The first-ever exercise that you will start during your pregnancy is breathing exercise. Whether it’s a healthy pregnancy or a complicated one, your healthcare practitioner will advise you to do breathing exercises regularly since it will be useful for managing your labor. Is breathing exercise that helpful for labor? If so, in what way and what is the science behind it?. Let’s take a look at it briefly.

In what way is breathing exercise helpful?
         Before you hold your baby in your hands for the first time, the most important thing to go through is, labor. Though it is quite challenging when proper breathing technique is learned it will help you tremendously for your birthing. The following are the key benefits of using breathing exercises in labor:

1. Increases the oxygen supply
         During labor, the oxygen demand for both the mother and the baby increases by 53 percent. To cope with this oxygen demand, doing breathing exercises improves the circulation thus resulting in faster transportation of oxygen to the muscles.

2. Preventing hyperventilation
         Taking heavy breaths during labor makes you feel 'out of breath' and in severe cases even causes loss of consciousness. To avoid these, certain types of breathing techniques are helpful.

3. Reduces the intensity of labor pain
         There are two easier ways to reduce pain during labor: one is that when breathing is performed consciously, there will be a release of endorphins which are also known as the ‘happy hormones’, from the brain which interrupt the transmission of pain signals. The second is that focusing on your breathing helps you to distract and change your view of labor as manageable.

4. Avoids fatigue
         Breathing helps to conserve energy thereby preventing fatigue and the mother will stay more active. An average person takes a breath in and out about 15 times in a minute with a Tidal volume of 333ml ( Amount of air taken in and out of the lungs for each breath). During labor, this is increased to 20 breaths per minute with a Tidal volume of just 250ml. This is why there is severe exhaustion during labor. In such cases doing slow and deep breathing exercises will increase the tidal volume thereby avoiding exhaustion and tiredness.

How do breathing techniques work?
         During labor, due to the strong contraction of the uterine muscle, there is an increasing demand for blood flow to the uterus. For increasing the blood flow, more RBCs (Red blood cells) are required. To achieve this ‘n’ number of hemoglobin has to bind with ‘n’ number of oxygen. Therefore when you breathe in, the oxygen you uptake goes to bind with hemoglobin rather than staying up in the lungs. Now, this in turn creates breathlessness, hyperventilation, fatigue, etc. Also if there is no enough oxygen uptake, there will be insufficient blood flow to the uterus, and the uterus begins to contract more to meet the supply resulting in increased pain. To avoid all these, the simple thing to be done is to breathe in a proper, conscious and focused manner so that the additional oxygen demand can be met. Breathing techniques are not only helpful in labor, when done in pregnancy it helps with maintaining blood pressure and increase the blood supply to the baby via the placenta