Simple breathing exercises can transform your pregnancy, helping with everything from morning sickness to delivering a welcome burst of energy
Simple breathing exercises that will transform your pregnancy
Midwives will extol the power of breathing during labour, but breathing exercises can bring you incredible benefits right now, improving your mood and physical health, soothing back pain and morning sickness, and reducing sleeplessness and anxiety. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s perfect for pregnancy! ‘We take 20,000 breaths a day,’ says breathing coach Aimee Hartley. ‘It’s the only system in the body that is both automatic and under our control at the same time. And we can play with our breathing to change our state: we can move from anxious to calm in 10 deep breaths, or we can go from sluggish to energised in 20 dynamic breaths. We can use it to change how we feel, physically and emotionally.’
And right now, as your body is growing a brand-new life, breathing is vitally important. When you became pregnant, your breathing changed almost instantly. And, no, you’re not imagining those feelings of breathlessness! Your body needs around 20 per cent more oxygen during pregnancy to help your baby grow. And, as your baby gets bigger and bigger, you have less room to breathe. ‘Your uterus begins to grow when you are pregnant,’ explains Aimee. ‘This lies next to your diaphragm – the muscle between your lungs and your lower organs – which you use to breathe. As you breathe in, your diaphragm descends, opening up an area for your lungs to expand and allow the air to come in. But the pressure from your growing uterus makes it increasingly hard for this to happen. So you’re using more energy to bring in the same amount of air.’
At the same time, the amount of air you move in and out of your lungs increases by almost half during pregnancy. In your first trimester, the hormone progesterone increases your lung capacity, allowing you to breathe up to 40 per cent more deeply during pregnancy. So each breath contains a larger volume of air, and your breathing rate also increases. It may take you a while to get used to these changes, which is why you might have felt short of breath in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, too (if you are short of breath all the time, speak to your GP).
Simple breathing exercises will help you embrace all of these changes, as well as help you to overcome all sorts of niggles, aches and pains, to have a healthy and happy pregnancy. Over the next few pages, you’ll find exercises that tackle particular problems when you’ve got a growing bump. Start with whichever one you feel will help you most right now, and you might be surprised just how effective it is. After all, simply by reading these words, we’re guessing you’ve become more aware of your breathing and are already taking slower, deeper breaths…