All your life, you breathe in and out. So what's the point of learning "breathing exercises" during childbirth classes? Childbirth Educator Kira Smith (ICCE) tells you how practice may help you during labor. Your question
What is the purpose of learning breathing exercises during childbirth preparation classes? - Kent in Washington, DC
The expert answers
There are several purposes to learning breathing exercises. Breathing, of course, gets oxygen to you and the baby. By controlling your breathing you can help yourself to relax and allow the contractions to do their work. It can also give you the feeling of having more control over your body. Practicing slow deep breathing can give you confidence about your ability to stay calm and cope during labor. This, in turn, can help you avoid hyperventilation.
You can use a deep or cleansing breath as a signal to you to relax. When you practice this, you become conditioned to the idea that every time you take a deep breath and let it out slowly, you relax. Then during labor each time you have a contraction you take a cleansing breath and relax. It also helps signal your partner that you are having a contraction. Ending each contraction with a cleansing breath helps you relax in between contractions too.
Breathing can be used to distract you from the pain. If you are focusing on breathing, you need to concentrate on how you are going to breathe rather than on how a contraction is feeling.
Another type of breathing taught in childbirth classes is breathing to control the urge to push. Sometimes a woman gets the urge to push before her cervix is fully dilated or her caregiver instructs her not to push so that she will have time to stretch and not tear. In these situations a panting or blowing type of breathing is done so you won't bear down.
Finally, breathing exercises are very easy. You are doing something that you already know how to do and need to do.
- Kira Smith, M.Ed, ICCE