Lamaze Breathing Techniques [INFOGRAPHIC]

Want to learn proper Lamaze breathing techniques? Here we discuss how this breathing technique can help you relax before giving birth.

RELATED: Is It Labor Or Not: What Do Contractions Feel Like?

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In this article:

  1. Lamaze Breathing as a Natural Way to Relieve Labor Pain
  2. What the Survey Shows
  3. About Lamaze
  4. About Lamaze Breathing Techniques
  5. How to Do Lamaze Breathing
  6. Tips to Follow Lamaze Breathing Properly

Lamaze Breathing Techniques to Reduce Pain During Labor

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Lamaze Breathing as a Natural Way to Relieve Labor Pain

Breathing is so simple – just inhale and then exhale. So, how could something this basic be so important during labor and the delivery of your baby?

The secret is in Lamaze breathing techniques. For first-time mothers, you might be a little worried about labor pain.

You may know that doctors and nurses can give you medicine for pain management, but you may not want to take it. Maybe you worry the medication will have a bad effect on you or your baby, for example, or you just want to be awake and alert for the birth of your baby.


What the Survey Shows

Newborn baby right after delivery | Lamaze Breathing Techniques
A newborn baby sleeps on its mother.

Pain relief during labor is important, but many women do not want to use pain medication when giving birth. In one survey, 73% of women used at least one drug-free method to relieve pain during labor. Of the women who used drug-free pain relief, nearly half of them opted for breathing techniques like Lamaze.


About Lamaze

Lamaze is one of the most commonly taught breathing exercises for pregnant women used in the United States. About one in four women uses Lamaze techniques during delivery, according to Parents magazine.

The Lamaze method is a type of childbirth class. Dr. Fernand Lamaze, a French obstetrician, developed the method in the late 1950s.

He mastered psychoprophylaxis that involves preparing pregnant women through psychological and physical training. The method includes controlled breathing and conscious relaxation as alternatives to drugs for pain management during delivery.

What is psychoprophylaxis? It is a method of preparing pregnant women to give birth without the use of anesthesia. Preparation involves physical conditioning, education, breathing exercises, and psychological readiness.

In its early days, the Lamaze method focused on breathing. Today, it involves classes that help expectant parents prepare for childbirth and teach how to manage the pain of childbirth.

Today’s Lamaze classes cover many topics, such as:

  • What to expect during normal labor and birth
  • What to expect after birth
  • Positioning for labor and birth
  • Relaxation and massage to relieve pain
  • Labor support
  • Communication skills
  • Information about medical procedures
  • Breastfeeding
  • Healthy lifestyle

About Lamaze Breathing Techniques

Pregnant women | Lamaze Breathing Techniques
Pregnant women hold their stomachs in a Lamaze class.

One of the most important lessons taught in the Lamaze class is the Lamaze breathing technique. The technique was inspired by the idea that controlled breathing can help decrease pain and increase relaxation.

There are a few different breathing patterns to help you relax. For example, inhale slowly for five seconds and then breathe out for five seconds.

Another Lamaze breathing pattern has you breathe in and then exhale in two short breaths followed by one deep breath, so you make a noise that sounds like “hee hee hoooo.”

Lamaze breathing patterns keep you focused on breathing rather than thinking about the pain you might be experiencing. It also helps you save energy during delivery so you have more energy after you give birth.

Lamaze classes and breathing techniques also give your partner a chance to participate in the birth of your baby. Performing these breathing exercises help your partner stay calm and focused.

There are many benefits to using Lamaze techniques during labor. For one, breathing is something everyone can do.

It is easy to learn how to control your breathing. It is also easy to practice Lamaze breathing patterns throughout your pregnancy.

There is no right or wrong way to do Lamaze breathing techniques during labor – what works for one woman may not work for another. There are no strict rules as far as breaths per minute, whether you breathe through your nose or through your mouth, or if you are supposed to make noise when you breathe.

Lamaze techniques work in everyday situations, too. You can use Lamaze breathing to calm down and reduce pain, even when you are not in labor.

RELATED: The Stages Of Labor And Childbirth


How to Do Lamaze Breathing

Pregnant woman doing breathing exercise | Lamaze Breathing Techniques
A pregnant woman does breathing exercises.

There are different steps to follow in Lamaze breathing, depending on the stages of labor.

When labor contractions begin:

  • Just take a deep, relaxing or cleansing breath during each contraction.

The first stage of labor:

  1. During each contraction, begin with a slow, deep breath and then release an organizing breath (like a big sigh) slowly. This releases physical tension all over your body.
  2. Inhale through your nose slowly and then pause. Exhale slowly through your mouth.
  3. With every exhale you make, focus on relaxing a body part.

During active labor:

  1. Begin with the organizing breath in this stage of labor.
  2. Breath through your nose and release through your mouth.
  3. Maintain a slow breathing pattern but speed it up when the contraction increases.
  4. Relax your shoulders.
  5. As your contractions improve and breathing rates enhance, change your breathing pattern to a light one by breathing in and out through your mouth, one breath each second.
  6. When your contractions decrease, breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Transition breathing:

This type of breathing is helpful in controlling feelings of exhaustion and despair. Transition breathing can be useful as you change to light breathing.

  1. Start with an organizing breath.
  2. Focus your attention on a certain object you can see.
  3. With each contraction, use your mouth to breathe in and out at a rate of 1 to 10 breaths for every 5 seconds.
  4. Blow a long breath in every fourth or fifth breath.
  5. Take a relaxing breath when the contraction finishes.

You can use a “hee” for every short breath and a “hoo” for each long breath when doing transition breathing.

The second stage of labor:

  1. In this phase of labor, begin with an organizing breath.
  2. Switch your focus on your baby moving down and out.
  3. With each contraction, breathe slowly.
  4. Adjust your breathing to your comfort level.
  5. If it feels like you need to push, take a deep breath and then release it slowly while bearing down.
  6. When the contraction is done, just relax and take two calm breaths.

Tips to Follow Lamaze Breathing Properly

Follow these simple tips in performing Lamaze breathing to effectively lessen the pain during contractions.

  1. Learn about Lamaze breathing techniques and patterns in a Lamaze childbirth class, especially if you are planning to get pregnant.
  2. Schedule regular visits with your physician so they can guide you with your pregnancy and on how you are dealing with the pregnancy and birthing techniques, like Lamaze, to make your life easier. You can also ask advice from professional childbirth educators on how to deal with labor pain.
  3. Develop several breathing patterns that work well for you.
  4. Practice your Lamaze breathing throughout your pregnancy.
  5. Concentrate on your breathing. This distracts your mind from the pain.
  6. Focus on something with your eyes open or closed. This helps you maintain a rhythm while you breathe.
  7. Change your breathing patterns. Slow, deep breathing seems to work best at the beginning of labor. Move to faster, shallower breaths as the contractions get stronger.
  8. Combine Lamaze breathing with other Lamaze techniques, such as massage, changing positions, and using birth balls.

Birth Ball Definition: A rubber exercise ball that pregnant women can sit on when experiencing labor. It allows them to rock back and forth on a soft surface in a sitting position to help reduce back and labor pain.

Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:

You are free to do Lamaze breathing or techniques at any time. It’s easy enough for anyone and very effective. To learn more about these natural childbirth breathing patterns and other Lamaze techniques, take childbirth education classes or consult with a parenting group.

Do you have other Lamaze breathing techniques you think we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 6, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.