Many pregnant women notice that as the baby gets bigger, it gets harder to breathe or that breath feels more “shallow.” This is because the top of our core system, our diaphragm muscle, gets pushed up by the uterus as pregnancy progresses, making it harder to breathe well.
The correct means of breathing is called “Diaphragmatic Breathing” or “Belly Breathing.” When a growing uterus, during pregnancy, pushes up onto the diaphragm muscle and breathing gets harder, our body will find a way to compensate or breathe easier. In other words, we may not even know that our body has found a different, easier way for us to breathe while pregnant. Chest and shoulder breathing are two common solutions our bodies come up with to breathe comfortably while pregnant. When we chest breathe, we’re breathing into our chests instead of into our bellies. Then, because we’re using chest muscles to do a job that shouldn’t be theirs, we take them off their regular job, so to speak. This can mean compromising other stability systems. It’s important that we proactively work to return to optimal breathing, Belly Breathing, after pregnancy.
Research tells us that once we get used to a new way of breathing during pregnancy, even though it isn’t ideal, we don’t return to correct or optimal breathing patterns after the baby is born. Even though the pressure on the diaphragm is eliminated, we don’t necessarily return to a Belly Breathing pattern without making a bit of effort.
Assess your breathing pattern:
- Lay on your back in a comfortable, quiet environment.
- Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
- Notice where you feel your hand(s) moving.
- If you feel your belly rising and falling with each breath you are likely breathing correctly, Belly Breathing.
- If you do NOT feel your belly rising and falling with each breath you’ll need to work a bit to retrain your breathing muscles.
Watch the video here to assess your own breathing pattern and learn how to improve any bad habits your body may have fallen into while pregnant. Some other helpful hints that will aid in this process:
- The time breathing in (inhale) should be about equal to the time breathing out (exhale).
- Try to keep a neutral spine while doing these exercises: a position in which your back is not arched or flat, but in a comfortable place in between.
- Inhale through the nose allowing the rib cage to expand out and exhale through the nose or mouth noticing if the tummy and ribs fall again and relax.