Most people associate breathing exercises with helping to ease pain from contractions, but it also provides increased oxygen levels to the baby who is in state of stress as well. Pushing during labor often involves holding breaths and using that force to move the baby through the birth canal. However, while holding her breath, mom is unable to provide new oxygen to the baby. Thus, the importance of breathing exercises reaches far beyond pain management.'

Check out our Labor, Delivery, and Birth Guide

Focus on the breath

Focusing is a key element to breathing exercises. With eyes closed, moms can think of the word "relax" and focus on the two syllables that make up the word (re-lax) to control breathing. Picture the first syllable “re” while taking in a breath. The exhale should involve extending the second syllable gently and slowly – “laaaaaax”. Continue to breathe in and out with control and never lose sight of the word "relax". During the “laaaaaax” exhale, try to release all stress and tension from the body.

Breathing exercises for dad (or other birthing partner)

The birthing partner will definitely come in handy when mom is tired and labor has wasted all her control and focus. In order to support mom, the birthing partner will also need to practice breathing exercises. Birthing partners need to keep eye contact with mom and talk her through each breath. Gentle, soft instructions and words of support will be very helpful during this time. 

New breathing tips for labor

Doctors once supported the "breath, hold and have one long push" method during each contraction, but new research reveals this single, long push may increase chances of tearing and decreasing oxygen to the baby. Instead, moms are now told to push as many times as they feel necessary during each contraction. This could involve several small pushes with breaths in between.

When you are told not to push

If the attending physician or caregiver tells mom not to push when she feels the strong urge to push, breathing exercises can help her through the struggle. In order to push the baby through the birthing canal, the cervix needs to be fully dilated. If not dilated to 10 cm and fully effaced, mom will need to breathe through her contraction. Panting and reciting the words, “I must not push” may be helpful.

Read More:
Signs of Labor: Early Symptoms
Stages of Labor
Breastfeeding Guide