Teaching the Birthing Breath

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Teaching the Birthing Breath

Teaching the Birthing Breath
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Hello Teachers. Could anyone share with me the words they use to teach the Birthing Breath. Or Cafetiere Breath. One of my teacher trainees wants some more ideas for how to word this practice.

With love

Jane Collins

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Mon, Jun 13 2011 6:08 PM In reply to

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Re: Teaching the Birthing Breath
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Hello dear Jane,

I am glad you raised this point because I am in the middle of marking Perinatal coursework and this is one of the topics that I put down on the review list for the Diploma course.

It is helpful to say that 'if a woman can give birth to her breath, the baby follows'. This means engaging the pelvic diaphragm and birthing muscles on the exhalation to the point when a gentle pressure is felt against the perineum. As the thoracic diaphragm goes up, the pelvic muscles are gently toned. Women can distinctly feel the curved journey of the breath against the sacrum and then forward towards the perineum: this is the route their baby will follow to be born. At the end of pregnancy the baby is compressed against the thoracic diaphragm but this breathing practice is still effective to raise awareness. Once the baby has engaged in the pelvic cavity during labour, there is a new space liberated between the diaphragm and the uterus and then the 'bearing down with the outbreath is very effective.

In order to facilitate the engagement of the lower abdominal muscles and birthing muscles with the breath two practices are helpful: 1) the external placement of someone's middle fingers on iliac crests and thumbs on the symphysis pubis of the woman to create an 'external front pelvis' which helps direct her breathing lower down; 2) the use of sound.

Birthing breathing is a very empowering practice because it conveys the feeling of where to apply directly the pressure in second stage (rather than feeling pressure towards the back passage and relying on trial and error to find an effective way). This practice also reassures women that all they need to do is to make space and trust their bodies and their babies.

We cannot teach birthing breathing without mentioning how 'exhale pushing' (spontaneous accompaniment of the bearing down uterine contractions of the second stage with blowing breath, long exhalations or sounds) differs from 'held up pushing' with chin tucked in and breath held to forcefully keep the diaphragm locked. It is important to recall that 'held up pushing', which many midwives still ask women to do, can be useful in emergencies when the baby needs to be out very quickly. Otherwise it is much preferable for both mother and baby to use the gentler 'exhale pushing' that allows the baby to perform his or her spiralling laberynthine movement of head and then shoulder and body with a unique rhythm, so finely orchestrated for each baby.

So 'birthing breathing' has more to do with awareness than with technique: once a woman has felt the involvement of her birthing muscles as she exhales slowly (as a singer holding a note) with her throat relaxed, then at the time of birth her body has the memory of these sensations and the confidence of letting go -with the second stage contractions. Most of the women whom I had the privilege to see 'breathing their babies out' had their lips parted or their mouths open (watch the 'orgasmic birth' or 'birth as we know it' DVDs for inspiration). So I would say that the Golden Thread breath is a preparation for 'birthing breathing' in that it helps wonderfully to extend the exhalation and therefore to expand breathing capacity, but not a birthing breath in itself.

Years ago I used the image of a cafetiere to convey the idea of applying a sustained, focussed pressure on the pelvic diaphragm with the use of long exhalations combined with 'soft blowing' (rather than panting) to protect the perineum at the crowning stage. But later I gave up this image because it implied that the thoracic diaphragm was the coffee plunger going down to press on the baby, when the right image was one of elongation of a pressure chamber between the rising thoracic diaphragm and the uterus. I hope this helps clarify the ideas behind the practice but I am sure other teachers will come up with more practical teaching points.

With love and thanks