Health

The Best Breathing Exercise For a Smooth Pregnancy and Easy Delivery

Diaphragmatic breathing during pregnancy can help engage your deep core muscles. From reducing the risk of diastasis recti to easing back pain, here's how training your deep core muscles can benefit you.

By Shreya Maji
20 December 2021

Core training can be a beneficial part of any prenatal fitness routine. Due to the expansion of your belly, the core can become significantly weaker during pregnancy. Your core is your body’s centre, and it is important to strengthen it not only to make going through labour and delivery easy on yourself, but also to support your body through the changing centre of gravity, postural changes, and muscle imbalances when you are pregnant. Training your core during pregnancy will also help your muscles bounce back more easily in the postpartum phase.

 

The transverse abdominis (TVA) are a group of muscles in the deepest layer of your core that almost act as an inner corset. They wrap around the midsection of the body, and along with the pelvic floor, support your internal organs and help stabilise the spine. The TVA and pelvic floor, together with the uterus, work to push your baby out during vaginal delivery. Activating the deep core or TVA also helps to prevent diastasis recti, a common condition experienced after pregnancy in which your six pack muscles separate and causes a bulge in your abdomen. Recent studies also show that a weak TVA is responsible for lower back pains, a common problem experienced as a mom-to-be.

 

Related Story: 4 Moves For Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor

 

One of the easiest ways to start activating your TVA is through this diaphragmatic breathing exercise, commonly called “hugging the baby”, as Dr Nonie Tuxen, women's fitness specialist, shows in the video.

 

How To Hug The Baby to Engage Your Deep Core Muscles

  1. Place your hands at the bottom of your belly.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nose, and fully relax your stomach muscles.
  3. Exhale a long and slow breath, drawing your belly button up towards your chest. You can visualise hugging the baby, to create a sense of upliftment and contraction at the same time. As you exhale, purse your lips and make a “pfft” sound, which will help to engage your core muscles.

 

One way to check whether you are doing this correctly is to stand in front of the mirror. Have a look at your belly button and see whether as you inhale, it relaxes, and as you exhale, you see it move up towards your bra line.

 

Related Story: The Power of Mindful Breathing: Advantages and Easy Techniques You Should Know About

 

How to Use Diaphragmatic Breathing in Your Exercise Routine

The breathing skill of hugging the baby is the fundamental tool that will allow you to manage the pressure generated in your abdomen during exertion caused by exercises. This is particularly helpful to prevent coning or doming through the abdominal midline. Coning appears in a shark fin-like protrusion through the centre of your belly during pregnancy, as a result of mismanaged pressure on the diaphragm and pelvic floor. By allowing your pelvic floor and core to function as a unit, this technique can help you in all kinds of exercises, like yoga, pilates or weight-training.

 

For example, if you want to do a weighted squat, you would have the dumbbells on your shoulder or a barbell on your back. The action would be as follows.

  • Stand in the squat position.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • As you exhale, relax and draw the belly button up while making that “pfft” sound. Create that tension inside your core, and then do your desired movement. Repeat as needed.
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