Breathing through transition and pushing.
The point of controlled breathing during transition and second-stage (also called "expulsion") labor is to keep yourself from bearing down and pushing -- no matter how much you might want to -- until the doctor or midwife tells you that your cervix is fully dilated and ready. You'll feel a lot of pressure in your rectum, almost as if you need to move your bowels, and you'll need to use some special breathing to distract yourself from wanting to answer this call to push your baby into the world. This is important because if you push too soon you may have more swelling and tearing of your cervix. Try the following techniques:
- When your coach says, "Contraction begins," take a deep breath; then pant several times.
- When your coach says, "Urge," instead of exhaling in one breath, imagine a candle in front of your face. Make an "O" with your mouth and try to blow it out.
- Repeat this pattern of breathing several times for each urge to push. Many educators describe this pattern as "six pants, one blow" so that you're saying something like "hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, who!" Blowing air outward makes it impossible to strain downward to push your baby out.
- When it's time to push, you're going to use your entire body to bear down with your uterine contractions, so take deep breaths and lean into the contraction.
- Bear down with all your might, slowly exhaling and grunting or groaning as you tighten your abdominal muscles and exert more pressure on your diaphragm. Visualize your baby moving downward and assume a position that will work with gravity instead of against it.
- Don't push or bear down between contractions. Use that opportunity to rest and wait for the next urge.
- Practice these pushing breaths in the different labor positions to choose the ones that feel most comfortable for you. But don't push -- it's way too early!
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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