Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recommended Breathing Techniques for Labor & Childbirth

Focused breathing helps a woman work with her body to birth her baby. In my 3 unmedicated births I have used focused deep breathing, in which I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth. As the contractions grow more intense, I give my breath a voice by moaning as I exhale. Giving your breath a voice is both comforting and empowering. It works wonders, and I recommend it for every woman, whether or not she plans to have medication during labor. It's a good idea to practice breathing throughout pregnancy. It helps relieve stress and prepares you for labor.

The following breathing techniques are also recommended for childbirth. I haven't tried these specific techniques, but many women have found them to be helpful during labor.

"There are three kinds of breathing exercises that you will want to practice during the last weeks of pregnancy and use during the first stage of labor. These are variations on the classic Lamaze-prepared childbirth breathing.
  • The deep cleansing breath. This is a simple breath. Sit with your spine comfortably straight. Put your hands on your abdomen. Slowly inhale as you watch your belly rise. Slowly exhale. Let out a sound as you exhale. Use this deep cleansing breath at the beginning of each contraction to help focus you and then begin the chu-chu or moan-pant.
  • The chu-chu breath. This breath begins to sound like a steam engine chugging along. Inhale and exhale slowly, then quicker and quicker. Breathe at a pace that parallels your contraction. Use this breath with early contractions. Some women prefer to go directly to the moan-pant.
  • The moan-pant. Begin using this breathing technique when you’re afraid you can’t stay on top of the contractions—when the big waves come and you just need to stay in the present moment—and use through the delivery, if you like. The moan-pant consists of three or four rhythmic pants followed by one blow, which can be a real release. As labor progresses and you get more focused, you can turn the pants into moans, and even into sounds that feel like singing."
As published in Mother Magazine: Body Wise: breathing exercises in labor


  1. I teach my prenatal yoga students a variation of the moan-pant. We start with an OM and then move through the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) with deep resonance. I have had many students come back to me after their births to tell me that it helped them focus and making the audible sound seemed to give them both comfort and power.

  2. From experience I know what you're saying is true. Whenever I'm in pain and use focused breathing (migraines, stretching, trigger point therapy, etc.) my husband reminds me to give my breath a voice, because he's seen how much it helps me in labor.