Pregnancy can be one of the most beautiful phases in a woman’s life. The growing bump is a wonderful sight to see! A mother-to-be takes care of her little darling even before she meets him or her. All expecting mothers need to go to great lengths to ensure that their babies get all the nurturing and protection they need.
A mother goes through thick and thin throughout the pregnancy to ensure that the baby is perfectly fine when it takes in its first breath in the outside world.
“Eat well, exercise, take rest, stay relaxed," are the standard pieces of advice each expecting mother receives. But there is something you may have missed.
"The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers died. The best estimates say that half of those deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care. Instead, the US has watched other countries improve as it falls behind. Today, the USA is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth. Identifying every hospital that doesn't provide recommended care is next to Impossible. There is no National tracking system for childbirth complications. Mother's tell harrowing tales of survival, but they often have no idea whether their doctors and nurses did something wrong."
USA TODAY July 27, 2018 2a
What Happens to Your Breathing When You Get Pregnant?
During pregnancy, the growing baby pushes your uterus against the diaphragm. The diaphragm could move up to 4 centimeters from its pre-pregnancy position reducing depth or what is called excursion and forcing ones breathing to go shallow.
What does it mean?
You're unable to easily take in as much air with each breath as you typically would. This effort creates tension. Your body adapts to this condition, but not entirely in a good way.
You most often do not get less oxygen but you could. Your lung capacity decreases due to the physical constraint of a growing uterus. The respiratory center in the brain is stimulated by the hormone progesterone to get you to take slower breaths.
Therefore, through each breath you take may bring in less air, the air stays in the lungs much longer, so you extract more oxygen. Blood volume also expands during pregnancy to help your baby get as much oxygen as possible. There are ways to improve this with various forms of O2 supplementation but they are not a part of this course.
When you are pregnant, your body develops different patterns of breathing at different stages. Optimal Breathing® helps in coping with various types of discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety and breathing ease. The breathing that you practice during this period is helpful even post-partum and the rest of your life.
Common Problems During Pregnancy
Pregnancy, Sleep-Disordered breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) is common among pregnant women. Most women of childbearing age might find it useful for screening for unrecognized Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Several studies link SDB to gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. A study by Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania obstetrics practices revealed that 10.5% of women had OSA in the first trimester. By the third trimester, 26.7% of women had OSA. In short, pregnant women with OSA are at increased risk for having LBW, preterm, and SGA infants, CS, and preeclampsia compared with pregnant women without OSA.
Pregnancy and Shortness of Breath(SOB)
Shortness of breath during pregnancy comes second to hormonal and mechanical effects of pregnancy.
SOB and asthma incidents that require medical intervention occur in about 20% of women, with almost 6% of women requiring admission to hospital. Commonly occurring in the late second trimester, the triggers could be a viral infection. Women who have severe cases of SOB or asthma have been found to be at a significant risk of having a low birth weight baby compared to women without these symptoms. Since pregnant or breastfeeding women may be less likely to receive oral steroids for the emergency management of asthma, effective control of breathing during pregnancy is vital for the health of both the mother and the fetus.
Remember -When pregnant, all that wheezes is not Asthma. SOB is commonly attributed to asthma; the new-onset- cardiac pathology is rarely considered.
Pregnancy and Cardiomyopathy- a Deadly Combination!
Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. This form of dilated cardiomyopathy causes congestive heart failure in the later months of pregnancy or in the first five months after birth. PPCM is often not diagnosed earlier in its course, because the symptoms and manifestations are highly variable.
For example, some signs of PPCM such as prostration, shortness of breath on mild exertion, and coughing- are often misinterpreted as evidence of physiological problems of pregnancy or pneumonia.
Though the underlying factors that cause PPCM are not known, most studies conducted in this regard point to risk factors like age, pregnancy-related hypertension disorders, multiparity, multiple gestations, obesity, and chronic hypertension.
Air Pollution Causes Hypertension in Unborn Babies!
Noel Mueller of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore examined the data on 1,293 mother-child pairs and assessed kids’ blood pressure at checkups from ages 3 to 9 years.
He says "we believe that when pregnant women breathe air with high levels of fine particulate matter, it causes an inflammatory response that alters gene expression and fetal growth and development, on the pathway to high blood pressure in childhood."
The study reveals that children exposed to the highest levels of ‘fine-particulate air pollution' in late pregnancy were 61 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than those exposed to the least pollution. It suggests being wary of PM2.5, which when inhaled, can enter the circulatory system and lead to health problems.
