Breathing Exercises during Pregnancy

An average human being can live without water for 3 days, without food for 3 weeks, but cannot live for more than 3 minutes without air. One of the most important things a pregnant woman can do is making sure she is effectively breathing for two.

So, what do you need to do if you are breathing for two? Breathe twice as fast? Let’s find out.

Video: Effective Breathing Exercises during Pregnancy

5 Effective Breathing Exercises

Breathing is very important during pregnancy; it ensures efficient removal of waste products as well as a plentiful supply of oxygen for both the mother and child. Effective breathing purifies and calms the nervous system and induces a feeling of pleasant well-being.

Pregnancy and childbirth are both situations that are helped by effective breathing. There are some breathing exercises that can be very beneficial during pregnancy both for you and your baby.

Before beginning any breathing exercises, make sure you have a yoga mat or a folded blanket to sit on. This can be substituted by a comfortable chair where you can rest your feet on the floor while exercising. Exercises where you hold your breath are not advised during pregnancy since they can restrict oxygen intake and compromise oxygen supply to the baby. It is advisable to wait around three hours after the main meal, or an hour or two after a light meal or snack to practise breathing exercises.

1. Breathing through Morning Sickness and Early Pregnancy Fatigue

Calm breathing exercises for pregnant ladies help immensely when you are suffering from morning sickness. It also helps with fatigue, muscle, and joint pain. Relax your body and sit on the ground, cross your feet and take your awareness away from the discomfort in your stomach and throat area. Be aware of the ground beneath you and the support it gives you as all the tension in your body melts away muscle by muscle, with each breath. Breathe deeply and rhythmically through your nose. Keep your attention on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Now try to slow down and deepen each breath. Be aware of the air filling and leaving your abdomen. After a couple of minutes, you will notice how much calmer you are. Take a power nap if you want and get ready to eat a healthy, sustaining meal.

2. Breathing from Your Stomach

Practise doing this by keeping an object on your abdomen as you lie relaxed on the floor. Focus on the object and on moving it up and down as you take in deep breaths. Count a number in your head, as you bring it up and the same number as you bring it down. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing is excellent for pregnancy since it can result in 1/3rd more oxygen being inhaled.

3. Breathing from the Chest

After around 5 minutes of belly breathing, start chest breathing. The rib cage and thoracic cavity expand to the sides, front and back for each inhalation and exhalation. Practise for as long as you are comfortable. Practise alternatively with stomach breathing.

4. Shallow Breathing

When done in between deep breathing practice, shallow breathing helps by giving a good boost to your lungs. Do this for a minute while you get ready for more deep breathing.

5. Cool your Body with Practices like Sheetali & Sheetkari Pranayama

Inhale through your mouth. Extend your tongue out of your mouth and roll it like a straw. Suck in cool air through this straw with a loud noise and exhale through your nose. Alternatively, bare your teeth and suck in air noisily through your mouth and exhale through your nose. Both these practices cool the body. Pregnant women need cooling because of the added metabolic activity and hormonal changes.

Breathing Techniques for Labour

Using breathing exercises during labour can help you manage the pain by helping you work through it. First, find a pattern that works for you, then work on practising your breathing. Practise regularly, many times a day. You can use these breathing patterns to get through daily irritations till they become deeply ingrained in you as a response to stress.

1. Slow Breathing

Slow breathing is the art of breathing through contractions when labour begins. The contractions can be intense, so it would be difficult for you to talk during this time. Practise slow breaths, counting to a number comfortable for you, and exhaling while being relaxed. Make your muscles limp when you exhale to help you relax.

2. Shallow, Faster Breaths

At the active phase of labour, you can shift to light breathing. You can do this in between contractions with faster, shallower breaths at around one breath per second. The inhalation should be quiet with clearly audible exhalation. Practise by visualizing a panting dog. Doing this for small intervals in between episodes of pain can help in pain management.

3. Expulsion Breathing

This is a practice where slow breathing is interspersed with exhalation, a sigh, and a blow. It is to be done when your cervix is dilated. Many inhalations – up to 5-6 shallow breaths – should be followed by one long sighing exhalation. Take a big breath, curl your body forward, and bear down, while holding your breath. Try to relax the pelvic floor while simultaneously bearing down.

Benefits of Breathing Exercise

Most situations in a pregnancy are helped largely by breathing practices. Some of the main benefits are:

1. Helps Deal with Morning Sickness

Staying curled up in bed, unable to keep anything down, can be a miserable experience. Try calm deep breathing. It will help you deal with the nausea.

2. Breathing to Fall into a Deep and Rejuvenating Sleep

Deep breathing with active visualization of images of your muscle groups relaxing can put your body in a state of relaxation. After this, one can imagine the healthy growth of both the mother and the child to help you fall into a happy sleep.

3. Breathing through Pain and Discomfort

Delivery pains can also be managed through deep breathing.

4. Breathing Through Times When You Think Your Pregnancy is in Trouble

Take 5 deep, slow breaths while you think of 5 symptoms which tell you that there is a reason for panic. If there is nothing – good, crisis averted. If there is something – breathing helps you rationalize the problem so that you can inform your doctor in a calm and coherent manner.

5. Breathing When People are Giving You Advice

You may be troubled with unwanted advice during pregnancy. Breathing exercises can help you deal with this. This needs to be done with a smile as you grit your teeth and think to yourself “I’m pregnant, not uneducated, or stupid, or ……” Whatever the reason, breathing helps.

Breathing is the essence of life yet we do it without being aware of it. Many forms of exercise such as yoga and karate understand the importance of breathing. It helps calm the mind and can even make excessive pain tolerable. While being pregnant, one can employ some of the listed breathing techniques to help with any pregnancy-related pain.

Also Read: Trouble Breathing during Pregnancy