Being calm and fully present is something most moms-to-be would love to experience during pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, the busyness of day-to-day life and the demands of nurturing your body (and growing baby) for nine months, can sometimes cause undue stress, both physically and emotionally for women. That’s why so many are turning to the practice of mindfulness to help guide them through this journey.
What is mindfulness?
Micki Fine, M.Ed., L.P.C and founder of Mindful Living, describes mindfulness as the awareness that arises when you bring open-hearted, non-judgemental attention to the present moment. She explains that through mindfulness, you can become more aware and accepting of thoughts, emotions and sensations instead of trying to deny or change them.
The practice of mindfulness can help you to take a breath, come into the moment, and wake up to thoughts and feelings. This interrupts the reactive pattern and adds a pause between the stimulus (a thought, emotion, or physical feeling) and your reaction to it (believing it, feeling anxious, or self-critical), thereby giving you greater freedom to make skillful choices about how to respond.
And don’t let the word “practice” scare you away from this wonderful tool. Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis may only require 10 to 15 minutes. Some women find mindful meditation helpful right before bed, while others prefer to devote time to it first thing in the morning. The key is to find what works for you.
How can mindfulness help during pregnancy?
One of the most noticeable benefits of mindfulness is that it helps you slow down. Mindfulness practice can promote healing in both the physical and the emotional and psychological realms. Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis has been shown to reduce pregnancy-related anxiety and depression, which can help you feel calmer and more connected to your body. Additionally, a consistent practice of mindfulness can help pregnant women develop more patience (essential during childbirth and motherhood), strengthen relationships – specifically the bond with your partner – and sleep better.
How can mindfulness help during childbirth?
Fine explains that our thoughts about physical pain can worsen the pain as we tense up around the thought. Mindfulness can help you work with physical pain in the body by providing techniques for dealing with pain one moment at a time. “It’s natural to tighten up around physical pain although the tension exacerbates it. While relaxation is not the intent of mindfulness, it can be a lovely byproduct that helps lessen physical pain,” Fine explains.
Because mindfulness allows you to work with the physical pain in the body during childbirth, it (mindfulness) can help you be more present, focus on your breath, help conserve energy, support self-compassion by encouraging you to observe and pay attention to positive thoughts and feelings, avoid reacting negatively to stressful situations, and increases confidence.
In fact, a recent study suggests that mindfulness training carefully tailored to address fear and pain of childbirth may lead to important maternal mental health benefits, including improvements in childbirth-related appraisals and the prevention of postpartum depression symptoms.
Mindfulness and the postpartum period
And don’t think the mindfulness practice you devoted time to during pregnancy and childbirth ends when the baby is placed on your chest. Integrating mindfulness meditation techniques into your daily living as a parent will help you stay balanced, be more present, and allow you to slow down long enough to enjoy the many magical moments.
About the author:
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son.
- Larissa G. Duncan, et al. “Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 17:140. May 2017. Retrieved July 2017. https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-017-1319-3.
- Micki Fine, M.Ed., L.P.C. https://www.livingmindfully.org