You dutifully attend birthing classes, read all you can about labor and delivery so that you are in your best mental shape for handling the birthing process.
It’s no secret that being relaxed and full of deep, rhythmic breathing patterns, will ease the pain, and even length of labor, but seriously, when you are in that moment, the pain and anxiety of all the unknowns you face, can honestly take your breath away…and with it, all the things you learned about relaxing and breathing, over the last 9 months of preparation. The moment anyone mutters the words ‘Just relax’…can be the last straw, the moments when we forget everything we learned…it’s much easier said than done.
What are the advantages to being relaxed during labor?
Well, the most important reason of all, is that it helps relax the pelvic floor, so that the baby is able to enter the birth canal. Deep breaths help keep good oxygenated blood flowing to the baby. Deep breathing also helps to release the hormone Oxytocin, the hormone that keeps labor going in the right direction.
So, great! Now we know why we should be relaxed and calm but, how? How does one do that when the pain and discomfort, trumps all else at times? Here are some ideas but, these aren’t tried and true…What is important is that you have a tool box of tricks you can practice until you fine what works for you.
1. Rhythmic Breathing- Pay attention the rate at which you breathe. Keeping your breaths in a steady, slow rhythm is very helpful to shift your attention from the pain. If it helps, listen to music with a slow, steady rhythm and breathe in response to that, not your pain. Our bodies love to be in a rhythm, pain or not. Remember not to breathe too slowly, or the opposite effect will happen.
2. Light and Shallow- This technique may be helpful depending on the stage of labor you are in. Keep your breaths less deep and a little quicker. This is not a fast paced breathing pattern but rather gentle. Keep a steady rhythm and focus on keeping your shoulders and jaw relaxed.
3. Expulsion Breathing- Here, you breathe in as the contraction starts, when your lungs are full, expel the air, quickly, even adding a little grunt. Switch to the longer rhythmic patterns between contractions. This is great technique to practice when you feel the urge to push, but need to wait just a little longer.
These are all great techniques to start practicing with now, even before labor. Practice breathing in times of stress of anxiety. The more you can harness the power of your mind and breathing to relax now, the better off you will be in labor. Breathing can become second nature when you have intently practiced it for 9 months.
Most of all, remember there is no right or wrong way and sometimes, the moments will get away from you. Your nurses and support staff will help you along. If you have questions or concerns, make sure you visit with one of our great nurses, they will answer all your questions and offer even more great tips!