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Breathing Techniques for Childbirth

Topic Overview

As your due date draws nearer, learn and practice controlled breathing techniques for pain management during childbirth. Concentrating on your breathing can help distract you from pain, relax both your muscles and your mind, and keep your oxygen supply up.

If you haven't learned specific breathing techniques (such as Lamaze) in a childbirth education class, practice the following breathing patterns before you go into labor:

Belly breathing

In early labor, try belly breathing. As you inhale, expand your belly outward; as you exhale, relax your belly downward.

  1. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  3. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  4. Do this breathing in between or during contractions. Take your time with each breath.

Pant-pant-blow breathing

As your contractions become more intense, exhale in a "pant-pant-blow" pattern, about 6 cycles per minute.

  1. As your contraction starts, take a deep breath in through your nose.
  2. Exhale in 2 short pants followed by one longer blow. You may have heard this described as "hee-hee-hooooo."
  3. This breathing in and panting out should take about 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat this type of breathing until the contraction stops.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised November 2, 2011

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