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Though many birth classes teach breathing techniques intended to be performed silently, women often cope with the energy, sensation and effort of labor by vocalizing. This normal response to labor can be explored and understood in pregnancy through a practice of toning, i.e., voicing the exhalation of breath on a single pitch, using a vowel sound or a hum. Women and men, primarily in the author's childbirth education classes, were taught the practice of toning. Postpartum, they described their experiences with tone, pointing to a variety of effects such as physical and emotional release, self-listening and self-confidence, bodily vibration, increased ability to cope with pain, useful forms of focus, positive connection with a partner, and a sense of relatedness with nature, origins or spirit. Toning can also provide caregivers with a simple, nonverbal mode of intervention to facilitate relaxation and centeredness in labor.
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Beverly Pierce, M.L.S., M.H.D., R.N.
1 Beverly Pierce, M.L.S., M.H.D., R.N., is a noted childbirth educator. This paper is an edited version of her presentation at the 9th International APPPAH Conference in San Francisco. She may be contacted at: The Living Room Resource Center, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, Mail Route 39419, 800 East 28th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA Tel. 612 863-8713.