Most people have heard of the amazing benefits of meditation practice to both physical and mental health but, how do these benefits affect women during pregnancy, and more specifically, how to use meditation for a healthy pregnancy?
The benefits of meditating during pregnancy can be significant not only to the meditator but also for her expecting a baby. Why and how to start a meditating practice that is realistically doable and fits into today’s busy lifestyle? This guide describes what meditation is, its benefits, and how it can be incorporated into pregnancy for both a healthy, and happy, pregnancy.
Even though most have heard of meditation for a healthy pregnancy and its benefits, many don’t really have a clear definition of what it actually is. The definition of meditation can differ from one school or philosophy to another. But it is generally defined as a mental exercise, like mindful breathing, for the purpose of increasing our awareness of the mind.
Many philosophies also include spirituality in the practice. This post will focus on the physical and mental benefits of meditation for a healthy pregnancy whether it’s your first baby or last.
Different forms of Meditation
There are many different types of meditations. Some focus more on the practical aspects of meditation and its benefits such as helping people cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. While others also incorporate philosophical and spiritual teachings.
Finding a meditation style that aligns with the individual’s convictions and expectations is very important to successfully establish a habitual practice. When someone has meditated before and found they didn’t like it, it’s very likely that they simply haven’t found the style of meditation that is right for them. Here are some of the most common types of meditations today that can be used as a meditation for a healthy pregnancy:
Currently, one of the most popular styles of meditation is mindfulness. This style of meditation helps develop an awareness of the present moment, without judgment. The non-judgment part is crucial, as it helps cultivate acceptance of what is in the present moment, which eventually helps develop an acceptance of what is, in general, whether perceived as “negative” or “positive”: situations, career, people, situations, problems, etc. Of course, not in a conformist kind of way, but an acceptance that provides equanimity in the situation, which can lead to a clearer mind that can help tackle life challenges better.
Loving-kindness is a meditation that focuses on the feeling of loving-kindness towards the meditator, to others, to their environment, or really anything at all. This meditation is a great meditation to practice during pregnancy as it gradually develops those feeling to the practitioner, helping to cultivate confidence and compassion, as well as to the expecting baby. Sending energy of loving-kindness to the baby when she is still in the womb is a wonderful way to start developing a connection to her as early as possible.
The majority of meditations include breathing techniques, which have a significant effect on the mind as they directly affect the nervous system by relaxing it, reducing anxiety and stress, and many other benefits as mentioned before.
Most of these techniques are safe and beneficial to do during pregnancy. In fact, Lamaze breathing is a technique specifically designed to aid in labor.
However, if meditation is using pranayama (breathing technique during yoga) that requires rapid breathing or holding the breath, do not practice. Make sure the breathing technique used in meditation is safe for pregnancy by asking your teacher and practicing with someone that has experience working with pregnant women.
Benefits of Meditation
There are plenty of mental and emotional benefits that come with meditation for a healthy pregnancy. According to mayoclinic.com, some of them are:
- reducing stress and anxiety
- building new skills to manage that stress and anxiety
- increasing self-awareness
- cultivating an ability to focus on the present moment and enjoy it
- reduce negative emotions
- increase patience and tolerance
- increasing imagination
Recent research is also finding out that meditation for a healthy pregnancy can also have positive effects on physical conditions such as anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep problems, and more.
Learning about these benefits makes it easy to see why meditation for a healthy pregnancy is becoming more and more common.
Meditation can be tailored to any phase in life, depending on the needs of the individual. Even if someone has never meditated before, they can start during pregnancy. There are meditations specially made for women to practice when they’re pregnant that focus on the many emotions experienced, easing the physical discomforts and fears that come along during the tumultuous time of pregnancy, and even in labor.
Mindfulness Meditation for a Healthy Pregnancy
Mindfulness can be a great place to start when someone is pregnant. Mindfulness meditation can be done by long-time and beginner meditators alike. As stated earlier, mindfulness will help to focus on the present moment, simply by observing it, redirecting the attention from any anxiety, fears, or negative emotions the person might be feeling. Or simply, a relaxed state that comes from being in the here and now.
Guided Meditation for a Healthy Pregnancy
One of the best places to start when pregnant is through Guided Meditation. As its name entails, guided meditation is when someone, typically a teacher, guides the meditator through a meditation session. This style is great for beginners and perfect for practicing throughout pregnancy. Within Guided Meditation are different styles such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, loving-kindness, among so many others.
Connecting to Baby Through Meditation
Some of the meditations tailored to pregnant women are focused on the connection to the expecting baby. But many others also work with helping future moms develop confidence in themselves for the upcoming challenge of labor and easing the many fears that may arise before, during, and after labor. Meditation can be helpful in overcoming the fear of labor in a natural and healthy way. Working on developing a connection to their body, breath and baby is why meditation for a healthy pregnancy is a powerful tool.
The many benefits that can come with meditation are great aids in the often challenging time of pregnancy. Practicing meditation, like mindfulness and breathing awareness, can help practitioners cope with any physical discomfort or pain, and also any emotional stresses or anxiety they may experience. Reducing stress and anxiety will also decrease the chances of having a pre-term birth. Also, according to healthline.com, meditation can give you:
- Better sleep
- Connection to your changing body
- Peace of mind
- Less tension
- Positive labor preparation
- Lower your risk of postpartum depression.
