Breathing - Preparing For Birth Manual

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Birth Breathing (Ujai) - Use during contractions While in labour, you can use “ujai pranayama,” an ancient breathing technique, to help you relax through each contraction.

• Keep your jaw and face relaxed and eyes closed or softly focused. Place the top of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. If you are on a position that allows it you may like to put your hands on your belly.

• Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and imagine drawing the breath into the crown of your head and taking it down to the deepest part of your belly.

• Visualise a huge balloon expanding all around your tummy. Give it the space to fill with air and even float up slightly. This will give your tummy the room it needs to move while the surge is taking place.

• Then exhale fully through your nose. For more challenging moments - perhaps when the contraction peaks or later on when the contractions are stronger, make a low, long ‘ooooohhhhh’ sound - this is great for helping to extend your exhalation, thus keeping you calmer; gives you something to listen to and focus on; and keeps all your muscles softening and opening (unlike an ‘aaaaaaghhhh’ sound which send panic and fear signals around the body and importantly tenses up your muscles including your jaw and your birthing muscles and thus limiting the space for your baby to come through).

• It can help to imagine the complete relaxation you feel and deep breathing you do as you are drifting off to sleep. Ujai breathing is similar to this. Slow, slightly more audible in your head. It can feel as if you are breathing in and out using the back of the throat.

The Big Sigh Breathing (Golden Thread) - Use in-between contractions Use “golden thread pranayama” in between surges to help you relax the mind, body and soul. This breath technique is very simple. Begin at the end of a surge and continue until the start of the next surge (at which point move resume Ujai breathing again).

• Inhale normally and softly through the nose (if you can / don’t have a cold). Then lengthen the exhalation. You can do this by using the Ujai technique and breathing out through the back of the throat, OR make a tiny hole in between nearly closed lips and blow out - visualising a thread of gold gently being pulled out of the mouth on the breath (or imagine you are breathing out through a straw)

• WITH EACH EXHALE LET YOUR MUSCLES RELAX. Soften completely and notice the shoulders give. The jaw, around the eyes, the toes; let all tension go. “THINK AND FEEL THE WORD RELAX.” Say this over and over to yourself. If you don’t do this, you will just keep the tension in the body until the next surge.

Eventually this will make you really tired. You need to conserve your energy at this time, ready for the next surge.

Regular yoga and breath work practice will put you in tune with your body so that you understand its natural responses, even those during labour. This will enable you to go with it rather than resisting. Resistance creates tension, fear and can lead to us losing control. Think “I’m going with the flow.”

J-breath (use during Delivery) Take yourself and send the breath in and down and out through the birth canal. Visualise the journey of the breath. Aim to breathe the baby out. If you need to push, the midwives will help - they may hold the perineum to help prevent tearing and also to guide you as to where to breathe / push out from. Some women find a deep squatting position, with their chin on my chest, mouth closed and exhaling as if pushing through the birth canal can really move a baby down (deep squatting at this point can help to open the pelvis outlet by up to 30% - aim to keep your legs wide, your toes facing forward and your tailbone out).

10 Other benefits of breathing:

• Touches all systems of the body

• Creates space - opens the ribcage, abdomen, diaphragm and spine

• Aids circulation - with more fluid in the body when we are pregnant, deep breathing helps combat oedema, chronic fatigue and the lymph system is influenced

• Extra oxygen - to the baby

• Cleansing - 60-70% of toxins are released through exhalation

• Digestion - deep abdominal breathing massages the intestines

• Eases backache - touches part of the spine that needs opening and decompressing. At the end of the exhalation the diaphragm releases the lumber spine. During inhalation the lower ribs open.

• Improves concentration and focus - helps with emotional balancing and quietens the mind - essential during birthing

• Relaxation - letting go, relaxing the muscles, soften the jaw (and the pelvic floor), surrender

• Pain management - breathing is the window to the unconscious. Take yourself into that meditative space and change your attitude to the sensations you are feeling in the body - welcome in each one, as each contraction is taking you closer to meeting your baby, one step at a time.

REMEMBER - giving birth to your child is a wonderful thing.

It’s your journey, and it is also their journey, and they play a role in how they come into the world too.

Acceptance of where you are at in the moment and following your intuition is key. You will know what the right decisions are to make when / if circumstances arise.

Be strong for your baby, and thank them for being strong for you too. You are involved in a wonderful experience and this will be you and your baby’s unique story - let it unfold. Keep talking to them!