Pregnancy - Breathing Techniques, Pain Management and Relaxation

You Mean I Don't Have to Have Pain?

Would you believe that most pain in labor is artificially created and is totally preventable? It's true. There are a wide variety of labor pain management techniques that can be used to help the labor and birthing process go smoothly and with less pain. There's no magic bullet and the application of different techniques throughout the birthing process can be used as long as you're open to them. These techniques can be used outside of childbirth as well, to bring calm and focus when needed. People with attention deficit can greatly benefit from learning breathing techniques as a means of staying focused and attentive to a task at hand.

Pain Management Through Breathing

The foundation for natural childbirth is the critical pain management technique of relaxation. Learning the basics of relaxation and developing breathing techniques to help manage pain is an important facet of labor and childbirth education. Using the varied methods of comfort and relaxation a woman can experience comfort in different ways - her labor will evolve during the process, each technique doing its job when employed.

Breathing exercises help to bring relaxation to a woman in labor. Focusing on the breath causes the mind to leave distractions and deal with the task at hand, which is having a baby. Rhythmic breathing can center and focus the mental state of a laboring woman. This type of breathing, also called sleep breathing, requires the abdomen be filled with air first, rather than the lungs. Inhaling for a count of four, into the abdomen, and then exhaling for a count of eight, focusing on the rise and fall of the abdomen puts the body in the same rest state as sleep.

Visualization And Breathing

The breath can also be used to cause the baby to leave the birth canal. This is done with breathing and visualization. The woman breathes down her body, visualizing the birth path as a "J" and breathes down the "J". Instead of breathing the air back out through the mouth, the air is "pushed" down through the body. Monitoring the movement of the breath is done by placing a hand on the top of the belly just under the breasts. As the breath is expelled, this area should tighten. This type of breathing allows the perineum (the space between the anus and the vagina) to remain in a relaxed state as the baby descends. It reduces the risk of tearing and allows for a smoother and shorter phase of pushing - if one is needed at all.

"Hee, Hee, Hoo" - The Lamaze Method

A breathing method that took the maternity world by storm about 60 years ago is the Lamaze Breathing Exercises method. Developed by the French obstetrician, Dr. Fernand Lamaze, his methods taught expectant couples to work together using breathing techniques and relaxation to support the woman through the birth. It is a deep-breathing pain management technique used predominantly by women who desire natural labor and birth.

There are five different types of breathing in the Lamaze breathing exercise method. They are baseline breathing, slow breathing, blowing breathing, patterned breathing and the cleansing breathing exercises. Baseline breathing is monitoring the normal breathing pattern for one minute to determine how many breaths per minute are normally taken. Slow breathing is inhaling to a count of three, four, or five and then exhaling to the same count. Blowing breathing is breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and the patterned breathing is the one we are all familiar with, the "hee, hee, hoo" of the Lamaze technique. This is performed by exhaling with two short breaths and blowing the rest of the air out of the lungs with the "hoo". The cleansing breath at the end is an exercise that consists of taking a deep, slow breath in through the nose and then exhaling with a deep, slow breath through the mouth.

The Lamaze method as well as other breathing techniques work because they help a woman focus on her breath and thus relax. The more relaxed she is, the less pain is experienced so she's comfortable, focused and in control during labor and childbirth.

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