What it is:
Abdominal breathing is breathing using your diaphragm. It is deep breathing using the full extent of your lung capacity. It is called abdominal breathing because the movement of the diaphragm will expand the abdomen during the inhale and contract the abdomen during the exhale.
How it works:
Because of its slow nature, abdominal breathing is calming and reassuring. A mother who feels "helpless" may begin to feel that she has the power to respond to contractions when she can control her breathing, reducing the fear in labor.
Abdominal breathing has the added value of increasing the oxygen the mother gets with each breath. Increased oxygen can improve her energy level and help her muscles to work effectively.
How to do it:
Allow the mother to sit in a comfortable position, such as leaning against pillows. Encourage the mother to breathe in deep enough to push her abdomen out with each inhale.
Incorporating it into labor:
If the mother finds the rhythmic breathing is helpful, give her a visual cue to breath in and out by raising and lowering your hand, or nodding your head.
Position yourslef in front of the mother, face to face if possible. Begin breathing abdominally, loudly if necessary to gain the mother's attention. The mother will begin to match her breathing to yours.
Encourage the mother to release more tension by making gentle moan noises as she exhales.