Calming breath

This first technique – triggers the body’s natural calming reflex, which occurs when the out breath is nearly twice as long as the in breath. During your labour, this technique will help you maintain a deep state of calm and you’ll use it in between surges.

When to use:
When you feel a surge/contraction coming to the end and once it has subsided.
Breath in and out through the nose (rather than your mouth) as this gives you more control over the flow of air.
If you have a cold – breath through your mouth.
Use whenever you find yourself feeling stressed
Helps you to relax quickly

If you should labour quickly, this technique will get you into the birthing zone quickly and easily once you have become accustomed to using it in your everyday life.
5 minutes – morning , lunch time and evening.

How to use:
Inhale deeply to the count of four through the nose, imagining you are filling your lungs right to the bottom.
Exhale – imagine sending the breath down, so it moves around your baby, down your legs into the tips of your toes and then into the floor.

Sometimes when you are first practicing this technique, it’s useful to place your hands on either side of your waist, so you can feel the rise and fall as you breathe deeply. It really is as simple as that.

Wave Breathing – Labour breath in the Serious stage

When to use:
When you are experiencing a wave or surge (otherwise known as a contraction).
During labour and birth.
Practice this breath for five full minutes every morning. It’s such a great way to start your day and will leave you feeling great as well as preparing you for your labour day, when you’ll be using it during each surge you experience.

How to use:
Inhale – to a count of 7 in through the nose.
Exhale – to a count of 7 out through the mouth.

Why use it:
The breath works with the upward motion of the uterus as it rises, and then to send your breath down to your baby and your womb, while relaxing.
If you are unable to keep the breath even for a count of 7 to start with. Work with whatever feels most comfortable for you. Perhaps you’ll start off counting to four and once that feels good extend it to five. The main point is you start to feel comfortable slowing your breathing down and taking control of the flow.

Up breathing – alternative surge breath for 1st stage – excited mama moving into focused serious mama.

When to use:
Used during a surge in the 1st stage, excited mama moving into the focused/serious mama stage.
We breathe in through the nose because it is a natural way of breathing; we breathe out through the mouth because that gives a feeling of release – it’s a letting go, and that is exactly what we want to achieve.

How to use it:
Long, slow breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth
Inhale for a count of 3 or 4 and exhale for a count of 6 or 8.
Let your body find the rhythm it is comfortable with.
The really important thing is that you’re not straining to achieve a particular breath, that it is entirely relaxed, and you are not holding to achieve any particular length of count.

Why use it:
The purpose of this breath is to use the absolute minimum of muscular effort, so that the muscles used in breathing in no way inhibit the working of the uterine muscles. As the muscles draw up, the walls of the uterus thin and the cervix opens.

There are some visualisations to go with this breathing. It may be helpful for your eyes to be softened and / or closed.
One visualisation you might find useful is to imagine the sun rising, as the sun comes up, the lovely pink appears on the horizon, this may be reflected in the clouds above. Visualise the sun coming up as you breathe in, and as you exhale, see it rising higher and higher in the sky as it does during the morning.  As the sun rises, your body draws gently upwards.

Another helpful visualisation is, as you breathe in, to see yourself blowing bubbles that get bigger and bigger. Then as you breathe out, the bubbles just dance gently float away upwards into the sky.  As the bubbles float away, your body draws gently upwards with each relaxing breath.

Breathe slowly, and very comfortably. With each soothing breath your body becomes more relaxed and calm.
Breathe up as your mind and body work together in unison.
You’re doing really well; that’s very good.
So calm, so serene, so at peace.

Take one more breath, and as you breathe in, notice that with each upward breath your body becomes more relaxed and calmer, and as you exhale, breathe up as your mind and body work together in unison.

Down Breathing – 2nd stage or Focused/serious mama moving into and through doubtful mama.

When to use:
In the 2nd stage or during the focused serious mama and the doubtful mama stage.

How to use it:
It is a quick breath in through the nose, and a longer breath out through the nose. There is no count to it.
Try it for yourself a few times: a short breath in through the nose and a longer breath out through the nose, focusing your attention downwards.

Why use it:
Once the cervix is fully opened, the baby moves down the birth passage into the world.

The reason for breathing out through the nose this time is that it is a much more focused breath. It is almost as if your breath is following the baby down; you can practically feel it on the pelvic floor focusing downwards – not forcing downwards, focusing downwards.

An image of anything that is down, soft and open can be helpful.

Visualise the ripples going out on a pond where a fish has risen; the ripples move out and out and out, so fluid and soft, smoother and smoother. It’s a lovely visualisation.
Breathe in and breathe out see the ripples going out on the pond, fluid, soft and open.

