Breathe, Baby. Breathe

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November is the month when most of us begin to focus in on what we are grateful for. It is a month that marks the beginning of the holiday season for many, and while we wish to express gratitude, it can also be a time of intense stress and exhaustion. 

This can be intensified for expectant families, as they are not only preparing for the holidays but also for the arrival of a new baby. It is very difficult to experience gratitude when you are stressed out. Stress can be caused by many factors and unfortunately its impact is felt not only by the pregnant mom, but also the developing baby. 

When a pregnant mother experiences stress, hormones such as cortisol pulse throughout her bloodstream and are sent to the placenta. Those same stress hormones are then shared with the baby via the placenta.  This fascinating pregnancy messaging system is designed to help the baby become aware of and adapt to its mother’s environment.  No one can avoid stress. The good news is all humans have a built in stress management system, they just need to know how to turn it on. 

When a mother has a stress response, the vagus nerve is stimulated which causes such effects as heart palpitations and sweaty palms.  This nerve can be calmed through the effects of deep breathing. When a mother breathes in deeply it stimulates her diaphragm, located under the lungs. This action sends messages to the vagus nerve that all is well. Breathing is one way to reboot oneself after a stressful situation.  This stress-relieving technique can help get you back into a state of gratitude. 

A great technique helpful for pregnancy, labor and throughout life is Belly Breathing. To do this, place your hands on your chest and inhale as you normally breathe.  Notice how your lungs expand. Now place your hands on your diaphragm, just above your abdomen. If you do not notice your hands moving with your breath here, you are using shallow or backward breathing.

Now inhale deeply into your abdomen feeling your belly bulge out under your hands. As you exhale, notice how your hand moves inward toward your spine. Practice this deep breathing, trying to keep your exhale approximately twice as long as your inhale. Some people use a 4/6 count when first practicing deep breathing, inhaling to the count of 4 and exhaling to the count of 6.

As you practice deep breathing, imagine your breath first filling your lungs, then your abdomen, then your pelvis, and the rest of your body, all the way down to your toes.  With your exhalation, pay attention to your breath as it leaves the body.  Imagine breathing into the space where your baby lies, filling your baby with oxygen, and exhaling any tension that you or your baby may have. It is as simple as that.

To ensure a gratitude filled holiday season for you and your unborn baby, follow this simple three-step process:

1. Become conscious of when you feel stress

2. Take a few deep breaths

3. Focus in on what you are grateful for

For more stress reduction and deep breathing techniques, check out the book the The Greatest Pregnancy Ever by Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters

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