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How breathing impacts your labor.

How breathing impacts your labor.

Take a nice deep inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.  

Ahhhhh, that feels so good.  Do it again.

Inhale slowly down into the belly, filling it up with air. Hold your air for 2 seconds and release slowly through the mouth and feel your body and mind relax...

Doesn't that feel so good!

General Benefits of Breathing

 

Breathing is an interesting phenomenon.  Breathing is an automatic response that we don't even have to think about, yet when we DO think about our breathing we can control it and in turn create a cascade of events in the body that can be negative or positive.  

Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.

Researchers have documented the benefits of a regular practice of simple, deep breathing  which include:

  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Lower/stabilized blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Increased energy levels
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm

Deep breathing exercises, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and suppress the sympathetic nervous system. This helps to reduce the wash of stress hormones in the body, thus reducing blood pressure, blood sugar and many inflammatory responses from the body. 

Deep breathing calms the mind.  Creating a sense of peace in the mind and body.

One of the reasons that breathing is so beneficial to our physical, emotional and mental body, is because Deep breathing particularly diaphragm breathing, stimulates the Vegus nerve.  And the Vegus nerve is one of the coolest nerves in the body.

The Vegus nerve connects the brain to mainly the heart, gut and lungs, but has some sort of nerve connection to virtually every single organ through sensory neurons.  The Vegus nerve simulates the amygdala (where the emotions are stored in the brain) and since the Vegus nerve is connected to all organs, with an especially huge connection to the gut, you can have emotional reactions to physical discord and vice versa. 

Besides deep breathing, some other ways to stimulate the Vegas nerve is:

  • Cold exposure
  • Gargle with water
  • Visualized Gratitude
  • Singing and chanting
  • Massage of neck and feet
  • Laughter
  • Exercise, especially yoga
  • Relaxation
  • Deep Breathing

What we may not realize is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other.

“Healing is every breath.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Benefits of Breathing in Pregnancy and Labor

Your body follows your mind.  

Paying attention to your breath will illustrate this perfectly. When you think about worry or pain, you automatically respond with shallow breathing or you hold your breath as a response to the thought.  When you stop breathing or it becomes rapid and shallow, your body responds by activating your "flight or fight" response and then sends a cascade of stress hormones through your body.  You are not inhaling enough oxygen so your muscles tense.

Your Uterus is a muscle. Your cervix has muscle fibers. When you lack oxygen your muscles tighten and constrict.  That is the last thing you want when you are having a baby.  You need to allow your uterus and cervix to relax so your baby can be born!

When you consciously and deeply breath though your labor, you will initiate a relaxation response in your body.  This relaxation response coupled with your breath will ease your bodies sensation of pain.  Relaxation is a natural form of pain relief! 

As your baby grows, your body requires more oxygen to function at its best. Your baby too needs adequate oxygen to grow properly. Shallow breathing is not sufficient to provide the body with ample oxygen to both bodies.

Interestingly, not getting enough oxygen can cause a feeling of anxiety and panic, which keeps the breath shallow, still not getting enough oxygen and it can be a cycle of anxiety.   When you start to feel that shallow breath, if you sill stop, sit down and take a few deep breaths focusing only on your inhale and exhale, the feelings of anxiety and panic will pass by. 

 

Most importantly, breathing exercises will help you stay ‘present’ during your pregnancy and labor. They will allow you to enjoy the miracle that’s childbirth.  This is an amazing time, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  Your breath is the bridge between integrating this whole experience. 

Breathing while pushing

How you breath during your labor is a big deal, but how you breath while you are pushing is critical! 

If you are in the hospital, you might be directed to hold your breath and tuck your chin while you push. If you are feeling any pressure in your head or neck or face then you need to use your breath more effectively.  We want to use your breath to direct your energy down and out the birth canal.  

When you feel the urge to push, take a deep inhale in and as you exhale open your throat and exhale audibly with a low moan or groan. This will direct your energy down and out your birth canal.  

If you want more in depth information on breathing techniques for labor and pushing, check out our online birth course, Unmedicated Birth Academy.

By using your breath as a tool for wellbeing, you can enhance your pregnancy and labor experience.  

 




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