By: Shannon Serpette
Whether you’re a first-time mama-to-be or you’re adding to your existing brood at home, pregnancy can be a challenge. There is so much to plan for, think of, and worry about, your mind feels like it’s always running at top speed. Meditation can be a great way to slow things down a bit and take off some of the strain during your pregnancy months.
If you have never meditated before, you might not be sold on the benefits it can offer. Here are five of the reasons pregnant women may want to add meditation to their daily routines.
1. It Quiets Your Mind
Women have so much to worry about during pregnancy. Most importantly, mothers worry about the health of their unborn baby, and any medical challenges or issues can throw you into a tailspin. The stress of that alone can be enormous.On top of that, we worry about our own health, the financial challenges of expanding a family, our jobs, which foods to avoid while pregnant, and anything else that sneaks its way into our already stressed brains.
Our whole day can be a whirlwind juggling act where we focus on eating right, making our doctor appointments, getting some exercise, finding clothes to accommodate our expanding bellies, and working our jobs. We do all of that while trying to find and buy all the baby gear we will need and prepare a nursery for our babies.
When I was pregnant, it felt like my mind never stopped. When I would try to fall asleep at night, one thought after another would keep me up. The anxiety was there almost all the time.
If that sounds like you, meditation is a wonderful way to quiet some of those intrusive thoughts, so you can wind down. With meditation, you will be concentrating on listening to your rhythmic, steady breathing. At first, it can feel unnatural, but it won’t be long before you’re good at tuning everything else out — giving your mind a much-needed break.
It doesn’t require any special equipment, which is great at a time when you’re already cash strapped.
You don’t need any extra space to do it — you can meditate in your bedroom, backyard, park, office chair, or anywhere else you feel comfortable.
It doesn’t take long to do. Even a quick five-minute session can help considerably.
You’re physically capable of doing it, even when other things like bike riding and hot tubs are off-limits.
2. It Puts You In Tune With Your Body
Sometimes people are simply too busy or distracted with day-to-day life to truly listen to what their bodies are trying to tell them. They ignore minor aches or pains, and those issues can later result in bigger problems.
Women can get too busy to listen to their natural intuition — that feeling when you know something is off, but you can’t quite put your finger on what the problem is.
Meditation can be a gamechanger in that aspect. During meditation, you are doing nothing but clearing your mind and becoming more in tune with your body. With every deep, soothing slow breath, it’s another chance to pinpoint whatever is going on that isn’t quite right.
When you take the opportunity to slow down, you start paying attention to the things you don’t notice when you’re running at break-neck speed just to get through your busy day. You may notice your baby’s movements and kicks more, which can lead to an increased sense of bonding on your part. And it will help you notice if those kicks and movements seem decreased, so you can talk to your doctor about it.
3. It Cuts Down on Stress
Every pregnant woman has likely heard a lecture about how she should avoid stress. That is almost impossible to do during pregnancy. However, if a day passes without some form of worry, you can count yourself incredibly lucky.
Between regular pre-pregnancy stressors, you now have a lot more to deal with. From a lack of quality sleep because of a growing belly, possible aches and pains, and a busier-than-ever schedule, the stress seems to pile up.
In its most basic form, meditation helps you stop thinking about everything that is stressing you. It can give you a different perspective on the thing that is bothering you, enabling you to reframe it as a temporary challenge, not an overwhelming setback. The result can be a less intense response to stress, even if your situation doesn’t change.
By cutting back on stress, you can improve your pregnancy in other ways. You might even kick some of those raging pregnancy cravings to the curb.
That’s not to say you’ll squash every impulse to eat a tub of ice cream while you complain to your bestie about the enormous size of your swollen lower legs. You’ll still want junk food sometimes, and you may still feel like a bottomless pit at other times, but you’ll be able to cut back on some of those cravings and that can keep the unwanted pounds from packing on too quickly.
4. It Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
There’s no doubt that pregnancy can drive up your blood pressure. Approximately 6 to 8 percent of pregnant women deal with high blood pressure, so it’s a common problem.
Some women have high blood pressure before pregnancy, and that can continue or become aggravated once they are expecting. For others, the one-two knockout combination of gaining weight and getting less exercise drives up their blood pressure.
Older moms, those with diabetes or other conditions, those having multiple babies, as well as those with a family history of gestational high blood pressure, are all at greater risk for having it. Simply being pregnant can cause your blood pressure to rise, which many know can cause preeclampsia. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s never a bad thing to lower it a bit through meditation.
Why meditation lowers blood pressure isn’t exactly understood by experts, but researchers have enough evidence to confidently state that it does, just as stress can drive it up. And when you need an almost magical solution to lower blood pressure, meditation is as close as it gets. By simply sitting there, clearing your mind, and regulating your breathing, you can drop your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, it may not be enough to take you off of medication or doctor-prescribed bed rest, but it can be one step in helping protect your health and your baby’s, so it’s worth trying.
5. It Can Help You Sleep More
Sleeping while pregnant can be difficult sometimes because it’s so hard to find a comfortable position. While sleep aids like body pillows can help, so can meditation. By helping you enter a deeply relaxed state, meditation encourages you to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Getting enough sleep while you are pregnant is crucial for several reasons. Your immune system is already depressed just from being pregnant, so it’s smart to get enough sleep to shore it up as much as possible. That will protect both you and your baby.
