Breathing, an involuntary body function, is something that for most of our lives we do without even thinking.
But did you know that 100% of pregnant women have a breathing disorder? During pregnancy, women can’t access their diaphragms in order to breathe properly, which can have a major impact on everything from stress to overall health.
In my new book, The Wise Woman’s Guide to Your Healthiest Pregnancy and Birth, I discuss the small changes you can make to optimize your mind and body for preconception, conception, pregnancy and beyond. Getting your breathing in check can be one of the most important things you can do for yourself, in preconception, pregnancy and postpartum. Did you know that not breathing efficiently can lead to anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, nausea and fatigue? If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some tips and simple, safe exercises to get your breathing under control, and to help fight the symptoms of nausea, anxiety and brain fog. While it might take some time to “untrain” your brain, stick to your goals and soon enough, the right way to breathe will be like second nature to you:
When nausea starts to hit, you can adjust your breathing to combat the queasiness. Here’s how: cup your hand around your mouth, slowly start to breathe in and out. This will provide an additional boost of carbon dioxide from your breath out which can reduce your nausea. When we inhale extra carbon dioxide (CO2) by using this method, it restores our reserves and the internal system balances, which then alleviates the nausea. Note: deep breathing isn’t something I recommend during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, since it can make you feel more nauseous and possibly light headed. Sticking with an exercise program you enjoy and moving into various Yogic positions can also help. Inverted positions like Downward Dog position or bending forward while seated can take the pressure off of the diaphragm and improve your breathing.
When you practice diaphragmatic breathing it will help quell your anxiety, strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominals. Try this exercise and see if it helps:Gently place your tongue to the roof of your mouth, keep lips closed. Breathe in and out very quietly and gently through your nose. Think of filling the back and sides of your lower ribs with air as you inhale, and deflate this area as you exhale. Very softly, continue to direct your breath to the sides and back of your lower ribs and breathe with ease and relaxation. Try this while lying down (during 1st trimester or preconception/postpartum), reclined, sidelying, all fours, sitting or in an inverted position like downward dog (especially in 3rd trimester). Perform this for three to five minutes and as many times as three to nine times a day until you see a change in symptoms.
Up to 30% of women experience symptoms of a stuffy nose during pregnancy, which is caused by hormonal changes. As a result, your breathing can suddenly become more labored, and you might feel like you have to take a deep, deep breath all of a sudden. It is ok to do this as a compensatory tool once in a while, but it is important to revert back to better breathing habits. You can use saline rinses or a neti pot to wash out your sinuses to help you stick to nose-breathing. You can try this exercise if you are experiencing brain fog or stick with the same exercise for anxiety as this can work as well! Again, keep your tongue resting at the roof of your mouth with the tip of the tongue touching the back of the front upper teeth, and your mouth completely closed. Take a simple diaphragmatic breath in directing your breath to the sides and back of your lower ribs. As you exhale, allow the ribs to fall and let yourself get to the end of your exhale. Pause for a moment. And then wait and see if you feel your body’s innate reflex kick in to take the next breath in. We have a WISE innate breathing reflex that computes exactly how much air to take in and blow off. Often when we have symptoms like brain fog, memory loss, etc. we may have a poor breathing habit that prevents us from staying connected with this involuntary reflex. When this reflex isn’t active or is inhibited, we don’t have the proper gas exchange and get symptoms. Try to breathe this way for 3-5minutes. If you have many symptoms you will want to do this at the top of each hour until symptoms dissipate (days/weeks). Then you can try this breathing during your meditation, or at least for 3minutes 3x/day until symptoms are eliminated.
Breath is the foundation to everything. Working toward a steady, beautiful diaphragmatic breath that is automatic/involuntary is the goal. This can help you can feel good, focused, productive, energized and ready to do whatever you need today!