Relearn Ways to Better Breathing
The health of a mom-to-be is significant, and the most straightforward exercise is to breathe deeply but still easily with as little effort as possible. Through proper breathing, a mother can be both a nurturer and a guardian for the baby who is nestled inside her.
Because it drives the nervous system the way you breathe influences the way you feel. By practicing Optimal Breathing®, you can enhance the oxygen supply to your baby round the clock. Thus, Optimal Breathing® enhances your sense of relaxation and control.
Introducing the Pregnancy Course by The Optimal Breathing Academy
Optimal breathing helps you stay calm, focused and breathe easier during labor and helps prevent unhealthy breathing like hyperventilation or holding your breath, all of which could lead to dizziness, tension, and fatigue.
Advantages of Optimal Breathing
Though it is generally suitable for all in each stage of life to practice Optimal Breathing® it is vital during pregnancy for many reasons-
Optimal Breathing® Helps Alleviate Shortness of Breath (SOB)
As the uterus keeps expanding during pregnancy, the belly gets bigger. The pressure on the diaphragm and lungs might take a toll on the health due to low lung capacity and lack of space for expansion and contraction. Optimal Breathing during the early stages of pregnancy will help tackle this problem effectively.
Better Oxygen Supply
Through Optimal Breathing®, an improved amount of oxygen can be released into the bloodstream, helping the well-being of both mom and baby. Optimal Breathing® also helps in removing carbon dioxide from the body and replaces it with life-giving oxygen.
Helps Release Toxins
More than 70% of toxins in your body can be flushed out just by breathing correctly. Optimal Breathing® helps correct your natural breathing process and thus helps in detoxifying your body. This is even more important when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and taking care of another life which is dependent on you.
Better breathing often means better metabolism, because more oxygen means more vitality and energy. As a result, any disease-causing bacteria can not survive in an environment with a great metabolism. Optimal Breathing® helps in preventing the presence of deadly bacteria and assist in improving immunity.
Better immunity means fewer infections!
Helps in Weight Control
You might be tempted to let go of your weight management during and after pregnancy. But gaining too much weight is a definite no-no as it might give rise to many pregnancy-related complications like gestational diabetes, thrombosis, hypertension, and even PPCM, as explained above. To maintain a healthy BodyMassIndex, you need Oxygen. As Oxygen burns fat, Optimal Breathing® will help you in keeping a healthy weight.
Improves Your Stamina
A mother can have all the strength in the world and yet fall short of doing everything for her baby. By making Optimal Breathing® a part of her daily routine, she can improve her body and breathing strength dramatically. Optimal Breathing® helps boost stamina which is needed to sail through motherhood pre and postpartum, with greater ease.
Promotes Easier Labor
Fear, anxiety, excessive eagerness, tension, even increased but excessive happiness may occur.
A rollercoaster of emotions that a woman has to go through during pregnancy. These emotions are at their peak when in labor. Optimal Breathing® helps in being composed. In fact, we begin to go through how optimal breathing helps in going through each stage of labor with ease. You need a robust set of abdominal muscles to help push the baby out, and with weak lungs, it might prove to be pretty tough, even life-threatening for mother, baby or both!
Patterned breathing is a technique often referred to by obstetricians and birthing experts. It is nothing but the act of breathing at any number of possible rates and depths. During pregnancy, some women prefer deep breathing using their diaphragm to fill their abdomen with air. Others prefer light breathing, inhaling just enough to fill their chest.
Your goal as an expectant mother is to find breathing patterns that have a calming and relaxing effect. You should breathe at a rate that does not cause you to feel short of breath or light-headed. This ability can be improved with proper training and there are specific breathing development exercises in the Pregnancy course for this.
Benefits to Pregnancy
A happier, healthier, stronger mom is the best gift you can give your child!
- Learning natural ways to overcome stress, depression, and anxiety
- How to accept and listen to your body at all ages and much more!
- Your breathing can become an automatic response to lessen pain.
- You remain more relaxed and can respond more positively to the onset of pain.
- You have a general sense of well-being and feel in control.
- The steady rhythm of easiest breathing is essential for the calmest labor.
- Increased levels of oxygen provide more strength and energy for both the mother and baby.
- With relaxed muscles, contractions become more productive, and labor is easier.
