When I took up meditation during my pregnancy I had no idea the effect it would have on my baby, my birth and my new motherhood experience.
Although proper nutrition, adequate exercise and prenatal vitamins are staples for a healthy pregnancy and often the ones doctors prescribe, research shows that meditation should be right up there on that list as well.
How does meditation in pregnancy help exactly?
Overall, meditation makes you more aware. An increased awareness during pregnancy can help you tune into you which in turn helps you tune into your baby. When you become more mindful of how you are feeling emotionally, you start to be able to listen to your body more. This can be extremely beneficial in pregnancy and labor. An increased body awareness can decrease pain during labor and help you manage stress and anxiety with more ease. A daily meditation practice can also help you sleep better, have more focus and give your baby a better start in life.
Benefits of how meditation during pregnancy, birth and new motherhood can transform your experience.
Better pain management
Meditation helps you step out and observe pain instead of being consumed by it, which can make the birth experience less painful. A study done on a group of people who attended a four-day mindfulness meditation training found that they were able to decrease the intensity of painful stimulus by 40 percent (1). Decreased pain is also beneficial during pregnancy when your body is preparing for birth and recovery after birth when your new baby needs you more than ever.
Decreased stress and anxiety
Meditation can significantly reduce stress, anxiety and your fears about your pregnancy and giving birth. Through meditation you can learn to maintain an inner calm regardless of your external circumstances (2). This means that the more relaxed and positive you are about your birth experience, the more pleasant the outcome will be. A good thing to keep in mind is that although some stress during pregnancy is normal, continuous stress has been linked to preterm birth and long term negative effects on you and your baby down the road.
Increased chance of going full-term
Before 39 weeks pregnant your baby’s brain, lungs and liver are still maturing. In fact, your baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 40 weeks. Also, within those last few weeks of pregnancy the part of your baby’s brain that he / she will use for thinking doubles in size. A study that explored preterm birth found that women that participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early than women with no mindfulness education (3). Going full term allows your baby to fully develop and have a better start in life.
According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author of Getting Pregnant Faster, “Pregnancy suppresses the body’s immune system (to ensure the fetus isn’t rejected as something foreign) which means your body is less able to fight off infection and illnesses, making it more susceptible to colds and flu.” Meditation enhances the body’s immune function. (4) A healthy immunity can help keep your body healthy during pregnancy and protect you and your baby from immune-related issues after delivery.
Practicing meditation is what allowed me to truly enjoy my pregnancy, release expectations from my birth experience and be a more patient mother. If you are looking for something that will support you emotionally through your journey and help you to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, meditation might just be the answer.
This guest post was written by Anna Gannon who is the Community & Editorial Lead at Expectful, a company with a groundbreaking meditation program for pregnancy and parenthood. She is also a seasoned NYC yoga guide and a new mom who is passionate about helping other new moms find the tools they need to create a wellness routine that fits their lifestyle. Follow Anna and Expectful for stories on how to have a mindful pregnancy, birth and motherhood experience.
- Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., Gordon, N., McHaffie, J. & Coghill, R. (2011). The Journal of Neuroscience 31(14). 5540–5548.
- Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study. Vieten C, Astin J. Archive of Women’s Mental Health. 2008; 11910:67-74.
- Meditation for preterm birth prevention: A randomized controlled trail in Udonthani, Thailand. Sriboonpimsuay W, Promthet S, Thinkhamrop J, Krisanaprakornkit T. International Journal of Public Health. Vol 1, No 1 pp 31-39.
- Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Davidson, R., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K. & Sheridan, J. (2003). Psychosomatic Medicine 65. 564–570.