The In's n Out's of Breathing Before and During Labor
You and a friend are going for a walk, chatting as you stroll along. A while down the road you think you’re ready to head back but she says “no, let’s go farther, and let’s jog a bit”.
So you continue on.
A bit farther down the road your side is cramping and your lungs start to ache. “I want to stop” you mumble. But your friend takes your hand and tugs you along even faster. You can no longer see your house, and you see no end to the trail you’re on. She is now dragging you along at a rapid pace. Your lungs are screaming for air, your heart racing, panic in your eyes as you realize you are far less prepared for this than your eager friend…
So just how are you supposed to practice breathing; something that you don’t typically give a second thought to?
Take a deep breath in your nose, fully extending your diaphragm. If you extend your belly so you look 12 months pregnant, you’re doing it right! As you slowly inhale, focus on relaxing those facial muscles, you know, the ones giving you wrinkles! Relax your forehead, eyebrows, jaw, and lips.
Now exhale slowly through your mouth, keeping your face relaxed and focusing on relaxing your shoulders, arms, hips, thighs, toes and everything in between! Exhale completely and pause until your body requests more air. Slowly inhale again. Focus your thoughts only on your breathing and on relaxing your body. Repeat this pattern about 10 times. It’s ok to make deep sighs or moan-like sounds on your exhale.
If you want to verify the calming and distracting effects of relaxed breathing, do this little test:
Have your labor partner time this for you and in the second step he can breathe with you and give you verbal reminders to relax.
Step one: For one minute hold an ice cube in your hand. Look at your hand, think about how it feels.
Step two: Hold ice in the other hand for a minute, but this time close your eyes and do the breathing and focus on relaxation and your breathing pattern.
♥ More oxygen is delivered to the baby; helping to keep her heart rate stable.
♥ More oxygen delivered to your muscles. With well oxygenated muscles, (uterine muscles specifically) pain in contractions can be reduced.
♥ Breathing in this pattern is soothing and calming. It will follow the rhythm of labor, increasing in intensity as labor does, but continuing to sooth and oxygenate.
♥ It can be distracting. Focusing on your breath and your muscles relaxing over all your body keeps your mind busy.
♥ It may help regulate your heart rate and blood pressure by keeping your body and mind in a calm state.
♥ It can reduce or prevent the fear-tension-pain cycle.
EEK! There’s that P word! Yes, I said it: pain. Did that word trigger some fear or anxiety? Did you feel your body tense, perhaps your eyebrows furrowed a bit or your jaw clamped shut? You’re not alone! Childbirth and all the many decisions leading up to labor and delivery can trigger stress and anxiety. Each moment of stress is a perfect opportunity to practice your deep relaxation breathing.
If every time you begin to have fear or anxiety, you “go to” your breathing, your mind will become occupied with breathing and relaxing, thus pushing the negative thoughts aside and clearing your mind of them. When you finish breathing, only allow positive thoughts. Refuse to let negativity and fear settle into your mind. Replace them with breathing and positive phrases such as “my body knows what to do” “labor is a productive process” “labor is not an illness and my body will not do to itself what I cannot handle”.
(note* some fears need to be addressed or are a result of prior trauma, birth or otherwise, please address this with an experienced birth professional who understands the fear-tension-pain cycle. )
By training your mind and body to respond to stress, fear or anxiety with deep relaxation breathing, you will be ready for labor. You will respond to each sensation and rush of adrenaline with calming breaths. Start training now, the race is coming!
This article was originally used as a guest post at Natural MotherhoodHugs to ya!