People have practiced meditation for thousands of years to help induce a deep state of relaxation and a sense of calm. Meditating has many benefits during all phases of life, and pregnancy is no exception. Stress can have a negative impact on your health and the health of your baby. Meditation can help you positively cope with stress and anxiety during pregnancy.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of clearing your mind using a combination of physical and mental techniques. It can take many different forms and can have many different purposes. Some types of meditation are religious, while others are designed to help you adapt to challenges or relax. But most types of meditation share the same benefits. Some of the most common types of meditation are:
Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is focused on staying centered on what's happening at the moment and not worrying about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. You can get started with mindfulness meditation by focusing on your body sensations.
Contemplation meditation. Contemplation meditation is the practice of concentrating on a question or contradiction without letting your mind wander.
Mantra meditation. When you engage in mantra meditation, you focus on repeating a specific phrase or sound. You can repeat your mantra aloud or in your head.
Movement meditation. If sitting is uncomfortable or you'd like to get in some physical activity, you might enjoy movement meditation. You can practice movement meditation while you walk, focusing on your body's movements or what you observe around you.
Body-centered meditation. In body-centered meditation, you focus on the physical sensations you feel in your body. Body-centered meditation is also called self-scanning.
Benefits of Meditation During Pregnancy
There are many benefits to meditating during pregnancy, including:
Reduced stress. Although pregnancy is a happy time for many people, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Whether it's related to pregnancy discomforts, the uncertainty ahead, or other issues, stress can cause health problems like high blood pressure and even contribute to premature birth. Studies have shown that meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety in pregnancy.
One small study of 31 women in the second half of their pregnancy showed that those who practiced meditation reported less anxiety and fewer negative feelings like shame, distress, and hostility. The participants had been treated for mood disorders in the past, and meditating seemed to help them cope with negative emotions during pregnancy.
Another study involved 47 women who had pregnancy anxiety, which is a loop of worries about being pregnant. The women who practiced meditation had less pregnancy anxiety compared to women who read a pregnancy book but didn't meditate.
Reduced risk of premature birth. Babies who are born prematurely have an increased risk of health problems, including breathing problems and developmental delays. More research needs to be done, but some studies have shown a correlation between meditation and a reduced risk of premature birth. A study of 335 women found that those who practiced yoga had fewer babies with low birth weight and fewer babies who were born prematurely compared to women who walked for an hour daily.
Another study found that women who reported higher levels of mindfulness had babies with higher Apgar scores. An Apgar score measures your baby's signs of good health, like their complexion, pulse, reflexes, activity level, and breathing.
Healthy development. Researchers are looking into how a mother's mindfulness may affect her baby's development after birth as well. A study from the Netherlands showed that mothers who scored high in mindfulness had babies who were better able to settle down, adjust to new environments, and control their attention and behavior.
Not all studies have shown a clear relationship between meditation and healthier development. Several studies also show that the benefits of mindfulness wear off if mothers stop practicing meditation. To maintain the beneficial effects of mindfulness, you need to maintain your meditation practice.
How to Meditate During Pregnancy
If you're interested in trying meditation, you don't need to take a special class. You can practice meditation almost anywhere. Almost all types of meditation include the following elements:
Focused attention. Meditation helps you clear your mind of repetitive, anxious thoughts that can cause stress and anxiety. Focusing your mind on something specific is an important element in clearing your mind. You can focus on your breathing, on a sound or phrase, or on an object.
Relaxed breathing. Engaging in deep, even breathing helps slow your breathing down. You take in more oxygen and breathe more efficiently.
A quiet environment. It's hard to relax in a chaotic environment, especially if you're just learning to meditate. Try to start in a calm place without distractions like phones or noise. As you advance, you'll be able to meditate in more stressful environments, which may be where you need to meditate the most.
A comfortable position. It doesn't matter whether you meditate in a lying, sitting, or standing position or even while walking. Just try to find a comfortable position that won't distract you from focusing.
When you have all of these elements, you can practice meditation in whatever way feels best to you. Don't worry about meditating the right way. Although you certainly can take a class if you'd like, you can also practice on your own whenever it's convenient for you. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Breathe deeply. Focus all of your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on paying attention each time you inhale and exhale. Breathe slowly and deeply. If your mind starts to wander, just keep bringing your attention back to your breath.
Body scan. Bring your attention to different parts of your body, focusing on the sensations that you feel. You can combine scanning your body with deep breathing and imagine breathing warmth and relaxation into any tension you find in your body.