How to Breathe in Labor: Breathing Techniques for Labor

childbirth education
How to Breathe in Labor

How to Breathe in Labor

It's kind of funny right, we go to yoga to learn how to breath. But isn't breathing part of our nature, our survival? In this post I want to share two videos and a podcast with you the best breathing techniques for labor.

Also, I have some great videos below on the best birthing positions so be sure to keep reading.

Watch a new born baby, their little body moves as they breathe, you see the belly rise and fall with their quick little breaths.

But somewhere along the way to adulthood, many of us loose the skill to breathe deeply.

Worried about how to breathe in labor? You know how to breathe. You do it everyday. Every minute. Every second.

But purposeful breathing to help to stimulate the relaxation response, to assist your body to progress through labor.

That I will teach you How to breathe in labor.

Never underestimate the power of simplicity.

Stress is one of the main factors contributing to shallow breathing.

And the more efficient we become, the less we stop and smell the roses, the more distant we become from our natural breath rhythm.

Below I have a video and a podcast for you.


1. The Counting Breath Pattern is a simple, yet very effective way to calm the mind and the body.

2. The Vocal Toning using the vowels (or any deep low tone) is helpful to work your breath down during your contraction, especially in the pushing stage.

3. Small 'Fairy Breaths' are helpful in the crowning stage to ease the babies head out and allow your body to stretch and open.

Video 2 on Breathing

Click below t listen to my Podcast

What every pregnant woman must know.

Fast forward to being pregnant and freaking out about labour and how you'll get through it. Then someone says 'just breathe' and you freak out even more, because you don't know'how to breathe.'

Well my lovely lady, let's re-ignite you with that skill and get you feeling confident you have some skills up your sleeves. Not only to help you birth your beautiful baby, but to help you to de-stress now in your pregnancy.

And in the days, weeks and years that you'll need this skill in the journey of motherhood.

So, say I asked you to do homework.

If I reassure you it could help you in your labour, you'd do it, right?

What if you needed it to do it every day? Are you still with me?

And what if I said it will take you 10 seconds.


I have your attention.

Because, let's face it. You are busy. That's why you're here, listening to this podcast to learn quickly. And trust me, you will, but with practice.

Let me explain.

I'm going to get specific now.

In labour there are two main people involved. YOU, and your ideal role (if you're having a vaginal birth) is to dilate. The second main person is your BABY. And their job is to rotate and move down through the birth canal.

You're in this together and you can work together.

Now you need to breathe through this whole process, because holding your breath is a bad idea.

Breathing Techniques


We use this in our Prenatal classes to help create a low deep tone.

The body is quite amazing, and react differently to different sounds you make.

For example, if you make a high pitched squeal or scream, it represents danger to your mind and you move into the fight or flight mode. This affects your hormones, blood flow to muscles and can have an impact on your ability to dilate.

On the flip side, if you use low deep tones, then it can help to relax your mind and body, and ideally help you to progress through your labour and birth your beautiful baby.

So what is it and how do you do it?

At PregActive, we use the vowels A, E, I, O and U.

Now it's not that important what sounds you make, you may actually make a sound that sounds nothing like these.

But as long as it's a low deep tone like this (example) rather than a high pitched sound (example), then you're doing it right.

For years our PregActive Mamas have shared their gratitude for this very breath technique and it's helped them in all different situations.

From early labor to keep their mind at ease and to help set a calming environment, to throughout the intense contractions to stay focused and avoid constricting.

So let's share it with you right now, so it's a skill you can always have with you when you need it.

I'm going to do one round of vowels, and then together we can do another round. The more you practice the easier it is (and the less weird it seems).

I'd highly recommend you doing this in a private place (or the supermarket line if you really want to, but I'm pretty sure you'll get weird looks and you certainly won't get the same result).

Okay, so as an example, A sounds like this. Aaaeeeeeeeeee

Let's now move on and I'll go through E, I, O and U.

So if you are not in a private place and you don't feel comfortable joining in, then close your eyes, relax your bottom jaw and follow with me as you do some deep breaths and listen to the vibration 'm creating.

