Breathing for birth
However well prepared you are, there may be moments in your labour when you feel you're losing control.
Don't underestimate how powerful a few Active Breaths can be.
If you feel panic rising, or you have to prepare yourself to take an unexpected turn,
this can be an easy first port of call.
Taking mindful breaths can help to ground you.
Being 'in the moment' will help you to stop 'forecasting' and can help balance
any negative judgements you may have about yourself or the situation.
Draw your focus to 3 careful, considered breaths. You might want to close your eyes.
You might want to pay attention to how your body is supported - on a chair? A bed? The floor?
Take a long slow breath, drawing fresh air down deep into your lungs - and then pause.
Exhale slowly through pursed lips, sighing the breath away from you, and taking your time.
This can often be enough to re-set you, so you're ready to deal with whatever comes next.
The Golden Thread is a classical yoga breathing technique.
As with all mindful breathing, inhaling through the nose is a great way to control the inhalation
(as your dinky little nostrils control the breath in). For this technique breathe out through slightly pursed lips,
as though you're exhaling through the hole of a Polo mint!
As you inhale, imagine drawing a fine golden thread into your lungs.
Draw the thread slowing and carefully deep into your chest, along your spine and the back of your ribs.
Draw breath in from the bottom of your lungs, so your rib cage is expanding wide and to the side
as you visualise the thread extending slowly and peacefully, deep into your body.
Take a pause at the peak of your breath.
Now, slowly exhale through pursed lips.
The thread now returns upwards, travelling carefully along the front of your lungs and chest.
Allow your breath - and the Golden Thread - to release slowly.
You may become aware of the connection between your internal self and the World around you.
You may feel powerful as you become aware of your power to control your breath and your emotions.
5 Senses Grounding
Grounding is a quick & easy way to release your critical mind and quickly tune into the moment, and only that moment. Wondering how you'll know if critical mind is in action? It's that bit that's working over-time, the bit that's wondering what might be to come, and how you'll cope with it.... all highly unhelpful when you're labouring.
Settle into the space you're already in, and get as comfortable as you can be in that moment. Allow your breathing to become deep, purposeful and calm. Take the deep breaths you know you've got, and exhale, long, slow & purposeful.
Begin with sight. With your next 3 breaths focus on what you can see. It doesn't matter whether your eyes are open or closed. Where is the light source. What type of light is it? Where's the shade? Are there different types of light? Which feels comfortable to you.... and if you find any of it intolerable, ask your birth partner to change it.
Now hearing. With your next 3 breaths, focus on what you can hear. Are sounds close or far away? Are they organic sounds? Familiar or strange? What noise are you making? Do sounds come and go? Or consistent?
Now touch & sensation. 3 breaths. How is your body supporting? What does the air feel like on your skin? Is anyone touching you? Would you like them to? Where are you holding tension in your body? What can you let go? Is the air around you moving? Are you warm or cool?
Now smell. This can be a tricksy one, because scent can trigger really deep memories - and we can create strong memories around scent too. 3 breaths. What can you smell around you? Is it ok, or not ok? Did you bring anything with you that has a comforting scent? Can you bury your face in it? Inhale the scent deeply, and see how it affects you.
Finally taste & your mouth. What was the last thing you ate? How does your mouth feel? Is your mouth dry? How about water? Or a TicTac under the tongue? Can you feel your breath in your mouth? Is your jaw loose? Can you drop your shoulders more, and release your jaw?
This is a quick way to ground yourself in the moment, overcome any rising fear or panic,
and be very intentionally in the moment.
The point of breath-work is to give you confidence that YOU are in control of your emotions.
Have no doubt, controlling your breath is a powerful way to affirm self-confidence AND to kick out some of those deliciously helpful hormones (Muster yourselves, oxytocin, prolactin & all you cheeky endorphins!).
There is no Right or Wrong way to control your breath.
But there are lots of techniques you can practise to gain confidence in your own.
Here's another for your bag. Square - or box - breathing is a great way to re-set your breath
into a natural, comfortable pattern. Focusing on Square Breathing will help you to relax your body,
clear your mind and regain focus. Which makes it an ideal way to recover between contractions.
Here's what you do;
1) As in you inhale, imagine you are drawing the horizontal line along the top of a square.
Count, slowly & comfortably to 4
2) Gently pause your breath to the count of 4 as you trace an imaginary vertical line
down the second side of your square
3) Exhale your breath along the opposite horizontal line, the bottom of the square,
again, to the count of 4
4) Pause your breath as you complete the square,
gently waiting to 4 to repeat the breath.
This is a brilliant way for birth partners to be usefully & practically engaged in labour.
Keeping the mood, pace & tone calm, focused & controlled is unbelievably helpful.
And remember. The goal is to stay comfortable.
NOT to rely on breathing alone if you want or need to dial up your comfort.
If you get to a point where this is no longer helping you, discuss what you need.
Home water birth (UK)
Home birth (UK)
Birthing Centre (US)
Hospital water birth (UK)
Hospital VBAC (US)
Hospital birth with epidural (UK)
Australian Induced Hypnobirth
Woman centred caesarian (UK)
Positive induction story (UK)
Hospital induction & water birth (UK)
Positive caesarian birth (US)
Baby Friendly Caesarian Section at
Tunbridge Wells Hospital (Pembury)
Home Water Birth
Kindly shared by Jess Smart
'Ziggy's Birth on the Kitchen Floor'
Home water birth, UK
US Birthing Centre
Top Tips from our colleagues
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Maternity team with the Maternity Voices Partnership have undertaken a significant piece of work explaining the role of vaginal examinations (VE's) in late pregnancy and labour, and clarifying that it is up to you to decide whether or not you want one. Remember that this isn't a 'one time only' discussion. You can consent to one and then later choose to decline, and vice versa.
You may want to discuss your expectations about VE's in your antenatal classes
and while you are birth planning.
MTW Maternity Voices Partnership to give you more information about what vaginal examinations are, why they might be offered, and your options.
Caesarean Birth Recovery
Whether your caesarean is planned or unplanned, there's no getting away from the reality that it is a Big Deal and it may take you some time to recover. While some women heal more quickly than others, everyone will benefit from experiences of other women. We're grateful to our clients and friends who have offered their Top Tips and allowed us to share them here. Click to download the zip...