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PATTERNED BREATHING

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Patterned breathing simply means breathing at any number of possible rates and depths. Some women prefer breathing deeply, using their diaphragm to fill their abdomen with air. Others prefer light breathing, inhaling just enough to fill their chest. The goal is for you to find breathing patterns that calm and relax you. Your breathing should be at a comfortable rate and not cause you to feel short of breath or light-headed. The more you learn about labor and birth, the more you will see how different patterns of breathing are used at different stages.

Here you will learn about using breathing to focus on each contraction and make each contraction a productive part of birthing your baby. Patterned breathing is helpful when experiencing various types of pain, discomfort, anxiety or fear. After reading this information you will want to put patterned breathing into practice during every day stressors.

Benefits to practicing patterned breathing

  • Breathing becomes an automatic response to pain
  • Mom remains in a more relaxed state and will respond more positively to pain
  • The steady rhythm of breathing is calming during labor
  • Provides a sense of well being and a measure of control
  • Provides more oxygen, which provides more strength and energy for mother and baby
  • Brings purpose to each contraction, making them more productive
  • Patterned breathing and relaxation become habits for life’s every day stressors

How to practice patterned breathing

Traffic jams, headaches, and household chores provide opportunities to practice different breathing techniques and make them part of your routine. To simulate labor, some child birth educators suggest holding an ice cube in your hand to practice effective breathing techniques during momentary pain.

How to begin

At the beginning and end of each contraction remember to take a deep, cleansing, relaxing breath. This will help you focus, but it will also provide more oxygen for your baby, every muscle in your body, and your uterus.
Breathing patterns for the first stage of labor

Slow Breathing: Begin slow breathing when contractions are intense enough that you can no longer walk or talk through them without pausing. Use slow breathing for as long as you find it helps you. Switch to another pattern if you become tense and can no longer relax during contractions.

1.) Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension (go limp all over—head to toe) as you breathe out.
2.) Focus your attention
3.) Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, allowing all the air to flow out with a sigh. Pause until the air seems to “want” to come in again.
4.) With each exhale, focus on relaxing a different part of your body

Light Accelerated Breathing: Most women feel the need to switch to light breathing at some time during the active phase of labor. Let the intensity of your contractions guide you in deciding if and when to use light breathing. Breathe in and out rapidly through your mouth about one breath per second. Keep your breathing shallow and light. Your inhalations should be quiet, but your exhalation clearly audible.

1.) Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension (go limp all over—head to toe) as you breathe out.
2.) Focus your attention.
3.) Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Accelerate and lighten your breathing as the contraction increases in intensity. If the contraction peaks early, then you will have to accelerate early in the contraction. It if peaks more gradually, you will work up to peak speed more slowly. Keep your mouth and shoulders relaxed.
4.) As your breathing rate increases toward the peak of your contraction, breathe in and out lightly through your mouth. Keep your breathing shallow and light at a rate of about one breath per second.
5.) As the contraction decreases in intensity, gradually slow your breathing rate, switching back to breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
6.) When the contraction ends, take you’re finishing breath—exhale with a sigh.

Variable (Transition) Breathing: This is a variation of light breathing. It is sometimes referred to as “pant-pant-blow” or “hee-hee-who” breathing. Variable breathing combines light shallow breathing with a periodic longer or more pronounced exhalation. Variable breathing is used in the first stage if you feel overwhelmed, unable to relax, in despair, or exhausted.

1.) Take an organizing breath—a big sigh as soon as the contraction begins. Release all tension (go limp all over—head to toe) as you breathe out.
2.) Focus your attention on your partner or a focal point, such as a picture.
3.) Breathe through your mouth in light shallow breaths at a rate of 5-20 breaths in 10 seconds, throughout the contraction.
4.) After every second, third, fourth, or fifth breath, blow out a longer breath. You might try verbalizing this longer exhale with a “who or “puh”.
5.) When the contraction ends take one or two deep relaxing breaths with a sigh.

 

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