As your due date gets closer, you’re probably spending more time thinking about labor. The thought of finally meeting your baby is exciting, but there’s no way of predicting how they’ll make their big entrance. It’s normal to feel nervous and want to prepare as much as you can.
In your research, you may have come across Lamaze breathing, a technique that aims to build your confidence in your body and teach you some ways to feel in control during labor.
Lamaze breathing is just one of the techniques you can try when you’re going to have your baby, so read our guide and see if it’s right for you.
In this article: 📝
- What is Lamaze anyway?
- What is the purpose of Lamaze?
- How does Lamaze breathing work?
- How do you do Lamaze breathing?
- How do you breathe while pushing?
- So, why do Lamaze breathing techniques?
What is Lamaze anyway?
Let’s start with a tiny history lesson. Lamaze breathing was created by a Frenchman called Dr. Fernand Lamaze in the 1950s. He believed in helping mamas-to-be prepare for birth both mentally and physically. He also wanted to offer an alternative to pain management with drugs for women who were keen to go down the unmedicated route.
Marjorie Karmel had her first baby in France with Dr. Lamaze and brought the technique back to the US in the 1960s. She set up what is now known as Lamaze International, an organization that trains childbirth educators in relaxation and controlled breathing techniques for labor.
What is the purpose of Lamaze?
The goal of Lamaze breathing is to help you grow in confidence so you’ll feel more able to cope during labor and birth. It teaches breathing exercises to help manage your labor pains and reduce your anxiety when giving birth. The theory is that by focusing on breathing, everything else fades into the background—including the pain. By practising the techniques in advance, you’ll be able to rely on muscle memory during labor.
This technique for birth breathing is popular because it’s easy to learn and use while still being an effective coping tool. Some mamas have reported that even when their birth plan changed and they felt stuck on the bed or attached to an IV, controlling their breathing still helped them to feel empowered while delivering their baby.
This being said, while controlled breathing can help your body to do labor in its own way and avoid drugs and intervention, medication is still sometimes necessary. This doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you didn’t use the Lamaze breathing techniques correctly, it’s just a part of the unpredictable process of birth.
How does Lamaze breathing work?
You know those moments when you are cross or frustrated and take a few deep breaths to ground yourself? Well, controlled breathing for labor can do the same thing.
When used over a long period, it slows down your heart rate, keeps you and your baby well-oxygenated, and helps you to relax. All of these things reduce stress and can change your perception of pain.
Some of the techniques taught in Lamaze are:
- Slow, deep breathing
- Maintaining a rhythm
- Breathing through your mouth or nose
- Keeping your eyes open or closed
- Focusing on one physical item
Lamaze breathing is just one part of the Lamaze method for birth. Other strategies that are taught alongside breathing include:
- Changing positions
How do you do Lamaze breathing?
We’ll give you an idea of how the Lamaze labor breathing techniques work. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find Lamaze breathing videos or look into taking Lamaze classes (which are offered about five or six weeks before your due date, for a total of 12 hours).
So, how do you breathe during labor? Let’s start at the beginning—the first stage of labor. When your contractions start, take a deep breath, sometimes called a cleansing breath, at the beginning of each one. Slowly inhale through your nose, pause, and then take a long breath out through your mouth. Each time you exhale, focus on relaxing a different body part. When the contraction passes, take another relaxing breath in the same way.
As you move into active labor and your contractions get more intense, gently speed up your breaths. Focus on keeping your body and shoulders as relaxed as possible and, as the contraction peaks, switch to light breathing in and out of your mouth.
This is almost like gentle panting—about one breath per second. Finally, as the contraction fades, slow your breathing down.
There comes a point in labor when you go into transition. It’s where you go from the first stage to the second (pushing) stage of labor. Lots of mamas-to-be experience feelings of panic or exhaustion at this point, or even that feeling of, “Nope, I’ve changed my mind!” Continuing to concentrate on your breathing at this point can help you to feel in control. As you breathe, focus on one thing – your partner, a picture, something you’re holding, or even a body part like your hands.
During a contraction, breathe in and out through your mouth at a faster pace. Every four or five breaths, take a long breath. When the contraction fades, take a more relaxed breath.
How do you breathe while pushing?
Lamaze breathing can help you to feel grounded through the final stretch before meeting your baby.
Your doctor, doula, or midwife will help guide you on when to push as your contraction starts. Take deep breaths with slow exhales so you can bear down through the whole contraction. In between each contraction you can take some cleansing, grounding breaths before you have to push again.
So, why do Lamaze breathing techniques?
Labor and giving birth are unique and deeply personal experiences, so it’s good to do your research and find the right options for you. The more information you have, the more prepared you’ll feel and the more confident you (and your birth partner) will be to be vocal about your choices.
Lamaze breathing for labor can be an empowering tool for keeping women calm and grounded as they give birth. Even if you need more medical intervention than you had planned for, Lamaze breathing can be an important tool for helping you to feel in control.