Breathing and self-help techniques for labour

Learning the art of relaxation will help you during pregnancy and labour. It may also help you with the transition to parenthood.

Developing a relaxed state of mind in response to labour takes practice. Breathing with purpose can help you relax throughout your pregnancy.

Breathing techniques

Focusing on your breathing requires you to concentrate. Focused breathing means that your thought process is directed away from any discomfort you may be feeling.

It helps reduce tension in your muscles and may ease the birthing process. It may also help you deal with any stress, anxiety or anger that you may be feeling. It reverses some of the physical symptoms of anxiety.

How to do focused breathing

  1. Practice taking deep slow breaths from your abdomen (stomach area).
  2. Rest your hands at the bottom of your ribs, so that your fingertips are touching.
  3. Your fingertips should move apart slightly as you breathe in, and then come together again as your lungs empty.
  4. Breathe slowly, for example for a count of 5.
  5. Breathe out slowly, as this ensures the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.

Work with your body

Contractions during labour are important. By listening to your body, you will know what positions work best for you, how to move, and how to breathe.

Every contraction is bringing your baby closer to you. As contractions get stronger, your body will produce natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins.

Labour starts a sequence of events in your body. These result in your body producing hormones, to help you bond with your baby, and to breastfeed your baby.

Positive affirmations

Thinking positive thoughts during labour can help reduce feelings of discomfort.

Examples of positive affirmations (thoughts) to help with birthing your baby:

  • I am doing well.
  • My body was designed for this.
  • I am strong and healthy, labour is normal.
  • My body and my baby are working together for a safe birth.
  • Each contraction is bringing me closer to holding my baby in my arms.

Page last reviewed: 26 March 2018
Next review due: 26 March 2021