Elaine Walsh-McGrath, Pregnancy Yoga Teacher

Why is breathing important in pregnancy and birth

breathing pregnancy yoga prenatal yoga Jul 27, 2021
Focusing on your breathing requires you to concentrate. Focused breathing means that your thought process is directed away from any discomfort you may be feeling.’ – HSE article on breathing and self help techniques in labour. Click here for the article.

Breathing in Pregnancy and Birth helps to you to focus. Why is it so important?

It can form part of a meditative practise. Meditation can help you cope with a variety of physical and emotional stresses during pregnancy. It can help you to relax and focus your concentration, reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and enhance your peace of mind. It can also be useful in treating mild to moderate anxiety or depression during pregnancy.

Like any habit that you are trying to form, in order for it to work for you, it needs practise.

Imagine yourself at work. Doing something that you do every day, when something stressful happens. You panic. Your breath shortens, you feel really stressed. Your blood pressure increases. You can’t think straight. This is because in panic your sympathetic nervous system is preparing your body for fight or flight. But because you’re familiar with your working situation and can rely on your experience you calm yourself and when calm you can handle your situation.

But how did you calm yourself?

  • Did you take a few deep breaths?
  • Walk away from the situation?
  • Distract yourself and then come up with a solution?
One thing is certain. You can’t think straight when your body is full of adrenaline because all your blood has gone to your skeletal muscles ready to run or fight. But when you found your way around this and calmed down then you could think again.
Most women give birth only a handful of times during their life. So it’s more difficult to rely on past experience to reassure yourself. But you can inform yourself. You can assure yourself that your body is able to manage birthing your baby. You can use Oxytocin and its benefits to act as your natural pain relief. There are many ways that you can practise creating the hormone and holding on to it. And there are ways to keep adrenaline at bay.

Many women get to hospital and totally forget their breathing practise, and feel overwhelmed.

That’s why a regular practise of yoga or meditation can help. I often say that getting out of your head and into your body can help. It brings yourself back in touch with your body to calm down and focus. That’s why after our breathing exercise in class we often practise some simple warm up exercises, such as shoulder rolls or wrist rolls. You could do them anywhere and they can help bring you back into the moment.
I know that it’s a completely different situation… but have you noticed that a kicker, like Johny Sexton, has a routine before he kicks a penalty? We also need a routine so that we can forget our doubts and fears and focus on letting our body birth our baby.

How to keep calm during labour?

It all comes back to the breath. You need to believe that your body is capable of both the amazing and the mundane. It knows how to give birth. It helps if you can tell yourself and believe:
  • I expect to feel pressure during labour.
  • I believe that my body is able to work through my surges.
  • I can use my mind to distract myself when I’m feeling under pressure.
  • I rest between surges or contractions.
  • I can focus and stay calm during surges by breathing evenly.

How to build a practise of breathing for birth?

Try out lots of different breathing techniques until you find what works for you:
  • Counting breath
  • Belly Breathing
  • Box breathing (using your fingers to trace your in and out breath)
  • Sitali breathing (cooling breath)
If you practise yoga weekly it can help you to try out different kinds of methods until you find one that works for you. It can also help you to breathe through discomfort, to keep breathing in poses that you need to hold so that you can strengthen your body and get ready to give birth.

To further your meditation practise:

An interesting and really magical voice to listen to is David J. This is his website:

If you would like to get help in creating a breath work practise:

If you have any questions about yoga for pregnancy please contact me at

Look after yourself.

You are growing a human being and that is amazing.

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