Practicing controlled breathing techniques during pregnancy can help you manage stress and other common pregnancy health issues. It can even prepare you for labor and childbirth!
Below, I outline 5 relaxing pregnancy breathing exercises for you. They’re all simple and easy to practice and will help you feel your best during pregnancy!
(The contents of this post do not constitute medical advice. This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read our disclaimer.)
Overcome Pregnancy Stress
Looking forward to a new baby is exciting, but that doesn’t mean that pregnancy isn’t a stressful time. There are a ton of appointments to schedule, pregnancy symptoms to deal with, and to-dos to check off your list. And your normal, everyday stressors don’t disappear just because you’re pregnant now!
It can be a lot to handle. But fortunately, there are healthy ways to handle pregnancy stress – like mindfulness!
See also: 7 Tips to Have a Mindful Pregnancy
There has been a ton of research on using mindfulness during pregnancy, and it has overwhelmingly shown that a mindful pregnancy is beneficial. Some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness during pregnancy include: (1, 2, 3, 4)
- enhanced mind-body awareness
- decreased stress and anxiety
- reduced shame and hostility during pregnancy and postpartum
- greater self-efficacy during childbirth
- improved childbirth experiences
Let’s hone in on breath control, which is just one aspect of mindfulness. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful for managing stress and anxiety, both during pregnancy and in my non-pregnant life!
Benefits of Using Pregnancy Breathing Exercises
You may have heard breath control referred to as pranayama, especially if you practice yoga. This refers to the practice of focusing on and regulating your breath with the purpose of connecting your mind and body. You can control the duration and frequency of each inhale, exhale, and hold.
You can use a number of different breathing exercises to practice breath control – I’ll share about 5 that are super helpful for pregnancy!
- lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- improved feelings of stress and reduced levels of stress hormones
- better sleep quality
- improved cognitive performance (See ya, pregnancy brain!)
- enhanced lung function
- greater energy levels
- helps you respond more positively to pain – a great reason to use breath control during labor!
See also: Why You Should Meditate During Pregnancy
In addition to all of the benefits of breath control for pregnancy, this study found that using breathing exercises during labor reduced the perception of labor pain and shortened the second stage of labor.
So as you practice breathing exercises during your pregnancy, you could be preparing yourself for a shorter and easier labor!
Sitting for Breathing During Pregnancy
As your baby grows during your pregnancy, your lungs have less space to expand. That can make it difficult to practice deep breathing!
To give your lungs more space to expand during breathing exercises, try changing how you sit.
Sit on the edge of a bolster, cushion, or birth ball, letting your pelvis tip forward. This lengthens your torso and allows for greater lung capacity. Sit tall, lengthening through your spine. Draw your shoulders up toward your ears and down your back to open your chest further.
All props linked above
Sitting this way will allow you to breathe more deeply and receive all of the benefits of pranayama for your pregnancy!
5 Relaxing Pregnancy Breathing Exercises
These are some of my favorite breathing exercises to practice during pregnancy.
I recommend giving them all a try to find which ones work best for you and feel most comfortable for you during this time. Then, set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to practice one or more breathing exercises.
Especially if you hope to use breath control during labor, it’s important to practice your chosen breathing techniques regularly. Practicing breathing exercises when you’re in a calm state makes it easier to utilize them during more stressful moments – like during labor!
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as belly breathing. This technique involves breathing deeply from your diaphragm rather than shallowly from your chest. Follow these steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
- Lie down or sit comfortably with your back straight.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, focusing on filling your belly with air rather than your chest.
- Pause, holding your breath for a count.
- Exhale slowly through your nose, using your core to push out all of the air from your belly.
- Repeat for several minutes, focusing on relaxing your body and breathing deeply from your diaphragm.
2. 4-7-8 Breathing
The 4-7-8 breathing technique leads you to slow down your exhales, which helps to calm your nervous system – so helpful during pregnancy, birth, and parenthood! To practice 4-7-8 breathing, follow these steps:
- Sit tall on your bolster, cushion, or birth ball.
- Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, filling your belly with air.
- Hold that breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 counts, emptying your belly of air.
- Repeat this cycle several times – either counting cycles or setting a timer – to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
3. Ujjayi Breath
Ujjayi breath is commonly used in yoga. It involves breathing in and out of your nose with your mouth gently sealed. You’ll create a slight constriction in the back of your throat, resulting in audible breathing that sounds like the wind or waves. Ujjayi breath stimulates the vagus nerve, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system and tells your body and brain that they can relax.
To practice Ujjayi breath, follow these steps:
- Sit comfortably with a straight spine, possibly using a bolster or birth ball to open through your torso.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, creating a slight constriction in the back of your throat. This will produce a “whooshing” sound. Then exhale slowly through your nose with the same constriction.
- Repeat, practicing Ujjayi breath for several cycles or for a set amount of time.
4. Box Breathing
Box breathing is a simple breathing technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety. It involves inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holding your breath again for the same number of counts. Its uncomplicated pattern makes box breathing easy to use in moments of stress. Here are the instructions for this pregnancy breathing exercise:
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position with your back straight.
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Exhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Repeat this cycle for several minutes or a set number of cycles.
5. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a yogic breathing technique that can help calm and balance the mind. Follow these steps to practice alternate nostril breathing:
- Sit tall on the edge of a bolster, cushion, or birth ball. Take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose.
- Hold your right hand up to your nose, resting it gently on your face. Use your thumb to close your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- Next, close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, then close it and exhale through the left nostril. This completes one cycle.
- Repeat alternate nostril breathing for several cycles. You may want to set a timer or count to a certain number of cycles!
Which relaxing pregnancy breathing exercises do you plan on practicing? Tell me in the comments!