Lamaze breathing is just one of the techniques that you may learn in a child birth class. You will find these breathing exercises helpful if you are a first time mom or if you have never learned how to manage your pain through breathing.
Why Breathing Helps
Lamaze teachers use breathing techniques to help manage the pain a labor and delivery. Typically, people think of the fast "hee, hee, hoo" type of breathing as the basis of Lamaze techniques. These patterned breaths help force oxygen into the blood, but should not be confused with rapid breathing or hyperventilation. Hyperventilation causes dizziness and other problems that only increase anxiety.
This isn't the only type of Lamaze breathing that is taught, though. There are also deep breathing techniques that help calm and relax your body. Staying calm will help you to focus on the task at-hand and may help you to deliver without the need for pain medication.
Note: While using Lamaze breathing can help you to manage your pain, it will not eliminate your pain. Don't feel like you are wrong to use pain medications if necessary.
Types of Lamaze Breathing
There are actually several types of Lamaze breathing. You will learn all of them in your childbirth class, but you can also practice them now to help you relax and prepare for the birth of your child.
The first type of breathing you will probably learn in your Lamaze class is the cleansing breath. This is a deep, slow inhalation through the nose and a slow exhalation through the mouth. Cleansing breaths are used at the beginning and end of each contraction. Also known as a signal breath, a cleansing breath acts as a signal to your partner than a contraction has begun and ended.
Slow breathing is a helpful technique to simply help you relax. It is your natural breathing, but slowed as when you are asleep. This is not deep, lung-filling breaths that raise your chest and abdomen. Instead, it is shallower, slightly raising your chest with little effort.
Begin with a cleansing breath. Now try inhaling to a count of three to five; use whatever is comfortable for you. Now, exhale for the same count. Relax your jaw and your shoulders. Inhale: one, two, three, four. Exhale: one, two, three, four. Continue this for about 90 seconds, then end with another cleansing breath.
This is another slow, shallow breath that is done while you are relaxed. Do not force yourself to go beyond what is comfortable. Once again, begin with a cleansing breath. Then, gently inhale through your nose and, on the exhale, softly blow through your mouth. To get a feel for the technique, light a candle or hold a piece of paper a few inches away from your face. Inhale gently and then softly blow out the candle or make the paper flutter. Practice this technique for about 90 seconds. Then end with another cleansing breath.
Patterned breathing is the famous "hee, hee, hoo" breathing that people think Lamaze breathing is all about. Basically, this breathing involves two to four rapid exhales (the "hee, hee, hee") to one blow ("hoo"). The key here is to keep a comfortable rhythm with a small, soft inhale in between each exhale and blow.Pretend you are having a contraction. Begin with a cleansing breath. Now begin your patterned breathing and continue for about 90 seconds. End with another cleansing breath.
The most important thing to remember when using Lamaze breathing techniques is to do what you feel comfortable with. Practice each technique and decide what you like the best. As long as you keep breathing, you are doing it right.
Remember too that you can change your breathing technique if you feel like the one you are using isn't helping you to manage your pain. You can use different types of breathing depending on the stage of labor that you are in. Childbirth is a natural process, so do what feels right for you.