Over the years, Lamaze has evolved into a much more
comprehensive approach to childbirth, although conscious attention
to breathing remains one of many comfort techniques. This
article will give you information on Lamaze's current approach.
That being said, since you seem to be looking for more specific
guidance, let me tell you what I taught back in the 1980s when I
was teaching Lamaze. (Yes, Ladies and the occasional Gent, I began
as a certified Lamaze educator.):
- There is no "right" way to breathe in labor; however, many
women find that focus on the breathing is one way of coping with
contractions, and, like the famous song in The King and I,
"Whistle a Happy Tune," behaving as if you are calm and on top of
things, often leads to feeling that way.
- Begin and end each contraction with a "cleansing breath," a
nice deep, sighing breath. (Factoid: This concept, and
indeed, the original idea of conscious breathing as a
fundamental Lamaze technique, comes directly from
yoga.) The opening cleansing breath serves to release any
tension, and it also serves to indicate to your labor companions
that you are beginning the work of the contraction. The closing
cleansing breath helps to release any tension accumulated during
the contraction so that you can relax completely in between.
- The basic breathing consists of slow, easy,
relaxed breaths. You may choose to add to your concentration
by breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- As contractions intensify, it may help to follow the rhythm of
their rise and fall by shortening the in an out breath as the
contraction peaks and lengthening the breaths as it subsides. Keep
the in and out breaths even so that you don't hyperventilate, which
can happen if you breathe out more than you breathe in. (If you
should hyperventilate--symptoms: feeling anxious, dizzy, or have
tingling lips--re-breathing your own air will help. Breathe into
your cupped hands or a paper bag until you feel
better.) A variation is counting as you breathe in and
out, e.g., in: 1...2...3...4...5...6 out: 1...2...3...4...5...6;
in: 1...2...3...4... out: 1...2...3...4..., etc.
- For very intense contractions, some women may find it helpful
breathe in through parted lips with a little gasp (hee) then round
the lips and breathe out with a little gasp (hoo). Take care to
keepthis breathing controlled and even.
- If something that you found helpful stops working for you--and
this holds true for whatever coping strategy or comfort measure you
are using, not just breathing--try something else. After a break,
you may be able to return to your old strategy, and it will work
I hope you find this helpful.