Your uterus can work harder if you keep it supplied with oxygen and the rest of your body relaxed. That means relaxing and breathing through each contraction.
You can endure more hours of labor if you distract yourself with specific breathing techniques, which also keep your uterus supplied with oxygen. You'll learn these techniques if you take childbirth preparation classes.
During your third trimester, set aside time at home to practice each technique with your labor companion. The more you practice, the more natural it will be for you to use these techniques during your labor and birth.
During your contractions, choose any breathing techniques or invent one of your own. As contractions intensify, you may find it helpful to use the techniques that require more concentration. At any time in your labor, you can go back and try a simpler technique. There are no rules. Consider these techniques to be tools you can use in any way you like.
As your baby's head is being born, your health care provider may ask you to stop pushing. This allows your perineum to stretch more gradually, and may help avoid an episiotomy.
If you are told not to push, relax, put your head back, and breathe lightly and quickly, saying "we-we-we." This will not take away the urge to push, but it will reduce your pushing efforts while your uterus births your baby gradually, reducing the chance of a tear in your tissues.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts