Have you ever seen those water birth videos on YouTube where the baby just slips out and you’re like, “how on earth did she do that?!”
It’s all about the breath.
If there’s one thing that athletes, archers, swimmers, and yogis all understand, it’s this: If you want to function at peak performance, never hold your breath.
They are all trained to master breath work.
Holding your breath in labour only helps to trigger a stress response in the body and makes it feel as though you are in danger; that you are fearful for your life.
Your body can’t differentiate between real and imagined threat, so it responds the same way for both – kicking the sympathetic nervous system into gear. If you’ve ever watched a scary film, or felt really nervous, you will already understand how this feels: your heart will race, your temperature will rise, and you’ll feel panicked, dizzy, and a bit sick.
Holding your breath and triggering this response also does something behind the scenes that is a whole new level of unhelpful when you’re trying to give birth. It draws plentiful blood supply away from the uterus, and sends it instead to your arms and legs (in case you need to fight, or run… your poor body really does think you’re in bigtime danger!).
This slows your labour, as the process of birthing your babe takes a back seat whilst your body prepares to keep itself safe.
Pushing your baby into clenched, unoxygenated muscles causes tension and friction within the body. And unfortunately, tension in labour manifests as pain. Youre basically working against your body’s plans, and labour could be a lot longer and more uncomfortable than it should be.
So, how can mastering your breath help?
A slow, deep, calming breath in, followed by a longer full breath out, helps to keep your body working under the calm response.
Breathing in for 4, and out for more. Dropped shoulders, a relaxed jaw, and a lovely soft space between your eyebrows. Ahhh.
This way, your heart rate stays under control. Your body feels safe enough to birth your baby, and lets this process take centre stage by sending its focus and gorgeous oxygenated blood supply to your uterus.
Surges become more effective, the muscles stay relaxed and ready to work, and labour becomes generally more comfortable for you. Now, doesnt that sound better?!
Just like with those athletes, archers, swimmers and yogis though, this breath work needs practice! In for 4, and out for more.
Every time you feel stressed, or are trying to relax.
It is so worth it.
Photo Credit Kate Carlton Photography