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PAIN RELIEF - Prepared child birth

Breathing Techniques

In some women, relaxation alone may not be sufficient to counter the discomfort of labour. In such cases breathing techniques can be used to augment the efficacy of relaxation techniques.
 Breathing in a rhythmical pattern ensures:

  • Steady flow of Oxygen to the mother, uterus and hence to the baby.

  • Provides distraction from the pain of labour.

Breathing Basics:

  • Breathing techniques are used only during contraction. In between contraction, relax to conserve energy.

  • Start and end each contraction with a relaxing or clearing breath.

 “Relaxing or clearing” breath is taking a smooth deep breath through your nose and then letting air out like a sigh through your mouth. It makes the boundaries of the contraction.

  • Begin breathing techniques only when you are not able to talk through or distract yourself with other techniques during contractions as it is exhausting.

  • Relax all muscles through the contraction.

  • Choose an external or internal point for focusing.

  • Start with simple techniques and move to complex pattern only if the technique you are using is not helping, as complex pattern is more exhausting.

  • In between complex patterns come to simple pattern to conserve energy.

  • Stop breathing exercises if you feel faint.

  • Mother to-be determines the pace and depth of breathing and the use of nose or mouth for breathing.

  • Before moving to a more complex technique, try changing position emptying the bladder, using relaxation, changing your focus and accepting reassurance.

Practicing Breathing Techniques

During practice session in your antenatal period:

  • Practice in variety of position like standing, sitting, side lying, and kneeling on all fours.

  • Practice daily with your partner and also by yourself.

  • While practicing ask your partner to simulate a 60 seconds contraction by saying “contraction starts” and then call out every 15 seconds and end a contraction by saying “contraction ends”. Practice the breathing techniques during this simulated contraction. Rest for few seconds and start the exercise again.

  • Practice session can be made effective by including pain artificially (e.g.: squeezing any other part of the body for 60 seconds).

  • Practice breathing techniques during the occasional painless contractions that you feel throughout your pregnancy.

  •  You can also practice these techniques when your doctor is examining you especially during an internal or vaginal examination.

  •  Light stroking (euflleurrage) or with normal massage can be continued throughout the process.

Breathing patterns

Here are some breathing patterns to be used in an ascending order.

(i) “ SLOW PACED” Breathing:
This is the first and possibly the only breathing pattern you may use. Here the rate is 1/2 your normal rate. You will be breathing in a relaxed and comfortable manner. As in all patterns, start and begin the breathing with a clearing / relaxing breath.

(ii )“MODIFIED-PACE” Breathing:
When slow paced breathing does not help you in pain relief, switch to modified pace breathing. Here you breathe at a rate double your normal rate. Therefore it is enhancing, you can return to slow paced breathing in between.

During this, there may be excessive wash out of carbon dioxide and you may feel dizzy. To counter this, blow in your cupped hands or blow in and out into a plastic bag.

  (iii) Combination of slow and modified paced breathing:
As it suggests, it is a combination of both slow and modified paced breathings as shown in the diagram.


(iv)“Patterned – paced” Breathing: (Pant – blow)
This is helpful during last part of 1st stage of labour where contractions are extremely fast and strong.It is easier to use the mouth for this type of breathing. It consists of 3 – 5 shallow breaths (pants) followed by a deep blow. Do not forget to inhale before the blow.

 Several variations can be tried like
3 pant 1 blow.
4 pant 1 blow.
5 pant 1 blow.
6 pant 1 blow.
 It is extremely exhausting and dehydrating. Hence it is advisable to return to simpler patterns in between. Also to prevent the mouth from drying, keep your tongue placed below and behind your lower teeth.

(v)Blowing for premature urge to push: 
Some times during the end stages of 1st stage of labour when the cervix is not fully dilated, you still feel an urge to push. This is due to the pressure of the baby’s head on the rectum.

To prevent this you can try the following pattern of breathing.

(vi) Breathing techniques for 2nd stage of labour  

Gentle pushing:
As the contraction begins, take relaxing / clearing breaths. Then inhale deeply and exhale slowly and bear down while exhaling.

Repeat inhaling and exhaling deeply along with bearing down during exhaling till the contraction lasts.

Rest in between contraction with normal breathing.

Breath holding while pushing

As the name suggests, hold your breath during contraction for about 5 – 10 seconds. Bear down during breath holding. Do not try to hold breath for a very long time and bearing down at the same time as it can lead to bursting of the small vessels in your retina (eyes) in rare cases.

Practicing all these breathing exercises with your partner during the antenatal period will help you a long way during labour and will result in a smooth and comfortable labour.
It will also add to the efficacy of other methods to relieve pain and to shorten the duration of labour itself.


Recommended:  book
"The new parent"
by author Martha


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