Your breathing pace and style are closely linked to your sense of calm and your ability to relax and cope. If you find that you're caught up in pain and tension, the quickest and most effective way to break that cycle is by taking one or two cleansing breaths (a deep breath in and out). There are a variety of breathing styles to choose from, and your style will probably vary during labor.
The first task is to figure out what your normal pace of breathing is when you're doing something quiet (but not sleeping). Have someone check you several times, and then average the number of breaths in order to find out your normal breathing pace during pregnancy.
A cleansing breath is used at the beginning of a contraction to help you get started in a relaxed, focused way. Likewise, each contraction ends with a cleansing breath to remind you to relax after a contraction has ended.
When you're breathing to maintain relaxation, you probably breathe more slowly than your normal pace. This is called slow-paced breathing, a style of breathing that supports your efforts to relax and is calming.
You may choose to breathe at a faster rate -- modified-paced breathing -- which will cause you to be more alert. The downside is that it can be tiring.
With patterned-paced breathing, which is useful if you have a hard time concentrating, you create a pattern with your breaths by blowing softly at regular intervals. Combining breathing patterns with imagery involves your brain to a greater degree and contributes to pain relief.
Use of a Birth Ball
A birth ball is a large rubber ball also known as a labor ball and similar to the beach ball-sized rubber balls used in physical therapy classes. Leaning or sitting on the ball can decrease the discomfort of contractions, relieve the pain of back labor and aid in the descent of your baby into the birth canal. For more information, read our article on easing back labor.
For more information on natural childbirth, visit Lamaze International.