While you are expecting, you’ll likely notice a lot of up and down moods, even if you’ve never been the moody type of person. You aren’t going crazy, even if you may feel like it with the wild mood swings. Those pregnancy hormones are a large part of the reason for all the big feelings you’re having right now.
Getting a good night’s sleep won’t make the hormone-induced overreactions entirely go away, but it can help. Think about how cranky you were pre-pregnancy when you didn’t sleep well. A full night of sleep can help stabilize your mood so you aren’t ready to take anybody’s head off over the slightest thing.
Plus, growing a new life is tiring work for your body. You may find you need more sleep than you used to just to feel like you’re still fairly functional. It’s not uncommon to feel more tired during pregnancy than you ever have in your life.
It’s great that meditation can calm you enough that you can get more quality shut-eye. It’s one of the most important things you can be doing for yourself right now.
Give Meditation a Try
Meditation is an easy way to help both you and your baby during those long months of pregnancy. You’ll likely find it helps ground and center you, even if you’ve never tried meditation before or doubt that it can do any good for you. It’s free to try, and it’s super simple to do, so you can get started today!
Shannon Serpette is an award-winning writer and editor from Illinois, who regularly contributes to newspapers, magazines, and websites. As a mother of two, she loves to write about parenting issues and is dedicated to educating other parents at every stage of their child’s development.
Having a baby is not just about your body. Pregnancy also affects your emotions and how you feel and care for yourself. Preparing yourself physically and emotionally will prepare your mind and body for labor, the changes that occur afterward and your relationship with your baby. A busy mind is common during pregnancy, as you may sometimes feel overwhelmed.
Your mind and body are linked together. When your mind worries or feels fear, it affects your body, sometimes causing muscle tension and physical discomfort. Finding ways to relax helps move past fear and puts your mind and body at rest. There are many relaxation techniques that can be useful in easing anxiety before and during delivery and help to lessen pain as you recover.
Some forms of relaxation you may already know, such as reading, taking a bath, watching TV, listening to music, and talking with family and friends. These are all helpful to use as you prepare for birth and recovery.
Other forms of relaxation may be new to you and may be helpful in a different way. Practicing these mind-body skills long before you ever go into labor will prepare you for birth and recovery.
Mind and body skills
There are two main ways to relax:
When you relax from the inside out, you focus on calming your mind and emotions. This leads to a sense of well-being that causes your muscles to relax.
When you relax from the outside in, you consciously relax your muscles. Releasing the tension from your muscles makes you feel relaxed and comfortable.
Becoming aware of your breathing and learning different ways to breathe can help reduce your heart rate, increase your oxygen flow, calm your fears and change how you feel pain. Focusing on your breathing can help you shift your concentration from discomfort to something more pleasant.
Get comfortable. You can either sit or lie on your side.
Start paying attention to your breathing.
Focus on keeping your breathing slow and easy.
Let your breathing settle to a depth and rate that is smooth and comfortable.
Enjoy the feeling of peace that comes from this kind of breathing.
If you need a more active way to relax, you can use a muscle-based approach. Or, you can combine it with another technique. For example, you could slow breathe for a minute and then focus on relaxing the muscles that have not yet released their tension.
Tense and release
This is the easiest of the techniques:
Get into a comfortable position. You can either sit up or semi-recline, like being in a lounge-chair.
Use as many pillows as you need to support your joints and have your legs and arms comfortably flexed. Don't let one part of your body rest directly on another.
Take in a deep breath and slowly let it out.
Focus on the muscles in your forehead. Make them contract as if you were frowning. Release them.
Squeeze your eyes tightly shut. Release those muscles. You can either gently close your eyes or keep them open.
Clench your jaw. Release.
Draw your shoulders up toward your ears. Release.
Make fists and straighten your elbows. Release.
Take in a big breath so that you expand your chest. Release it.
Tighten your stomach muscles. Release.
Squeeze your buttocks together. Release.
Tighten your thighs and lock your knees. Release.
Point your heels until you feel the stretch in your calves. Release.
Curl your toes. Release.
Tighten all of your muscles at the same time. Release them.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Remain in this relaxed state for a few minutes.
Notice how your body feels.
When it's time to get up, rise slowly so that you don't get lightheaded.
Assess and release
After you have used the tense and release method for a while, see if you can get relaxed without first tensing each muscle group.
Use pillows to get into a comfortable position.
Take in a comfortable breath.
As you let this breath out, release as many muscles as you can.
Continue to breathe slowly and comfortably. Starting at your head, assess each muscle group. Try to relax tense muscles as you exhale.
If the muscle group doesn't relax, use the tense and release method.
Work toward relaxing your body with one or two slow breaths.
Guided imagery is the act of closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a positive place. It can be done with words from another person or with music. You can also imagine this positive place in silence. The relaxing effect of guided imagery is often a sense of calm and peacefulness.
Sit comfortably in a chair and close your eyes.
Focus on your breathing, feeling your chest rise and fall with each breath in and out.
Imagine your favorite place. Pay attention to the sounds, colors, scents and textures.
Take some time to enjoy the calmness in this place and enjoy your sense of peace and comfort.
Finish with several deep breaths. Keep your breaths slow and easy. Let your breathing settle to a depth and rate that is smooth and comfortable.
Using your techniques
The relaxation worksheet can help you identify what techniques works best for you. That will help you create a relaxation routine. Do this routine for about five minutes each day. Use it to help you fall asleep at night or to give yourself a short break during the day
To prepare for labor, practice your relaxation techniques in the positions you might use for labor and birth.