What to do in Labor: Part 3 – Breathing

Everybody knows the Lamaze class cliché: A huge, unwieldy mom and a nervous-looking dad sit on the floor with their bed pillows in a class full of strangers, awkwardly huffing and puffing. It’s like a joke we play on expectant parents to make them look ridiculous – and it probably feels that way to parents sometimes. After all, how can a little breathing – something we do every day – really make any dent in the discomfort of labor?

Well, it’s worth remembering that breathing does more than make a dent. Here’s how:

  • Breathing brings strength to our muscles. A mom-to-be’s uterus is mostly one big muscle, and the stronger it is, the more efficiently it works and the quicker her labor progresses.
  • Breathing keeps babies happy. Sometimes when we are stressed we begin to breath shallowly. Until they are born, babies depend on their mom for air and if she isn’t getting enough, neither will the baby. When a mom’s in labor and not breathing right, the stress can can show up on the monitor, making everyone nervous.
  • Breathing helps you relax. Relaxing will help a laboring woman’s stress hormones subside and let her labor hormones to do the work that they need. It also helps to make labor faster and more efficient.
  • Breathing helps you access power. Ever watch a kung-fu movie? All that yelling with each strike isn’t just for show. Lifting weights, running, biking, singing – any activity that people do well, they do by using their breath in a specific or patterned way. Labor is no exception.

So, breathing is important. But the beauty is that it’s also not complicated. Breathe in smoothly through your nose . . .  and then smoothly out of your mouth. Do it at a speed that feels good for you, keeping it as slow as you feel comfortable with.

Just following – and encouraging – that simple practice can go a long way to making a birth a more positive experience for mother and baby alike.

You’ll find much more information on how to prepare for labor, and how to be a great labor supporter, in our book: Deliver! A concise guide to helping the woman you love through labor.

Also, check out our recommended resources for books and other information that you might find useful.

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