- Postpartum, this same technique helps in dealing with the stressful days with a small baby demanding your time and attention all the time. But more about all that in the Pregnancy Course
Getting Started - Practicing 2 Simple Breathing Exercises
These simple exercises will go a long way in ensuring you are ready to take on any challenge that pending motherhood throws at you.
- Sit comfortably in an open space. Preferably cross-legged with a straight spine if possible. You may take back support if needed. Maybe even a NADA chair.
- Close your eyes and relax your whole body, start with your forehead, jaws, shoulders down to your chest, abdomen, legs, and toes.
- As you relax, place left hand on your chest, and right hand on your belly, inhale slowly through your nose o mouth if your nose is blocked. As you inhale, imagine the air going all the way down to your toes.
- Your belly should bulge out as you breathe in or if you are too full of the baby at least it might feel that your belly wants to get larger even if it cannot.
- Now leak out the exhale so that it takes a longer time to release the air than it did to inhale it. Do not hold your breath at the top of the in-breath. The exhalation should commence immediately and take two to 5 times the time taken to inhale. So if you took 2 seconds to inhale, take about 4-10 seconds to leak it.
- Do this for about 5-10 minutes hourly, five to several times a day. You should feel calmer. If not skip this one and move on to the next one.
Another exercise to help you ease labor is to sit upright near the end of the chair and face forward. Wait for the end of a natural exhale and extend it by twisting sideways for 2 seconds then coming back to center and allowing a deeper effortless in-breath to come in. NEVER pull it in.
Do it to the other side and repeat back and forth one side then the other for several minutes until you feel more relaxed.
This should be very calming and is what I refer to as Triggering the Reflex. It is shown in several other forms of sitting and lying via videos in our Optimal Breathing Academy courses. Although Lamaze and Bradley may be helpful this is not about them.
Important Things to Remember While Doing These Exercises
Few women who have gone through motherhood can say for sure that they were not anxious about labor. There are so many stories, anecdotes, myths and facts surrounding the time when a baby is brought into the world, that most pregnant women are anxious and concerned about the phase.
- The exercises are most effective on a half-empty stomach.
- If you feel illness or continuing discomfort, stop and consult your medical practitioner.
- These exercises should be quite safe but it's always advisable to practice when someone is around so that they can help you just in case.
- These are helpful ways of feeling calm and relaxed, whether you are pregnant or not. In addition to enhancing your experience of pregnancy and labor, the Optimal Breathing Academy Techniques and Exercises can help you as a new mom to regain proper deep easy breaths, release stress and compose yourself better. But more about that in the Pregnancy Course.
Relax and Breathe!!
If you have taken Optimal Breathing® seriously throughout your pregnancy, let me assure you that you may well sail through all this. All you have to do is remember to do your homework BEFORE birthing.
Do not wait till delivery time. By then it is way overdue (no pun intended).
All you need at this time is more oxygen for you and your baby and your hopefully relaxing muscles and uterus.
Breathing at the First Stage of Labor
Having practiced the exercises in the Academy course often enough should have you developing an intuitive sense of letting go.
Think ounce of prevention = a pound of cure.
The rest may vary as you go through the birthing process. This teaching is mainly about repeating the reflex triggers, working with the breathing to allow it to function optimally, staying calm and letting go.
When contractions are intense enough that you can no longer walk or talk through them without pausing, trigger the reflexes and allow the breathing to slow down by extending the exhales as best you can.
When you can no longer relax or feel tense, take a big sigh, as soon as contractions start. Breathe in, and while you breathe out, release all stress (go limp from head to toe). Focus your attention on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly, through your nose if possible or mouth if you must.
Allow air to flow out with a leaked out sigh to OBW 3. Hold it until you feel slight hunger for air, then allow a relaxing reflexive in-breath.
Experiment with mental focusing on relaxing a different part of your body with each effortless inhales and exhales.
Breathing correctly, effectively, and efficiently is not a matter of choice but a necessity for expectant mothers or mothers of newborns. With our exclusive courses designed for Pregnancy and Postpartum, you can increase the odds of embracing this new phase of life with happiness and calm or at least a greater lessened pain and discomfort.
You can practice this holistic approach during traffic, headaches, even household chores. Make them a part of your routine.
Once you become “breath-aware”, how about passing on the wisdom to other expecting mothers?
NOTE: The Pregnancy Course is a comprehensive course that helps moms recover via exercises, breathing techniques, regular assessments, and optional consultations.
Adapted from various online sources with our integrated breathing development insights.
Always consult your health practitioner before you begin any exercise.