‘If in doubt, just breathe out!’ Using the breath to aid the birth of your baby.
There are many little sayings or mantras that we use in pregnancy yoga classes – this one is so simple, yet it really is one of the most useful things you can do during labour. Why? Because it works on so many levels - the outbreath is the releasing part of the breath, letting go, both physically and mentally. As you breathe out, the muscles of the body soften and relax; the mind finds calm and peace; labour can continue to progress.
Below is a run-down of the most useful breathing techniques for use during labour:
Full yogic breathing and Ujayii breathing - ocean breath, help to sustain and draw attention within, to lower blood pressure and help you maintain your calm. Breathe out into a contraction and focus on the exhale and then continue breathing as feels comfortable; find a rhythm. If in doubt, just breathe out! The out breath is the antidote to pain. If massive contractions and you can't help but hold your breath, use sound to help you exhale. Or try breathing into your partner's hands: Your partner puts their hands on your lower back; you breathe 'down your back' and 'into your partner's hands'.
As the contraction begins let the woman guide the breathing and just after it 'peaks', the partner starts to breathe more slowly and loudly, giving cues to the woman.
As contractions strengthen, you may want to breathe more quickly and lightly, partner can puts hands on your upper back just below shoulder blades – breathe into the pressure of their hands. If you start breathing TOO quickly, partner takes the lead and breathes loudly, it'll help the laboring woman to slow down
Golden Thread Breath
This is one of our favourites – and we tend to get lots of feedback from women post-labour, saying how useful the Golden Thread breath was for them. Great to use during contractions. Again, on a long outbreath through thinly parted lips, start to visualize a long, golden thread, spinning away from you. This helps to draw the attention away from the body. Use a number of exhalations to take you through each uterine surge.
If you find your jaw tensing up, you can exhale like a horse through flapping lips. Aim to make a sound, resonating the air between your lips. There’s a direct correlation between the jaw and the pelvic floor, so both need to stay relaxed during labour.
‘Cooling the soup’ breath:
When expansions come that are sharper to handle, breathe out with small out breaths through the mouth, as if you are cooling some soup or blowing candles out on a number of birthday cakes.
Birthing breath/ the bottomless coffee pot breath:
This birthing breath is a gentle way of bringing your baby earth-side. Creating a downward pressure with the breath, coupled with the natural pressure created from the contractions, allows an easeful way for baby to be birthed. There’s a move away from the ‘holding the breath’ and straining to push babies out. And with it, less interventions, such as episiotomies, and less damage, such as tearing, too! This same easeful breath can be used to birth the placenta too.
Join InJoy’s pregnancy yoga classes or attend the Birth Preparation workshop to learn about and explore these wonderful breathing techniques. Bring your birthing partner along to the workshop so that you can practice together. Our informative classes and workshops inspire confidence so that you can birth your baby without fear.