We have two types of breathing patterns: chest (shallow) and diaphragmatic (belly) breathing. Chest breathing is when you heavily rely on using your accessory muscles of the neck and chest to breathe which are not designed to do so on a daily basis. We typically use this breathing pattern during our “fight or flight” state or emergency situations as our body is getting ready to run, fight, or feels anxious, and threatened.
How does this relate to our pelvic floor? Excellent question! As we discussed earlier the diaphragm allows the pelvic floor to lengthen and contract. Taking shallow breaths throughout the day, over time can cause the diaphragm not to be used efficiently leading to decreased pelvic floor relaxation, increased tightness, or weakness. This poor breathing pattern can ultimately cause symptoms such as pain with sexual intercourse, urinary urgency, leakage, and prolapse.
Diaphragmatic or belly breathing is when we use our diaphragm to inhale and exhale which is great for pelvic floor function. However, for some women who have a condition known as diastasis recti, a separation of the fascia that connects your abdominal wall muscles together down the center, too much of belly breathing may delay their healing as it may result in increased pressure and stress on the fascia.