A woman’s emotional and mental well-being is extremely important during her motherhood journey. This may seem like common sense and while most of us view pregnancy as a joyous and incredible part of life it can also cause many women (and their partners) to feel incapable, depressed or worried about their own well-being and the well-being of their baby. This is just one reason why taking care of ones mental health during this time is just as important as having proper nutrition and exercise. Meditation has been proven to help the mind and body in numerous ways and now there are more apps and tools than ever on the market to assist with developing a daily meditation practice. One app that’s been getting a lot of attention recently is called Expectful which provides evidence-based guided meditation for women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant, and/or are new moms. Expectful is also backed by meditation experts, sound engineers, psychologists, and obstetrics & gynecological experts, which is why I spoke with their team this week to learn more. There is so much to be said on this topic that I compiled 15 of the top benefits and truly important tips to know for meditating during pregnancy.
1. Meditation Is Simple
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of meditation isn’t to clear your mind of thoughts. Meditation is the practice of being aware of your thoughts and observing them without judgement. What many people don’t realize is that our brain’s primary function is to think. Meaning, that, just as our heart beats, our mind thinks, and to believe we can give our mind a command to stop thinking would be the same as believing we could stop our heart from beating. So when you sit down to meditate, understand that thoughts will naturally arise in your mind, and that this is completely normal. Simply notice your thoughts, and return to focusing on your breath.
2. You Can Meditate Whenever You Want
One of the most common things the Expectful team hears from women is that they want to meditate but don’t have the time. What most people don’t realize is that if you take time out of your day to meditate you’ll gain two times the amount of time back. Meaning, when you meditate you’ll be more focused, get better sleep, be more efficient and have more energy, allowing you to complete everyday tasks with more ease and less tension. This can be especially beneficial for new mother’s as most of their time is taken up with caring for their baby. If you are ready to start a meditation practice, we recommend beginning by meditating at the same time each day to get your body into a routine but anytime you can get a session in is great. Expectful built in push-notifications so you can even set a reminder for the time you’d like to meditate everyday.
3. How To Find Your Best Position For Your Trimester
Many people believe that meditation can only be done while sitting cross legged like a statue on the floor, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Meditation can be done on a chair or any other way that feels comfortable. The Expectful team recommends sitting with your back supported and your neck free, but feel free to use pillows to support yourself and experiment with different postures. Below is their recommended posture guide for each trimester of pregnancy.
● 1st trimester
Sit on a chair with your back supported, with the soles of your feet on the floor and allow your hands to rest on your thighs. Alternatively you could also try sitting in a classic lotus position on or off a cushion, legs crossed with your spine upright.
● 2nd trimester
You may wish to continue sitting on a chair or in a cushion with your back up against a wall. However, if you’d like to create more space for growing belly you can sit in a diamond posture with your knees wide and the soles of feet coming together to touch. Make sure your tailbone, sit bones, pelvis and hips are steady and rooted so you can feel grounded throughout your practice.
● 3rd trimester
You can continue to sit upright in a chair or a cushion but we recommend avoiding resting flat on your back in your third trimester. If you prefer to lay down, rest on your left side or in a reclined position with your head and neck supported.
4. You Could Be More Likely To Go Full Term
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 (1). There can be a lot of risks and complications that come with premature birth. By carrying to full-term you are helping your baby to fully develop in your womb before you welcome him or her into the world.
5. You Could Reduce Anxiety
Preparing to conceive, pregnancy and new motherhood can bring on a lot of stress and anxiety. Meditation is known for it’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Through meditation you can learn to maintain an inner calm regardless of your external circumstances (2).
6. You Could Reduce Pain During Labor
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 (3). Pain reduction can be helpful during birth and labor, and throughout recovery in the postpartum period.
7. You Could Create Positive Effects On Infant Development
Studies show that women who meditate during pregnancy, deliver babies that tend to have higher emotional intelligence. They self-regulate themselves sooner, and are less likely to get into negative states of mind (4). Having a happier baby can make the transition into postpartum a little easier for both mom and baby.
8. You Could Experience Enhanced Immunity
Meditation enhances the body’s immune function. (5) A healthy immunity can help keep your body healthy while you are preparing to conceive, keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy and protect you and your baby from immune-related issues after delivery.