If you are joining me, we'll start from A.

Now, take a deep breath in.






Take another deep breath in.

And just let it go.

Try to practice this in a private place, the car is a good place too. It';s small and can give good acoustic. Just ensure if you are driving not to close your eyes! Focusing on your driving is most important!

2. Counting Breath Pattern

Now for each woman this is different, as your lung capacity and rate of counting will be different.

But just as a guide, try and breathe in for the count of 4 and breathe out for the count of 6. Avoid holding your breath, so if you need to start with a lower count, that is so fine.

If you prefer to breath in and out for an equal count, say breath in for four, and breathe out for four, that's so fine as well!

You'll soon see I'm a bit of a rule breaker.

What's the point in stressing about rules when the whole idea is you are trying to relax? I often have people say, I love yoga, but the breathing stresses me out. Don't let this be you. Just breathe my lovely, just breathe.

So, let's give it a go shall we?

I'll start with a count of 3 in and out and then I’ll build it for you. Stay with me if you feel comfortable, or stay within your own breath rhythm if you prefer.

1. Breathing in, two, three - Breathing out, two three.

2. In two, three - Breathing out, two three.

3. Breathing in two, three, four - breathing out, two, three four.

4. In two, three, four- Breathing out two three four.

5. Breathing in two three four - Breathing out two, three, four five.

6. In two three four - Breathing out two, three, four five, six.

7. Breathing in and breathing out.

So the idea is for you to find that rhythm. The count is just there for you to focus on.

Notice the last two rounds I took out the words, but we kept the breathing happening for the same amount of time?

You've got this my girl.

You do.

This can be quite a calming breath that can help you stay relaxed between contractions to help conserve your energy. To help you recover and refocus.

And remember, to practice you can head over the show notes after and get the breath skills clip.

There are many different breathing techniques you can use to help you. The more you practice them now, the easier it will be for you to incorporate them for you when you need them. 

Let's go over just one more now.

3. The Wave Breath

Imagery is important here. Let me talk you through a big wave in the ocean, and then after I'll explain some other options you could use.

Imagine floating in the ocean, and the ripples of small waves gently drift you calmly through the water, then as the contraction starts imagine being lifted by a big wave using your inhalation to get you to the very top of the wave.

Once you reach the peak of the contraction, the peak of your wave, let it go.

Breathing out as you glide your way down the depth of the wave breathing down to your baby.

And then as your contraction ends, you float back into the calming water, staying relaxed as you refocus your energy for the next big wave.

I'm a lover of the ocean, it's my calm place. I love lying in the ocean and letting the water just rock me gently.

So this imagery works well for me, but if it doesn't resonate with you, maybe you could try one of these:

1. Imagine as you breathe in, you are filling up a balloon.

Whatever colour balloon you like. Imagine it growing as you breathe in.

And then you reach the very top, and then slowly let the balloon go, releasing tension as you release the air from your body.

This can be nice by placing one hand onto your belly and one onto your chest and taking a big belly breath into your tummy.

And then further breath into your chest, imagining the balloon expanding, and then as you breathe out feeling everything deflate and the energy going down to the baby.

2. Power of the lions roar

I've had one woman say she imagined a lion behind her and with the power of the lions roar behind her she let her breath out.

So really it's a matter of what works for you. But trust me when I say, don't wait for labour to start using these techniques.

You need to start practicing them now.

Along with your birth partner so they can help you and remind you of them when you need them.

The best thing for them to do is not to say - hey babe, use that wave breath, but to actually talk you through it, or better yet, do it with you while holding your hands or supporting you.

I believe every woman should feel empowered throughout her birth and know how to breathe to help her.

Correct Breathing during Pregnancy

Knowing the 'correct breathing' during pregnancy is a vital skill that will help you in many ways.

  1. Prepares your body for labor and birth.
  2. Delivers more oxygen to your baby.
  3. Regulation of intra-abdominal pressure.
  4. Provide optimal functional of the core musculature.
  5. Creates ultimate balance of the pelvic floor muscles