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Rehearsing Labour : Harness the power of your breath

Rehearsing Labour : Harness the power of your breath

I’m a great believer in working with women to provide practical and effective ways to ride the waves of labour. There are many things we can practice before birth to give us the best opportunity for a more physiologically normal birth.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of breath and relaxation and the best preparation for birth. And it is practice that counts. As with many things its 1% theory and 99% practice that will make the different for birth preparation.

Practice these breaths in labour to make relaxation through breath instinctive. When labour does comes along, gentle relaxation will be second nature.

Early labour

Women can get into labour land very quickly once the excitement of contractions start. My best advice is to:

  • Ignore labour for as long as possible
  • Relax on the sofa with a heat pack on your lower back and under your belly
  • Practice focused breathing
    • Breathe in and out through your nose
    • Note which areas of your body are touched by your breath. Note which parts moves on each inhalation and where moves on each exhalation
    • Use the exhalation to let go of tension in your shoulders, arms and hand, jaw and face, buttons and around your cervix
    • Start to lengthen your exhalation so it is longer than your inhalation
  • Try and keep the breath steady in and out of your nose through your contractions until you feel like you need to blow gently through your mouth

As sensations get more intense

As labour progresses the sensations you experience will need more of your attention to see them through. A few breathing techniques can help deal with them:

  • Respect the time between contractions. Use it to recover and regroup
  • Ensure your birth partner has a resting space for you after each contraction so as minimum effort is required
  • Use the focused breathing from early labour with more attention on the out breath to release built up tension
  • As contractions built up, start to release your breath through a loose lipped open mouth as you need to exhale through powerful sensations. Keep your mouth soft (my favourite rhyme is “loose lower jaw, loose pelvic floor”)
  • Take long steady in breaths, breathing all the way from your diaphragm up to your throat so as to keep your breath deep and long.

Birthing your baby

When you get to the stage of birthing your baby that the need to push is overwhelming, it is good to practice a breath called the J-breath that releases your pelvic floor and lets your baby move naturally down your birth canal.

Forced pushing while with holding your breath is an unwarranted favourite with managed births. If your birth has been physiologically normal and you and your baby are doing well, there is no reason to hold your breath and use excessive force to get your baby out. In fact this method has been shown to reduce oxygen to your baby and compromise pelvic floor recovery.

Instead, I recommend to practice the J-breath:

  • I’m not going to sugar coat this. The best time to practice this is on the toilet when having a poop
  • Take a deep deep breath in and on the out breath as you release your bowels, blow through your mouth and imagine the breath traveling down your intestines and out of your bottom!
  • Basically, you are guiding your poop out with your breath instead of pushing (See no sugar coating)

As always we advise our mothers to attend private birthing workshops and get support outside of the hospital environment. Many Yoga teachers, Doula’s and midwives run these workshops including our own workshops running every 6 weeks.

About the author: Lisa Wilkinson

Lisa Wilkinson

Lisa opened The elbowroom in February 2003. Mother to Tuilelaith and Sean, director of The elbowroom and with a crew of over 60 staff, she is a busy bee. Lisa leads a team committed to bringing health and vitality to all of her clients. Lisa currently teaches in our yoga training programs and oversees pregnancy yoga and mum & baby yoga. Lisa works hard developing healthy food choices for Yin & Tonic @ The elbowroom. She specialises paediatric and pregnancy with workshops, yoga therapy, and craniosacral therapy.

The elbowroom has an extensive range of classes for all ages and abilities. We offer such an eclectic mix to enable you to find something that will suit you. If you need any advice, please contact our class advisor who can point you in the right direction.