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Practicing Breathing Techniques for Labour


pregnant woman laying on back practicing breathing exercise


Certain kinds of breathing can help you feel more relaxed during labour.

Here are some techniques you can practice well ahead of your due date, to make sure you're ready when the time comes.

Slow Breathing

  • Breathe in through your nose (or through your mouth if your nose is congested).
  • Breathe out through your mouth, letting all the air out like a relaxing sigh. 
  • Breathe at about half your normal rate.
  • Try to keep your shoulders dropped and relaxed.

Light Breathing in Labour

  • Let your contractions guide you in the rate and depth of your breathing.
  • Breathe in and out through an open mouth. Breaths will be shallower than slow breathing.
  • Breaths will be about twice your normal rate.
  • When a contraction starts to decrease, return to your slow breathing.
  • When the contraction ends, take a deep breath and end with a relaxing sigh.
  • Try to completely relax, change your position, or have a sip of fluid as desired.

Short Breath Holding

  • During the second stage of labour, you may feel the impulse to push down with each contraction.
  • Intensity of pushes (bearing down) increase as the baby moves down the birth canal. 
  • You may push down with some short breath holding (usually less than six seconds).
  • If you have an epidural, you may have a delayed, lessened, or eliminated urge to push.


During the second stage of labour, you may be asked to use panting breaths. This helps you control the urge to push and allows the baby’s head to come out slowly and gently.

  • Lift your chin.
  • Have your mouth open slightly.
  • Breathe in and out lightly and quickly (like a dog panting).

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Last Updated: August 11, 2013