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The benefits of deep breathing during pregnancy
Q: Is it necessary for me to learn breathing exercises during my pregnancy?
A: Learning new ways to breathe may seem unnecessary, but the way you breathe can greatly influence the way you feel. Deliberately breathing deeply and slowly ensures a good oxygen supply to your baby and can enhance your sense of relaxation and control. Deep breathing can help you stay calm and focused during labor and prevents unhealthy breathing such as hyperventilation (breathing too quickly and rapidly) or holding your breath, which can lead to fatigue and dizziness.

It’s useful to practicing this type of breathing during pregnancy. You and your partner can learn breathing techniques that will help you prepare for labor. Here’s one technique you can try to practice deep breathing:

1. Sit comfortably with your back supported in a well-ventilated setting.

2. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders. Relax your facial expression and let your jaw muscles release any tension.

3. First, notice your natural pattern of breathing.

4. Now inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Fill your lungs and imagine breathing deeply into your abdomen. If you’re breathing correctly, your belly will push forward as you inhale.

5. Breathe out through your mouth, allowing your exhalation to last twice as long as your inhalation. (For example, if you inhale for two seconds, exhale for four seconds. If you inhale for three seconds, exhale for six.)

6. Practice breathing like this for several minutes.

Doing this exercise regularly can help you feel calm and refreshed. When you’re in labor, deep breathing can help you focus during contractions, release tension and lower anxiety. You can practice deep breathing to relax between contractions, too. In addition to enhancing your experience of labor, deep breathing can help you release tension and achieve a greater sense of composure —a skill that can be especially handy when you’re a parent.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist