Respiration at birth

What is meant by correct breathing at birth?

Birth presents women with a special and unique challenge. Birth preparation courses, which are mainly run by midwives, are designed to help women prepare for the demands of childbirth. A central theme of such courses is the correct breathing technique or breathing during the birth.

These are breathing exercises and breathing techniques that are intended to help alleviate the pain of labour both before and during childbirth. Their main purpose is to relax the woman and to facilitate the birth process. The breathing exercises are based on both physical and psychological effects. Sufficient mental and physical relaxation should ensure a good birth process.

What role does respiration play in birth?

The natural birth takes place in different defined phases, which are passed through one after the other. In all phases breathing plays a not insignificant role in the mother’s well-being. Correct breathing can make the birth more comfortable for the mother and, above all, help her to push properly during the expulsion phase.

However, there is no danger of harming the baby through “wrong” breathing. Pre-natal breathing courses should only be attended if the expectant mother feels comfortable and personally feels that this is an enrichment. Breathing works intuitively even without special techniques, so that no expectant mother need be afraid of doing something wrong.

  • The opening phase: This is characterised by the beginning of labour and serves to open the cervix. The birth is quasi initiated. – The expulsion phase: This is the actual birth. – The afterbirth period: This follows after the baby is born. In this phase the placenta is born and the postpartum contractions dominate.

How should one breathe during the birth phases?

In the different stages of birth, adapted breathing techniques can provide good support for the mother. In courses preparing for birth, the special requirements of each phase of birth are also addressed. In the following section, different breathing techniques for the three birth phases opening, expulsion and afterbirth are explained in more detail.

The opening phase begins with the opening contractions which dilate the cervix and usually lasts between three and twelve hours. The rhythmic contractions initially occur at intervals of about ten minutes, and shortly before birth about every two to three minutes. Relaxing effects on many women are mainly caused by even and deep breaths, the so-called “breathing into the belly”.

Even and calm breaths are important. It is recommended to breathe in through the nose and out through the open mouth. Contrary to earlier recommendations, nowadays most birth preparation courses do not recommend the so-called “panting” (see section “What is meant by panting?”).

In the expulsion phase, the so-called expulsion contractions dominate, which serve the birth of the child with high intensity. When the cervix is fully opened, the expulsion pains reach peak pressures of up to 200mmHg, which is why they are also called squeezing pains. Here, too, it is important to breathe as evenly and continuously as possible.

Even though many women tend to hold their breath during the squeezing process, calm breathing is recommended. At the end of a pressing phase you should breathe in and out deeply. Holding the air for a long time can lead to hyperventilation due to the rapid breathing.

Calm breathing is therefore all the more important. In case of severe pain, it can also help to make deep tones when breathing out, such as “A” or “Yes”. In the postnatal period, the new mother should remember to relax and rest. Calm and even breathing, as recommended in the opening period, is also appropriate here. Deep breaths and a prolonged exhalation through the open mouth help very well in this process.