Benefits of Meditation During Labor
Moreover, having an anchored meditation practice can be a powerful tool during childbirth by using deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing relaxes the nervous system, helping to cope with the pain and reducing the perception of pain. And the mental exercise of accepting what is in the present moment can potentially have a significant effect on the perspective of such a challenging moment and increase the chances of having a more positive labor experience.
Benefits of Meditation for Your Baby
By helping alleviate stress during pregnancy, meditation can have important positive effects on the unborn baby. In a study conducted in 2003, a group of 335 pregnant women was assigned yoga and meditation practices every day starting in their second trimester and continuing on to the time of delivery, while another group was assigned walking for an hour. The study showed that the women who practiced yoga and meditation for a healthy pregnancy had fewer premature births and low birth weights in their babies.
In another study in 2016, pregnant women that were taught mindful attention, saw greater well-being, positive feelings, life satisfaction, and self-esteem that prolonged to a month after birth, in comparison to the other group of women that weren’t taught mindfulness attention.
If you are already a meditator, chances are that adjusting your practice to your current emotional, physical, and mental needs won’t be much of a challenge. But how can someone get started if they’ve never done it before?
Meditation has been around for years, but it has become popular in the West only until recently. The great thing about meditation currently being so popular is that it has, in turn, become so accessible to many. With all the types of meditations, taught by different types of teachers that come in a variety of lengths and forms, it makes finding the perfect fit for someone more likely.
Live Meditation Classes for Pregnancy
Of course, if someone has the time and opportunity to take live meditation classes in a local studio or organization that offers them, that’s great as having a live teacher can facilitate asking directly. This can be of great support, especially at the beginning.
Yoga studios that offer prenatal yoga often also incorporate meditation either at the beginning or end of classes or both. Yoga in itself is considered a form of meditation, and prenatal yoga is very beneficial as it has added physical benefits for pregnancy. Checking out local studios and asking if they offer any prenatal classes that incorporate meditation into the classes can help with knowing what to expect.
Online Meditation Classes for Pregnancy
However, there are also many accessible resources online. YouTube offers many free meditations. There are also a lot of downloadable Apps that go directly to your phone. There are generic meditations apps, not tailored specifically for pregnant women, but that have tons of content available for beginner meditators like Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm, just to name a few, that will be incredibly helpful.
However, starting off with meditations tailored for pregnant women is highly recommended as these will target the challenges and joys that come with pregnancy in the meditations.
Expectful is a great app that focuses on meditations, resources, and overall support for pregnancy. Like I mentioned above, there are many meditations on YouTube for pregnancy that are completely free. I, myself, as a meditation teacher, make meditations for moms and moms-to-be.
Mindfulness and Pregnancy in Everyday Life
To some, the thought of meditation can be a little intimidated. But there’s no denying the benefits it has to offer. Even though formal meditation creates a practice that brings benefits like discipline and a clearer observation of our minds, and meditation for a healthy pregnancy is often practiced, the actual practices within meditation can be done throughout our days.
Mindfulness can be practiced in everyday life by being present and mindful of the activity being done at any given moment.
Even if the activity may seem mundane, like washing the dishes or loading up laundry, or sitting in an office chair at work, in the shower, when eating, etc, what’s important is to really focus on the present moment. Observing the room someone’s in, the sounds around them, the sensation of the body. Observing whatever comes at that moment, without judgment.
Even if formal meditation is not practiced, being mindful in everyday life during pregnancy can bring many of the benefits mentioned above like a decrease in stress and anxiety, positive thoughts and emotions, mental and physical preparedness for labor, and overall wellness in this special time of someone’s life.
Short Meditation for a Healthy Pregnancy to Connect With Baby
Here is a short meditation for a healthy pregnancy checklist to do to start connecting with the baby that can be done at any time during pregnancy.
- Sit in whatever position is most comfortable, make sure the back is straight but not rigid, shoulders are down and back.
- Try to relax the face and then the whole body. Take three deep, slow breaths.
- Start by being aware of the sensations of the body.
- Scan all areas of the body, starting at the head, then the face, neck, back, arms, and hands, down to the legs, feet, and toes. Go up to the calves, and inner tights all the way up to the belly.
- Take another slow, deep breath in.
- Place the hands on the belly and realize that your baby is inside, your hands only separated from him by your flesh.
- If the baby moves, feel how he moves. Really focus and imagine the movements. Imagine what he looks like (or will) look like: his face, his body, his little arms and feet, and toes.
- Take a few moments to realize that soon you will be able to hold him and nurture him. You will hold him in your arms and kiss him. Feel the movements he makes (or imagine his movements if you’re in your first trimester) and settle here for a few more moments.
- Take another deep breath in and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
As always, when taking on a physical or mental activity they aren’t familiar with, it’s important to get approval from a doctor. During pregnancy, meditation can be a powerful tool for women to cope with challenging emotions, feelings, thoughts, and even physical pain, which are very possible during childbirth and sometimes after, as well as a way to relax and connect with themselves and their babies on a deeper level.
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