Lamaze Method: Breathing and Relaxing Exercises

Lamaze method – combine the systematic technique developed by French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze with breath control exercises to eliminate labor pains and ensure a perfect delivery. Let's take a moment to learn about using our breath and imaginations to relax and reduce labor pains with the Lamaze Method.

What Is the Lamaze Technique/Method?

lamaze method

The Lamaze Technique brings Pavlovian classical conditioning ("a dog salivates when it sees the person who feeds it") into the baby delivery process. This technique diminishes channels of conditioned responses through various exercises to minimize the pains experienced during labor. The Lamaze delivery pain-reduction technique can be roughly divided in three areas of exercises: mental association, relaxation, and breathing.

Pain-Reduction Exercises

The Lamaze Technique reduces pain to a minimum by way of preparatory pregnancy exercises. By practicing the breathing, association and relaxation exercises taught by this technique, you can reduce labor pains during delivery. With the exception of cesarean section, the Lamaze Technique is compatible with the majority of other delivery methods and techniques. The Lamaze Technique can be used in conjunction with either of water or swing delivery.

Let Your Husband Join in

The Lamaze Technique is distinctive in that the expectant mother's husband is encouraged to participate. The husband can help his wife relax or count breaths. The expectant mother will find calm when her husband plays a part in this process. If he is present in this role during delivery, he will acquire an added sense of responsibility and a deeper, more natural love of his child.

Begin Exercises during Mid-Pregnancy

Start learning breathing techniques at 7 to 8 months pregnancy. Over the course of 4-5 weeks, find time to practice breathing, association and relaxation with your husband for an hour per week. The maternity wards of general hospitals and specialized hospitals both offer free courses. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Do it together: the Lamaze Technique

Association

Sitting or lying in the most relaxed position possible, imagine that you are standing in a beautiful meadow or reflect on a pleasant memory to alleviate physical and mental stress. Happy moods release endorphins which reduce pain. When we are feeling stressed, our muscles secrete lactic acid. This lactic acid has the quality of inducing fatigue. This associative technique consciously alleviates tense muscles caused by pregnancy labor pains.

However, when labor pains start, it is no easy feat to bring something to mind so suddenly. That's why it is important to practice this technique often, recalling your happiest memories, enjoyable vacations, etc.

Breathing

The Lamaze Technique's most important exercise is concerned with breathing. As the labor process unfolds, breathing deeply allows the delivering mother and the fetus to get adequate oxygen and aids in relaxation. Doing so also helps the delivering mother, whose mind might be filled with thoughts of "labor pains". Shift her attention to her breathing, eliminating the pain unconsciously. When you have become well-versed in the three exercises – association, breathing, relaxation – you should continue to practice them. Only then will the technique be truly effective during childbirth.

Do it Exercises

1. Chest Breathing

Breathe in a basic, restful pose that allows your chest to rise and fall regularly. This allows you to see what your usual breathing pattern is. In general,people tend to breathe 17-20 times per minute. When the cervix dilates to 3cm, you should breathe slowly, reducing your breathing rate by 1/2-1/3. Accompany breath reduction with association and relaxation exercises.

2. Positive Delivery Breathing

When the cervix dilates to 3cm-8cm, it is best if you increase your breathing rate to 2.5-3.0 times higher than normal. In other words, you should be inhaling and exhaling every other second.

3. Variable Breathing

This is how you should breathe later on in the delivery, in the active phase, when the cervix has reached maximal dilation. This technique divides the breath into three parts, and is also known as "in-in-out" breathing. Try as much as possible to breathe nasally to keep your mouth from getting dry. If labor pains occur during the second stage of labor, take a very deep breath and then seal your mouth. Flex your abdomen as much as possible while breathing to slowly release the air in your lungs. If you can, count to 8 or 10 in your head, then take in another breath, endure the pain, and repeat this process. When labor pain occurs, it is best if you perform 35 cycles.

4. Delivery Breathing

As amniotic fluid is released, if labor pains occur every minute lasting up to one minute, you should perform breathing exercises. Take in a breath, then, exert yourself as though forcing a bowel movement. Count to 3 and release the air from your lungs when you can no longer hold it. The entire process takes 15-20 seconds. Be cautious of overexertion when practicing this technique, as you could put yourself at risk for a miscarriage.

5. Violent Phase Breathing

As the fetus' head starts to show, without using force in your tummy, breathe quickly from the corner of your mouth to relax your body. If you use force as the fetus pushes outside of the cervix, it could cause harm to the vaginal area and result in serious bleeding. Be careful.

Relaxation Exercises

This is the practice of slightly reducing your body's energy levels. When labor pains begin, the sensation of pain causes your body to stiffen unconsciously. Relaxation exercises soothe the muscles surrounding the uterus that have contracted due to labor pains, speeding up cervical dilation. Labor pains or fatigue resultant from the delivery contribute to overall body stiffness. Convulsions may occur in cases of extended labor or other severe conditions. Therefore, it is important to practice relaxing your muscles and joints. Aside from during slumber, it is difficult to alleviate muscle tenseness, so you must wholeheartedly devote yourself to practicing these exercises.

1. Soft Wrist Exercise

1. The husband takes the underside of his wife's wrist in his right palm, and his wife's fingers in his left palm.

2. He then checks to see whether the muscles from the wrist down the fingers are relaxed or not.

2. Soft Elbow Exercise

1. The husband takes the underside of his wife's elbow in his right palm, and his wife's elbow in his left palm.

2. Keeping his hands in place, the husband draws his hands downward, toward the stomach, checking to see whether these muscles are relaxed or not.

3. Soft Ankle Exercise

1. Squeezing a cushion between his wife's legs, the husband grasps his wife's ankle in his left hand, and takes hold of the tips of her toes in his right hand.

2. Pulling his wife's ankle downward, toward his stomach, the husband checks to see whether or not there is any energy at all in the ankle.

4. Soft Joint Exercise

1. Holding his wife's leg in his palms, the husband moves the leg in a parabolic motion.

2. The leg will feel soft when it has become completely relaxed.

5. Soft Head Exercise

1. Laying his wife's head on a cushion, the husband clasps his hands together and cups the underside of his wife's neck.

2. With hands clasped together and on the underside of his wife's neck, the husband checks to see whether her neck is relaxed or not.

Sandra Henderson
 

Editor-in-chief at Babiology and a proud mother of four passionate about sharing pregnancy and baby growth knowledges

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