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Breathing techniques 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. This can help to reduce tension in your muscles.

It may also:

  • ease the birthing process
  • help you deal with feelings such as stress, anxiety or anger

How to do focused breathing:

  1. Practice taking deep slow breaths from your abdomen (tummy).
  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 in 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
  • 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: 10 February 2023
Next review due: 10 February 2026