We've all seen it in the movies. A woman goes into labor and instantly starts huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf, doing her best at Hollywood Lamaze breathing. Deep, regular breathing, we are told, will help women cope with labor, meaning it makes the pain less, right? Speaking as a woman who has gone the natural birth route, let me clear that up: it doesn't. What it DOES do is make you breathe, a highly underrated activity. Focused regular breathing can help keep stress levels down or reduce stress further. When in pain, focused breathing has many benefits. It prevents holding your breath or hyperventilating, both of which reduce oxygen in your system and increase stress considerably. It also has the marvelous, untold benefit of keeping you from screaming or swearing or both. All of these benefits will come in handy again, say sometime when you are reaching into the fridge with a baby on one hip and an expectant child at your leg and you knock a glass bowl out and onto your big toe, where the bowl promptly breaks and leaves your toe (and thus the rest of you) in momentary white-hot, throbbing agony.
Lamaze: learn it for life.