Or imagine a full-blown rose, or any flower you like. It feels so soft and velvety on your cheeks as you inhale its sweet fragrance. It is a soft and open image, and if your mind is thinking soft and open, your body is doing soft and open.
Take a quick breath in, and as you breathe out imagine that full-blown flower, beautiful, soft, velvety and voluptuous.

Another helpful image is of a little waterfall. If you go for a walk and find a stream trickling down into a small waterfall, you could sit there entranced for hours, watching the sunshine glinting on the drops of water.
One more, breathe in, and as you breathe out imagine that delightful little mountain waterfall.
You can sit there entranced watching the sunshine on the drops of water, downwards, soft and gentle.

Any soft and open or ‘downwards’ images like this are very helpful and effective.

Your body eases your baby gently down with each breath.
Trust the gentle downward movement of your body and your baby.
Your baby moves easily downwards.
With each breath, your baby is coming to you.
Focus your attention down towards your baby.
You will soon be holding your baby in your arms.

Practise on the loo as well. Sometimes in late pregnancy you can get a little constipated. After all, there is a head in your pelvis! Practising the down breathing on the loo proves to you that it works even before you have your baby. It is multi-tasking – very efficient.

Pushing and Breathing
Breathing Baby Down

Nature thinks of everything and there is no need for many women to force their baby out. The body has a unique mechanism for doing this called the natural expulsive reflex.
You will already be familiar with it from using it every day when you go for a poo. When you are in this downward phase, the best thing you can do to aid this process is imagine sending your breath and energy down into the ground, past your baby, around your uterus and into the floor. This lets your body, pelvis and vagina be as relaxed and open as possible for a quicker and more comfortable birth. Some women experience an overwhelming urge to push or bear down. Listen to your intuition and gut! Just because 10 minutes ago you were “6cm dilated” the vagina can quickly change.

Vaginal examinations only measure a moment in time and things can change very quickly.

Trust your body.

To connect to this breath:
Sitting on a chair or on the toilet pretend that you’re pushing out a poo.
What do you notice?
You should notice the muscles around your sphincter contract and tighten.
This is the exact opposite of the action we are looking for with a calm and positive birth for both you and your baby.
When you can breathe your baby down and work with your body, your baby tends to make their entrance in a calmer, less explosive way, which also helps to keep the perineum potentially intact.

You cannot get it wrong. If you are faced with a situation that dictates that forced pushing is the best way forward and it feels right for you, then it’s right. I really want you to hear me on this: you cannot get this wrong. Just go with what feels right for you on the day.

Birth Breathing

Use this technique when you are experiencing a wave or surge when fully dilated.

How to use it:
Like wave breathing – place all the emphasis on the exhalation. The outbreath needs to be very long and very deep. It can be useful to use a visualisation to accompany the outbreath, anything that reminds you of the importance of staying open, relaxed and moving downwards. Look at the visualisation suggestions for the Downward breathing above.

Some women use the words “open, relaxed or release,” others will think about there being no resistance, or imagine a flower opening, or will picture something significant to them that helps keep the idea of openness in their mind.
SOUND or NOISE can be helpful at this stage.
You may feel comfortable working with the breath.
You may find yourself humming.  Some may groan, shout, roar or even moo. Whatever sound your body creates this is incredibly primal.  Do not fear this sound.  Your instincts are guiding you – trust them.  Send the energy down to your baby and support your uterus to do the magic …

When to use it:
The best place to practice this technique is when you are having a poo. If you are at home, hum when you’re on the loo so you start to feel more comfortable and familiar with directing your sound and energy down in that way. This is great if you’re suffering with constipation too. It won’t shift everything immediately but by applying patience, the humming and the breathing will see your natural expulsive reflex start to get things moving much more quickly and comfortably.

Puff Puff Baby – supporting the perineum

Over time you may have heard – “Pant like a dog” well we can do one better than that … imagine a dandelion full of seeds! Let’s imagine that this dandelion has the magic of reseeding itself.  So each time you complete one pair of inhale/exhale/inhale/exhale then imagine the dandelion being whole.

Inhale – puff, puff puff  – seeds gently float away

Inhale – long puff – more seeds float away
Now the dandelion magically reappears whole
Repeat as required

This will start off at a rhythm that is gentle and will as the intensity of the surges increase change the rhythm of the breath.
Go with the flow and what your body needs at this part of the birthing pathway.
Partners to support and breathe with you.

Breathing visualisations