Labour can be a stressful time, so take a more relaxed approach. Hypnobirthing could be just the thing for you. Siobhan from The Positive Birth Company is here to tell you how.


It’s so important to be relaxed in labour. Hypnobirthing is a brilliant way to achieve a calmer, more relaxing atmosphere when giving birth. Here’s one way you can do it:


Up Breathing

A woman is sat in a birthing pool, in labour. She is sat forward while her husband strokes her head in a supportive way.

We use this breathing technique during the ‘up stage’ of labour, as the muscles in your uterus pull up and over and your cervix softens and dilates. If you use this breathing technique during your surges (a nicer word for contractions) you will ensure that you are filling your lungs and your uterus (and baby) is getting all the oxygen it needs. This breath will also keep you feeling calm and focused. In fact it’s a good breath to use if you’re ever experiencing any stress or panic as it has the power to take you straight to a calm space after just a few repetitions.

Simply close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply, through your nose, for a count of approximately four beats. Then exhale slowly and lightly through your mouth, for a count of approximately eight. If that’s a struggle, because don’t we know how a pregnant woman’s lung capacity is reduced, try exhaling for six.


It might help if your birth partner counts out loud for you so that you don’t start breathing too quickly. Or you might prefer silence and in that case you might like to try using a visualisation. I always imagine a purple balloon inflating as I inhale slowly. Then as I exhale I imagine a long gold thread floating from my lips out towards the horizon. It might sound bizarre but it gives you something to focus on.

Something I tell the couples I teach, which they find really helpful, is that if you do four repetitions of this breath (inhale for 4, exhale for 8) that’s roughly how long a surge (contraction) will last for. Of course, as you get closer to that magical moment of giving birth your surges may last a bit longer. However every woman (and every labour) is different. It’s a good rule of thumb though when practising to imagine that four repetitions are one surge. Then between surges you will have a little rest. Suddenly it seems quite manageable.


“Listening to your body and going with it is a lot better for you and your baby”

Siobhan Miller, The Positive Birth Company

Down Breathing

A pregnant woman is in labour, knelt in a birthing pool. Her partner and friends look on as a midwife monitors the baby's movements with an ultrasound.

We use this breath during the ‘down’ stage of labour; when your cervix is fully dilated and your baby descends down the birth canal and out into the big wide world. Instead of ‘coached pushing’ (where someone tells you when to push, as often seen on the telly), listening to your body and going with it is a lot better for you and your baby.

Your uterus muscles which have gathered at the top during labour will now start to push your baby out. You will feel the difference! Your body is so perfectly designed it will know when to birth your baby. You just need to trust your body and go with it when you feel that sensation. It is not dissimilar to needing a number two(!!). If you keep breathing during this part rather than holding your breath and bracing to push, your baby will naturally make its way down and be born. This method is preferable because it’s more gentle on baby (who benefits from the oxygen too!) and your body (you’re less likely to experience a tear).


To do this simply inhale strongly through your nose and exhale with purpose. Channel your breathing down through your body so you can feel it through the fundus or the muscles at the top of your bump. This is a good one to practice when on the toilet! You can guess why!

Visualisations that people use during this stage of labour are often ones that involve a downwards motion. For example, a waterfall or leaves falling from a tree or perhaps a rosebud opening. Have a go and see if there’s any particular one that resonates with you!


Hypnobirthing Labour | Practise Makes Perfect

A woman lies in bed with her newly born baby, after labour. She is looking at the child lovingly.

The best thing you can do now is to practice. Whenever you get chance, rehearse these two breathing techniques whenever possible ahead of your big day. The more you practice the more effective they will be in labour as they will become second nature. Try and get into the habit of practising the up breathing before going to sleep at night. It’s a good one to chill you out for a good night’s rest.


If you missed Siobhan giving the full low down on Hypnobirthing then head to her article now – What is Hypnobirthing and Why Does it Work? to find out more .


Images © Susie Fisher Photography, discover more at susiefisherphotography.com.