How to Breathe During the Transition Phase of Labor

How to Breathe During the Transition Phase of Labor thumbnail
Rhythmic breathing during labor can help to ease the pain of the transition period.

The 30- to 90-minute period of labor that occurs before active pushing begins is called the transition period. Most women find that this is the most painful and exhausting period of labor. Rhythmic breathing can ease the pain of labor transition and help mothers remain focused and calm.

Things You'll Need

  • Lip Balm
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Instructions

    • 1

      Practice rhythmic breathing before you go into labor. Take a few minutes each day to become conscious of your breathing and take breaths at an even pace. It is most important that the breaths are easily spaced, so try not to worry about their speed or depth. By practicing patterned breathing before going into labor, you train your body to instinctively breathe in a rhythmic way.

    • 2

      Experiment with different breathing styles during the early phases of labor. Short breaths that are close together or slow, deep breaths can each work well. Determine what feels comfortable to you so that you will be prepared to focus on this breathing style during transition.

    • 3

      Begin each contraction by taking a deep, cleansing breath. This helps focus your mind on the task ahead and can also help with muscle tension.

    • 4

      Take slow, deep breaths at the most painful points in each contraction.

    • 5

      Try small, closely-spaced breaths as you come down from contractions. Most women feel the need to take short breaths at some point during labor, so use your own intuition and body as your guide for how to breathe. Space these breaths approximately one to two seconds apart. Avoid hyperventilating.

    • 6

      Focus completely on your breathing during the transition period. Try to breathe with each contraction instead of fighting the contractions. Breathing with your mouth open in an "O" shape can help you to remain focused on your breathing instead of the pain.

    • 7

      Take several deep breaths at the end of each contraction. This can help restore your strength to prepare you for the next contraction.

Tips & Warnings

  • Breathe in a way that feels natural to you. It is more important to breathe in an even, rhythmic pattern than to breathe in a predefined way. Apply lip balm before each contraction to prevent your lips from drying.

  • Never hold your breath during a contraction. This is a natural reaction some people have to pain, so it's important to practice rhythmic breathing before you have strong contractions.

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References

  • "Birthing From Within"; Pam England, Rob Horowitz; 1998
  • "The Birth Partner"; Penny Simkin; 2007
  • "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth"; Henci Goer, Rhonda Wheeler; 1999
  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

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