What are the benefits of improving breathing patterns during pregnancy?
Breath is a powerful, magical thing. With proper technique and a bit of mindfulness, it can even help in the prevention of many pregnancy-related injuries like Diastasis Recti, aid in digestion, boost immunity by circulating lymphatic fluid, and assist in the labor and birth process. The benefits are truly endless!
When the “simple” act of breathing becomes a challenge.
During pregnancy, a lot shifts in an expecting woman's body. One common complaint is how difficult it becomes to breathe while attempting the simplest movements and tasks. As the baby develops, this becomes more pronounced. With each passing day, your little one takes up more room and in order to accommodate this growth, your internal organs get pushed up towards the diaphragm and lungs.
As your pregnancy progresses, re-patterning your breath to come from your diaphragm versus your chest is one amazing way to make big shifts with pregnancy discomforts and overall health. With each diaphragmatic inhale, you strengthen the diaphragm and allow deeper access to the lunges for each breath. With practice and smart implementation, you can take your short shallow breathing to deep breaths with more ease than you can imagine. All the while, this same breathing can be utilized in birth to help support you and your baby in huge ways.
When it comes to avoiding discomforts like breathing challenges, low back, and various pelvic pain, a good diaphragmatic breathing technique is key. But just using your diaphragmatic breath while you workout isn’t enough. You take about 20,000 breaths a day - there are so many more opportunities to repattern your breathing techniques. Check-in with yourself while sitting at your desk, making lunch, walking up and down the stairs, and getting up off the couch. Being mindful of how you breathe while performing everyday movements in addition to working out will give you the maximum benefit.
With all this talk, you are probably dying to know how to diaphragmatically breathe, and best of all how to turn it into an exercise that strengthens your core. It’s actually simple, and your body knows how to do it. We all come into this world breathing via our diaphragms. Watch your babies breathe, they’re all breathing diaphragmatically as their bellies rise and fall gently with each breath. Often, times our children can be our greatest teachers and when it comes to diaphragmatic breathing, they take the cake.
Diaphragmatic Breaths: simply breathing
This can be done in various positions but most women pick it up more quickly when lying supine. If it’s uncomfortable to lie on your back, prop yourself up with a pillow. Once you get the hang of it try it sitting, standing, on all fours, and even when you exercise, go for a hike, etc.
Place your hands on your abdomen, one palm lies along your outer ribcage while the other is placed at the front of your belly (above the belly button).
Inhale and allow your diaphragm to fill your abdomen and sides of the body with gentle breath. Use your hands as guides and with each inhalation try to gently expand your ribcage laterally into the palm placed at the ribcage and with that same gentle expansion, notice the rise of the front of the belly into the other palm.
As this inhale deepens, it travels from the ribcage (where the diaphragm lives) down into the abdomen and then lastly into the pelvis, where it softens the pelvic floor in the same way that it softens the abdomen.
Exhale in opposition; first, the pelvic floor rebounds back to its neutral state, followed by the belly falling back towards the spine and the ribcage moving back into its neutral position.
All of this movement is JUST breath so make sure that nothing feels forced. Each inhale and exhale should feel natural and supportive. Try to allow this breath to become your new normal. Its benefits are endless during and post-pregnancy, as well as supporting you and your core for life.
Believe it or not, you can turn this same breathing technique into an exercise that will help you create more balance and awareness in your core unit.
Tapping into the core is crucial during pregnancy and Bloom Method clients find it irreplaceable to what it’s able to teach them in regards to lifelong core awareness.
Diaphragmatic Breath with Intentional Activation: the exercise component of the diaphragmatic breath (aka The Belly Pump)
Start by finding the position that’s easiest for your body and begin your diaphragmatic breaths. As you inhale, fill the ribcage and belly with that same gentle breath.
On the exhale it’s time to change things up a bit. Begin to make a powerful ssssss sound (At The Bloom Method we call this a resisted exhale) and with the first S that comes off your lips, start to lift the pelvic floor muscles (from the sides, front and back, lifting everything upward).
This is quickly followed by core engagement. Start to wrap your abdomen as if you were tightening a corset around your torso. You can imagine the activation moving up the core with the continued exhale [hip bones draw in towards one another, then the mid-section wraps, and lastly your ribcage knits together].
Take your time allowing your breath to be deep and expansive, yet slow and controlled. Think about naturally filling the ribcage and belly during the inhale, with the last 1/3 of this breath moving into the chest while you concentrate on “hugging baby’ tightly on the exhale to tap into your deep core activation.
Remember to always lead with the pelvic floor on the exhale. Forgetting this step can cause a downward pressure that can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Try to add your diaphragmatic breaths to your bedtime routine to begin, re-introducing your body to this form of breathing. The more you practice it, the more awareness you create and the faster the re-patterning will take place. The exercise component of this technique can be used throughout your day or added to an exercise to optimize your workouts and make each move more effective.
The benefits of these two simple beginner techniques can provide more to your pregnancy than imaginable. At The Bloom Method, we’re revolutionizing pre & postnatal fitness by teaching simple, smart, and effective techniques that will add to your strength and athleticism for life, allowing your pregnancy to shine in the midst of it all.