9. You Could Create Stronger Relationships
Research shows that mindfulness practices can enhance compassion and kindness. (6) This is a powerful tool for you and your partner when you are preparing to conceive, going through pregnancy and while you’re navigating new parenthood.
10. You Can Get Better Sleep
Studies have shown that individuals who practice meditation experience higher quality sleep than non-meditators (7). This can be beneficial during pregnancy when many women report sleep issues, and during postpartum when new mothers need sleep more than ever.
11. You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Postpartum Depression
At least 1 in 10 women experience postpartum depression, although the prevalence may actually be much higher (7). Mindfulness practices have been associated with reduced depression during and following pregnancy (8), which may improve psychological health (9). Meditating as early as before you even conceive a baby can have positive impacts on your emotional well-being throughout your motherhood journey.
12. You Could Increase Milk Production
Breastfeeding has long been considered beneficial for both mothers and infants (10) However, stress is known to reduce milk production (11). Engaging in a regular meditation practice may help maximize your ability to nurse your child naturally by reducing your stress.
13. You Could Enhance Fertility
When practiced regularly, meditation has the potential to promote fertility by stimulating the release of pregnancy hormones from your brain and ovaries, which can be inhibited by stress (12,13). By regularly engaging in mindfulness practices, you can better prepare your body for conception.
14. You Could Help Balance Your Hormones
Hormonal imbalance can affect important chemical signaling in the body and cause problems with ovulation (14). Meditation influences hormone centers that can promote hormone balance, which may help you to conceive (12). Keeping your hormones balanced throughout fertility, pregnancy and motherhood can help women to feel better both physically and mentally.
15. You Could Create A Bonding Experience With Your Partner
Meditating with your partner or loved one during pregnancy can be a bonding experience emotionally. You can share the process with each other and make your meditation a special time each day.
1. Sriboonpimsuay W., Promthet S., Thinkhamrop J., & Krisanaprakornkit, T. (2011). Meditation for preterm birth prevention: A randomized controlled trial in Udonthani, Thailand. International Journal of Public Health Research, 1(1), 31–39.
2. Vieten C, Astin J. (2008). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: Results of a pilot study. Archive of Women’s Mental Health, 11, 67–74.
3. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K.T., Kraft, R.A., Gordon, N.S., McHaffie, J.G., & Coghill, R.C. (2011). Brain mechanisms supporting modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), 5540–5548.
4. Van den Heuvel M.I., Johannes, M.A., Henrichs, J., & Van den Bergh, B.R.H. (2015). Maternal mindfulness during pregnancy and infant socio-emotional development and temperament: The mediating role of maternal anxiety. Early Human Development, 91(2), 103–108.
5. Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., … Sheridan, J.F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.
6. Marchand, W. R. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 18(4), 233–252.
7. Nagendra, R. P., Maruthai, N., & Kutty, B. M. (2012). Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep. Frontiers in Neurology, 3(54), 1–4.
8. Dimidjian, S., Goodman, S.H., Felder, J.N., Gallop, R., Brown, A.P., & Beck, A. (2015). An open trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the prevention of perinatal depressive relapse/recurrence. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 18(1), 85–94.
9. Vieten C, Astin J. (2008). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: Results of a pilot study. Archive of Women’s Mental Health, 11, 67–74.
10. Keith, D. R., Weaver, B. S., & Vogel, R. L. (2012). The effect of music-based listening interventions on the volume, fat content, and caloric content of breast milk–produced by mothers of premature and critically ill infants. Advances in Neonatal Care, 12(2), 112–119.
11. Dewey, K. G. (2001). Maternal and fetal stress are associated with impaired lactogenesis in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 131(11), 3012S-3015S.
12. Infante, J. R., Torres-Avisbal, M., Pinel, P., Vallejo, J. A., Peran, F., Gonzalez, F… & Latre, J.M. (2001). Catecholamine levels in practitioners of the transcendental meditation technique. Physiology & Behavior, 7, 141–146.
13. Marchand, W. R. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 18(4), 233–252.
14. Olooto, W.E., Amballi, A.A., & Banjo, T.A. (2012). A review of female infertility: Important etiological factors and management. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology Research, 2(3), 379–385.