Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are a traditional way of coping with pain; nowadays, there are many other methods of pain relief, which are more effective; however, breathing exercises are still important and they can help to make labour run more smoothly.

During the different stages of labour, different breathing exercises will be more useful than others:

Stage.1: during the early stage of labour you should focus on breathing deeply through each contraction; you should inhale slowly and then exhale gradually. Some women find it beneficial to count during these long breaths. As the labour progresses and the contractions become stronger you can start to breathe quicker; as the contraction reaches its peak, it is helpful to breathe in and out quickly, like a panting action.

Stage.2: during this stage breathing can help make contractions more effective; during this stage you feel an urge to push but your body will not be ready to push just yet. During this time, you should inhale deeply and then exhale slowly when the midwife tells you to push; this helps to encourage the baby to drop lower. After a deep breath, take a couple of shallow breaths and then you will be ready for another deep breath for the next contraction.

Breathing techniques and exercises help to maximise the oxygen available to both you and your baby and will help to reduce discomfort and focus your mind on something other than sensations of pain.

It is a good idea to practice your breathing technique throughout your pregnancy; it will seem natural doing it during labour if you do this. You can learn about breathing techniques from antenatal classes, books and DVDs.

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