As you enter motherhood after conceiving, there are a lot of tips given to pregnant women on what to eat, how to stand, sit, how to sleep and so on.
But, one of the most important things to learn during pregnancy is how to breathe. The correct breathing technique makes a world of a difference because it helps every cell. Hence mother-to-be can master the techniques throughout pregnancy. Breathing is very important during pregnancy as it ensures efficient removal of waste from the body as well as get 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.
One can learn the following practices throughout pregnancy so that at the time of labour they become second nature.
Let me list down the types of breathing that can be practised during pregnancy.
Equal Breathing: While standing, sitting or lying down, breathe in fully, slowly and rhythmically, without jerks, using the whole respiratory system of the abdomen, chest, pharynx and nose. Breathe out an equal number of counts. Concentrate on breathing in = life-giving air and breathing out. A feeling of peacefulness or quietness floods in. This technique has a great advantage to relax during labour. This gentle breathing helps to relax the uterine muscles and diverts the mind.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: While lying down on the back, flex the knees and keep the feet flat on the ground or bed. Keep one hand on the abdomen and keep one beside you. Slowly concentrate on the abdomen rising rhythmically with each inhalation and relaxation during exhalation. Thus, feel the abdomen rising and falling with breathing. Count up to ten seconds. Do not use force or jerks while inhaling. It helps to deal with stress for the Mother-to-be. The diaphragm muscle is supposed to rhythmically massage the organs of the body. The massage gently encourages blood flow, lymph flow, nutrient delivery, and waste removal in the organs and all tissues of the body, including tissues in the womb. It also helps one deal with Shortness of Breath.
Chest Level Breathing: Place your hands on your chest, below your collarbone. In addition, you can have your partner place one hand at the same level on your back. Now breathe in and out through your mouth up to your hands, a shallow, slow and gentle breath. The rib cage and thoracic cavity expand to the sides, front and back for each inhalation and exhalation. Do about 10-12 breaths in 30 seconds. If you exceed 12 breaths, then slow down.
Jaw Level Breathing – “OUT”: The jaw level breathing entails simply saying the word OUT with stress on T. Do not worry about your breathing; it will take care of itself as you say the word. Count about 20-25 breaths in 30 seconds.
Rechaka Pranayam or Expulsion Breathing: Breathing out and maximizing exhalation is a secret of relaxation while in labour. Breathe in for a count of four seconds or as convenient and slowly breath out for double the count. Again, take one breath in and breathe out for double the count. This can be done whenever a contraction is felt in the first stage of labour, while the opening of the cervix is dilating. An alternative to the same is to breathe in air and while exhaling, hum Aum or any pleasing sound. Singing works on the same principle of exhalation. Mental relaxation and peace are felt.
Blowing: At times breathing in from the nose, blowing out through the mouth and repeating the whole procedure, helps a great deal. Retaining breath and thrashing around with anxiety and clutching onto things can cause tension, exhaustion and discomfort. The secret is to LET GO! You are in a partnership with your baby to help them to emerge gracefully.
The Second Stage of Labour: When the mouth of the uterus is dilated completely, is the time of actual active pushing, not before that. When the contractions come, the breathing technique at that time would be to take a breath, hold it in and push down hard as if one is expelling a hard bowel movement. While the contraction lasts, again take in a deep breath, hold it in and push as long as possible. Do these two or three times during a contraction. Between contraction, the mother should relax in abdominal breathing. Continue till the baby is out. Soon you will hear the cry of your baby.
During the Third Stage of Labour: This stage of delivery is of the placenta. Breathe normally. It usually separates and comes within five or fifteen minutes. Slight uterine contractions may be felt during this period as the placenta slips out. This is the time to relax well. There should be relaxed joyful feeling throughout.
Benefits of Breathing Exercise:
- Calm deep breathing can help you deal with morning sickness in early pregnancy
- Deep breathing can help you fall in 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.
- Regular and proper breathing can help you deal with labour pain easily.
- Breathing can help transport nutrients and oxygen well to the baby and result in healthy baby growth
- Breathing can help you deal with, stress, depression, feeling low and unwanted advice from others during pregnancy as well.
NOTE: If you every feels dizzy during breathing practices, cover your nose and mouth with your palms and blow out once. Then breath normally. This will re-establish the proper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and relieve dizziness if it is experienced.