through the nostrils After inhaling keep the lips together but separate the teeth and with a steady release of breath produce a humming sound like that of the humming bee. Ten rounds.
Use all the above and then as labour progresses you may wish to adopt this labour breathing pattern…
* During labour at first breathe in and out through the nose
* Then breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth (purse the lips)
* Finally inhaling and exhaling though the mouth.
Try to deepen the breath – send the breath the area of pain and breathe DOWN aiding gravity and the birth
When pushing through a contraction, take a deep breath and hold it. Then pressing your chin to your chest and take the breath down to the abdomen while pushing with your abdominal muscles. Try not to tense any other part of the body (especially the face, jaw and shoulders).
If you need to stop pushing, then practice sitali breath – short, airy breaths into the upper chest and adopt transition pose. Alternatively, stand up and tilt your head back with your tongue poking out – this will stop you using the breath to push!
* think about what breathing practices you would like to use during my labour? Have a go at exploring the breath, but remember in pregnancy and birth it is not recommended to “hold” on to the breath or practise breath retention.
* This document is an extract from Katie’s Natural Childbirth manual: The Birth Zone.
A copy of this will soon be available as an ebook. For more information please email.