A basic but essential component of natural birth preparation is learning the skill of childbirth breathing techniques. And yes, I mean the old-school Lamaze breathing your mom used during labor. While it may seem obvious to breathe during labor, the ability to use specific childbirth breathing techniques during an intense contraction actually takes practice. Don’t write off Lamaze-style breathing techniques as old-fashioned before considering the many benefits of this powerful coping tool.
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Benefits of Childbirth Breathing Techniques
There is a reason that when many people picture labor, they think of mom doing old-school breathing techniques. It’s because years and years of practice and studies have shown that they’re effective. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
Oxygen is a life-sustaining element for both mom and baby. When poor breathing patterns like hyperventilation or breath-holding take over during labor, mom feels light-headed and baby’s flow of oxygen decreases. Instead, practice even, consistent breathing patterns during the later stages of labor to ensure that mom and baby stay calm and well oxygenated.
Childbirth breathing techniques can offer a wonderful distraction from the intensity of labor. When guided imagery and other distraction activities are no longer effective coping tools, many women like to place their focus on breathing patterns. It takes longer for the brain to register discomfort when it is doing two things at once, like swaying and breathing. You have to breathe, so you might as well embrace it as a rhythmic distraction.
Increase Mom’s Sense of Control
Most women want to feel in control during labor. While you can’t control the onset of a contraction, you can control how you breathe through the contraction. Childbirth breathing techniques often include rituals like a cleansing breath and a focal point. Performing these soothing rituals, combined with the focus on a breathing technique, help mom gain a sense of control. Labor anxiety decreases when mom feels in control, which in turn increases relaxation and speeds the progression of labor.
Increase Pain Threshold:
Expectant moms are pretty amazing. Months of morning sickness and lower back pain have a way of upping the pain tolerance. However, the goal of a good coping tool during labor is to increase the pain threshold — the level at which a contraction registers as painful. Childbirth breathing techniques are a powerful tool to increase mom’s pain threshold, which will help her keep her head in the game as the hard contractions of active labor and transition approach.
How to Learn Childbirth Breathing Techniques
Before you settle on a childbirth class, be sure to ask what type of breathing techniques they teach, if any. Even modern Lamaze® classes aren’t required to teach traditional breathing anymore, so do your homework. With a combination of slow-paced and patterned breathing techniques, you’ll be as cool as cucumber during labor. And just think, at the end of all this breathing you’ll get to witness the most beautiful breath of all…that of your newborn baby.
Visit the Kopa Birth article Labor Breathing and Why it Matters to see a video demonstration of one of the breathing techniques taught in our classes.
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!