5 Reasons to Breathe For Birth
One thing that everyone seems to know is that breathing forms a part of your birth plans. You might not know why or how, but you know you need some breathing techniques.
Breathing works on lots of levels when it comes to birth and for some people it can be all you need to get you through the birth or it might be that it helps you enough to reach a point where other pain relief is available to you.
It is likely to help you remember your breathing techniques if you know why you are doing them and the difference it can make to your birth. It is also really helpful for your partner to understand the importance of breathing too. If you start to lose track a bit they can help you to find your rhythm again.
So, what are my top 5 reasons to focus on breathing?
When your uterus is contracting it is just the same as any other muscle in your body contacts. That means it needs the same fuel to keep it working comfortably and efficiently. Staying hydrated, getting some energy from snacks and breathing to keep the oxygen flowing will all help to ensure the uterus is working as well as it possibly can. If oxygen isn’t getting to the muscles when you are exercising (think sprinting) you start to build up lactic acid which causes pain and fatigue; not something you want in your uterus. If you are able to get oxygen to the muscles for it to use (think walking) you can keep going for much longer without discomfort.
2. Release endorphins
When you slow your breathing it calms your nervous system which means your body can respond to the process of birth. Birth relies on a cocktail of hormones and it works best when you are able to switch off your conscious brain and zone out. Endorphins are your natural pain relievers which can have a really positive impact on your birth, working with oxytocin to help you feel good and ensure the process works smoothly.
When the feelings of birth start to feel overwhelming having something to focus on or distract yourself with can be incredibly important. If your mind is too busy or the ‘I can’t do this’ thoughts area creeping in, focusing on your breath can help you remain calm and focussed pushing all those thoughts away. You might do this by concentrating on the feeling of air coming in or out of your nose and mouth, by noticing your lungs inflating, or by counting your way through the breath. You might find it helpful to have your partner count the breath for you.
If your breathing helps your focus then you are likely to stay more in control as well. You will be calmer and more able to respond to your body and baby as birth progresses. There is another element of control where your breath can help you. When it comes to birthing your baby, when you reach the pushing phase, being in control makes a huge difference. By having some breathing techniques to work with those bearing down contractions you will be control the descent of the baby which means a gentler pressure on the perineum. Keeping control and letting baby descend and arrive in their own time is a gentler experience for everyone. Sometimes those bearing down sensations can be overwhelming and it is easy to want to just push your baby out but using your breathing to control the pushes will reduce your chance of tearing and help you birth baby gently.
Your baby needs some oxygen too! You might not think about your baby needing oxygen at this stage but all the blood they receive through the placenta has lots of lovely oxygen in it for them to use. Labour is hard work for them too, babies can get tired and distressed, and they still need oxygen to get to them. Holding your breath during a contraction means they aren’t getting oxygen for that brief period. Making sure you are breathing well and consistently will mean your baby is getting lots of oxygen too.
And, breathing isn’t just for you! Sometimes your birth partner could really use those breathing techniques too. All getting a bit much, feeling a bit unsure, started to get anxious? Some gentle calming breaths can make all the difference.
So, make sure you have some breathing techniques up your sleeve. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy but just make sure you learn and practice in advance so that when the time comes it all feels very familiar and your body relaxes as you breathe.
In the Harrow, Brent or Hillingdon areas? Come and join some classes and I will teach you the breaths you need for each stage of your journey. https://www.bethowen.uk/antenatal-classes-workshops