Most moms-to-be spend a lot of time worrying about their developing baby. But remember, it’s just as important during the next nine months to tune in to someone else’s cues: your own.
Maybe you’re exceedingly tired. Or thirsty. Or hungry. Maybe you and your growing baby need some quiet time to connect.
Your doctor or midwife may say, “Listen to your body.” But for many of us, that’s followed by, “How?”
Meditation can help you listen to your voice, your body, that small heartbeat — and help you feel refreshed and a bit more focused.
What Is Meditation?
Think of meditation as some quiet time to breathe and connect, be aware of passing thoughts, and to clear the mind.
Some say it’s finding inner peace, learning to let go, and getting in touch with yourself through breath, and through mental focus.
For some of us, it can be as simple as deep, in-and-out breaths in the bathroom stall at work as you try to focus on you, your body, and the baby. Or, you can take a class or retreat to your own special place in the house with pillows, a mat, and total silence.
What Are the Benefits?
Some of the benefits of practicing meditation include:
- better sleep
- connecting to your changing body
- anxiety/stress relief
- peace of mind
- less tension
- positive labor preparation
- lower risk of postpartum depression
Doctors and scientists have studied the benefits of meditation on pregnant women and they have shown that it can help moms-to-be throughout pregnancy and especially at birth.
Moms who have high levels of stress or anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to deliver their babies at preterm or low birth weights.
Birth outcomes like those are a pressing public health issue, especially in the United States. Here, the national rates of preterm birth and low birth weight are 13 and 8 percent, respectively. This is according to a report published in the journal Psychology & Health.
Prenatal stress can also impact fetal development. Studies have shown that it can even affect cognitive, emotional, and physical development in infancy and childhood. All the more reason to squeeze in some meditation time!
What About Yoga?
A study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing found that women who started a yoga practice including meditation early in pregnancy effectively reduced stress and anxiety by the time they delivered.
Women who practiced mindful yoga in their second trimester also reported significant reductions in pain during their third trimesters.
How Can I Practice Meditation?
Whether you want to get pregnant, just found out you are, or you’re preparing that birth plan, here are some ways to get started with a meditation program.
This free 10-day program to learn the basics of meditation is available at headspace.com. Headspace is one of a growing number of apps that teach guided and unguided exercises on how to apply mindfulness to everyday activities.
The 10-minutes-a-day approach is even available on your phone or tablet. Headspace calls itself a “gym membership for your mind” and was created by Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert.
Tune into Puddicombe’s TED Talk, “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes.” You’ll learn how we can all become more mindful, even when life gets busy.
Also available is “The Headspace Guide to … a Mindful Pregnancy,” which aims to help couples deal with the stress of pregnancy and birth. It walks you and your partner through the stages of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and going home. It includes step-by-step exercises.
Try a Guided Online Meditation
Meditation teacher Tara Brach offers free samples of guided meditations on her website. A clinical psychologist, Brach has also studied Buddhism and has founded a meditation center in Washington, D.C.
Read About Meditation
If you prefer to read about meditation before you start to practice, these books might be useful.
- “The Mindful Way through Pregnancy: Meditation, Yoga, and Journaling for Expectant Mothers:” Essays that will help teach you to bond with baby, take care of yourself during pregnancy, and calm your fears about birth and parenthood.
- “Meditations for Pregnancy: 36 Weekly Practices for Bonding with Your Unborn Baby:” Starting in the fifth week of pregnancy, this book tracks your milestones and provides guidance. It includes an audio CD featuring a 20-minute guided meditation with soothing music.