How to Practise Breathing for Labour: A Breakdown of Exercises for Childbirth

Labour is no doubt on your mind, and you might be wondering what exercises you can do to prepare for it. Well, you’re in luck! Here, we’ll break down some breathing techniques for labour and provide a range of exercises to help you out.

When it comes to childbirth, relaxation is key. There are many exercises you can use to help you relax and prepare for childbirth, starting with the traditional breath-focusing technique.

For this reason, it’s important to start practising breathing techniques now so that you can easily draw on them during active labour and ensure the experience is as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Here we’ll explore some breathing exercises for pregnancy that will help you get ready for the big day! So, let’s get started!

How to practise breathing: Observe your breath

Start by observing your breathing for a moment. Just feel it and notice where it’s going (just into your lungs, or deeper down into the abdomen?), how long each part of the breath is, if it feels obstructed or if it is flowing freely. Likewise, if you are anxious or stressed you might be out of breath, breathing with short breaths, or doing a lot of sighing. If this is the case, then it’s time to reconnect with your body and your breath. Make an effort to become aware of your breath, and finally let it go.

You can do this simple observation by yourself or with a partner. Take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Allow your usual breathing to establish itself and then spend some time simply observing it. Don’t try to change anything about it, just take notice of it.

  • The location of the breath
    Where can you feel the movement of your breath most? Is it more in your chest, or more in your abdomen? More at the front of your body or the back? As everything has an origin, try to identify where you think your breath originates.
  • Pace of breath
    Is your breathing slow or fast? How many times do you breathe in in one minute? Your birthing partner can always step and help you count.
  • Rhythm & pattern of breath
    What sort of pattern does your breathing have? Are all parts of your breath equal? Is the in-breath longer or shorter than the out-breath? Do you pause at any part of the cycle?
  • The flow of the breath
    Are your breaths deep and resonant? Free-flowing or obstructed in some way? Are they consistent, or has anything about them changed during the period of observation?

Now relax and cease the observation. Once you can connect with your breathing in this way, breathing for the birth will be much easier. It helps you to be in control, relax, and progress smoothly through the process of birth.

Pay attention to your breath

Simple breathing exercises for labour: 4 Simple Steps

The following exercises build on this observation, developing control over your breathing, and ultimately over your whole body. This will help to prevent negative thoughts and achieve the birth you want, but it is useful at any time when you want to relax quickly.

Step 1: Breath Calmly

  • Breathe in and out calmly, imagining that you are inhaling positive energy through your nose.

Step 2: Visualize positive imagery

  • Imagine this positive energy flowing smoothly down the front of your body. This positive energy is filling your chest, arms, your belly, your legs . . .

And down, down, right to the tips of your toes.

Step 3: Exhale through your whole body

  • As you exhale, the positive energy flows all the way up the back of your body. You can feel it moving gently up from your heels, up the back of your thighs, your buttocks, all the way up your back to the top of your head, until your head is filled with positive energy.

Step 4: Repeat the steps

  • Now gently inhale and repeat the process.

You can use this technique any time you want to get yourself into a good state of relaxation. Did you know that you can actually chat with your subconscious and introduce some positive thoughts into it? It’s important to know how to stop a spiral of negative thoughts, and with this method, you can open the gate to your subconscious.

woman meditating in nature


Lion breathing for childbirth 

Here is another exercise, of a slightly more energetic nature. Choose this method if you’re up for making some noise!
Start by standing or kneeling in a relaxed position:

  • Roll your tongue at the tip, or just purse your lips as if you were going to kiss someone.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Then inhale, close your lips and swallow. (If possible, look up to the third eye.)
  • Now, like a Maori warrior, move forward or bend your knees, open your eyes wide, stick your tongue out as far as it will go, and make a roaring sound: aaaaaaahhhhhhhggggggrrrrrrrrrr – you are a lion!

Keep doing this a few times and notice how relaxed your jaws become. This exercise is great for relaxing the face and jaw, and as these are connected to the pelvic floor, you will be relaxing the pelvic floor also, you should be able to notice a difference in your tension levels.

Singing & Vocalization breathing technique

When you sing, you breathe more deeply and fill your body with oxygen as a result, find it easier to relax your body and let go.

  • Start by placing your hands on your hips and exhale while saying ‘Shuft, shuft, shuft, shuuufffttt’
  • Take a deep breath in and then with each exhalation, make a long sound while you relax your jaw. Tune into what feels best for you, in that moment.

Pregnant woman holding on to her bump on the beach

Breathing for anxious moments: Visualise and Create a Safe Space

When you’re anxious or feeling vulnerable, or if you just want to do something positive, use this approach.

Stand, sit, or kneel and focus on inhaling positive energy and feelings while exhaling sound. You can make this sound long or soft, or even create a wave-like effect with your voice. As you do so, imagine that you’re creating a protective space around you so that you can feel safe and secure. As you do this, imagine that you’re creating a safe and secure ‘bubble’ around yourself that will keep you calm and grounded.

Final thoughts from Jutta

Breathing techniques can make a huge difference to both the intensity and the enjoyment of labour. Practice deep breathing exercises regularly over the next few weeks so that you feel confident, relaxed and ready for the big day.  When the time comes, you’ll be sure to have a smooth, easy and enjoyable labour experience! That’s what we all wish for you!

Interested in Hypnobirthing breathing techniques?

If you are interested in practising breathing techniques for labour, then perhaps you could try Hypnobirthing? I offer an online hypnobirthing class for pregnant women and their birthing partners. Click here for more details and find out how you can sign up.

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