How to Breathe During Labor


Labor and childbirth involve discomfort, but you do have options for managing the pain. Patterned breathing involves focusing your concentration on a specific breathing rate and depth, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Once you find an effective pattern of breathing, you may experience a calming effect that helps you feel more comfortable. As labor progresses, it may also help to change your breathing pattern to match the increasing intensity of contractions.

  • Take a deep, cleansing breath when a contraction begins and when it ends. A "cleansing" breath helps ensure that you and the baby receive adequate oxygen and it helps you focus on your breathing pattern, according to

  • Breathe in and out slowly in a conscious and focused pattern during the contraction, advises Lamaze International. Outdated breathing methods necessitated counting breaths per minute, making specific sounds and breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. While you might choose to incorporate these breathing patterns, they are not mandatory.

  • Change to shallow and faster-paced breathing as your contractions become closer together and more intense, advises the Special Deliveries Childbirth Center of Hartford Hospital. This shallow breathing should not involve deeper abdominal breathing, but rather confining your breathing to the upper chest. Remember to take a cleansing breath at the beginning of each contraction and then accelerate the rate of breathing as the contraction peaks and decelerate it as the contraction dissipates. Take a final cleansing breath as the contraction ends.

  • Use variable breathing during the most intense contractions, advises the APA. This breathing might involve quick pants and then a blow exhalation or saying “hee hee hoo.” Start and end each contraction with a cleansing breath.

  • Breathe consciously when you reach the pushing stage by taking a deep breath, holding it and bearing down for about five to six seconds, suggests the APA. Breathe in and out several times and then repeat the process of taking a deep breath and holding it while you push for five to six more seconds. End the contraction with a cleansing breath. Wait until you feel another urge to push with the next contraction and then repeat the same process until you deliver the baby.

Tips & Warnings

  • Watch for signs of hyperventilating, which could happen with prolonged deep breathing, warns the Marshfield Clinic.Symptoms include tingling hands and light-headedness. Slow and regulate your breathing if you experience these symptoms.


  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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