What Is Meditation?
Meditation is one of the modalities used in Ayurveda to release the accumulated stress, increase the energy levels and improve the overall health positively. The practice of meditation originated in the ancient Vedic times of India. Today, it has become popular in Western nations.
Meditation during pregnancy is a great way to improve the overall maternal mental as well as physical health. It helps the pregnant women to relax and cope with stress. Mindfulness meditation improves the activity of the brain, delays premature aging of the brain and makes one more alert.
Why is Meditation Important during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most special and scary experiences that a woman may experience in a lifetime. During this phase, the physical and mental health of a woman is of utmost importance. Yes, even mental health and emotional well-being have a huge impact on maternal as well as infant health, yet many people are unaware of it.
Maternal stress has been linked to various pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, hypertension, low birth weight and still-birth. Besides this, maternal stress may even affect the infant’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral outcomes.
Studies have reported that an increase in stress and anxiety during pregnancy may lead to pre-term delivery, whereas low levels of stress and anxiety result in delivery at term. Untreated maternal depression can increase the severity of the above-mentioned symptoms.
Practicing meditation during pregnancy can offer support to a mother both during the perinatal period and beyond. Meditation is a great strategy for managing maternal stress and negative emotions.
Benefits of Meditation during Pregnancy
Let’s have a look at the benefits of prenatal meditation:
Improves Infant Behavior
Research has observed that prenatal meditation has a positive effect on the health as well as the temperament of the newborn. This is because the behavioral problems and cognitive functioning in the childhood are linked to fetal health.
Maternal stress and anxiety can affect the child’s emotional and attentional behavior later in life. Evidence has confirmed that the risk of psychiatric disorders in infants is associated with maternal depression.
Meditation during pregnancy reduces the level of stress hormones and induces a feeling of relaxation, calmness and happiness. An interesting study found that the cord blood cortisol level was higher in babies whose mothers did not practice meditation during pregnancy as compared to mothers who meditated regularly.
Because prenatal meditation has significant positive effects on infant behavior and temperament, mothers should be encouraged to spare some time for regular meditation.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Mindfulness meditation, a mind-calming practice improves sleep cycle and fights insomnia in pregnant women. Just like a nutritious diet, a healthy sleep cycle is extremely important for maternal as well as fetal health.
One study observed that mindful yoga is beneficial for women in their second trimester of pregnancy. It causes fewer awakenings, less wake time during the night and less perceived sleep disturbance.
A disturbed sleep pattern can affect the mother’s mood, stress levels and even blood pressure. With regular yoga and meditation, mothers can sleep better and feel fresher and less tired.
Stress and anxiety during pregnancy increase the risk for poor childbirth outcomes. Research states that pregnant women who meditate regularly, experience reduced anxiety, stress and depression.
It further improves the mood as well as the self-confidence of the pregnant mother. Meditation increases the release of dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals responsible for happiness and improvement in the mood and appetite.
Whereas, it reduces the levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, which are responsible for stress and depression. Hence, meditation improves the quality of life of pregnant women.
Improves Birth Outcomes
Numerous studies indicate that high stress and mood disturbance during pregnancy are associated with a variety of negative maternal and infant outcomes, which includes:
- Low birth weight.
- Pre-term birth.
- Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy.
- Spontaneous abortion.
- Smaller head circumference.
Stress and anxiety during pregnancy make the labor and delivery more difficult. In order to manage stress and anxiety, meditation during pregnancy is a great strategy.
As the levels of stress and anxiety reduce, the infant birth outcomes, as well as the health of the infant, improves. Meditation also lowers the risk of postpartum depression in mothers.
Research has found that incorporating breathing exercises, yoga and meditation improves the birth weight, reduces preterm delivery and pregnancy complications. Hence, participating in meditation and yoga may improve childbirth and child development outcomes.
Blood Pressure Control
Anxiety during pregnancy may raise the blood pressure and heart rate among women. Meditation and yoga are considered as an alternative therapy to correct preeclampsia in such women.
Mindfulness meditation manages anxiety and negative mood during the second half of the pregnancy. Such a stress relief technique contributes to the process of treating high blood pressure, which could otherwise have a negative effect on the maternal as well as fetal health.
It further increases the flow of the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the uterus and protects the maternal health against the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
Pain Management During Delivery
Labor pain or pain associated with childbirth is linked to lower labor pain tolerance. It increases the use of medications during labor and causes unwanted complications. Therefore, it is vital for the pregnant women to learn strategies for coping with labor pain.
One such effective and promising strategy designed for pregnant women is ‘mindfulness meditation’. Meditation modulates brain regions associated with constructing the pain experience.
Meditation reduces the processing of pain in different regions of the brain, thus it decreases the intensity of pain or unpleasantness.
Meditation improves mood. The positive mood induction may reduce pain ratings, says a research. During meditation, thalamus, a part of the brain, is deactivated, which reduces the pain unpleasantness.
In meditation training, pregnant women are taught to reduce the anticipation of future events, which further reduces anticipatory responses to pain stimuli.
Besides this, meditation induces beliefs related to the promotion of pain relief. Meditation also activates the brain areas that are involved in the modulation of pain.
Because meditation alters pain by enhancing cognitive control, it is recommended that pregnant women in their second trimester should start with meditation training.
May Ease Fatigue
Pregnant women tend to get tired easily due to a lot of hormonal changes that take place in their body. Their energy levels may go down and they may experience fatigue and tiredness. Meditation may relieve certain signs and symptoms of fatigue, which include:
- Insomnia or feeling sleepy all the time.
- Waking up tired.
- Pain and aches.
Meditation is very effective in treating fatigue and re-energizing the body. It helps the pregnant women to perform better in their daily routine and makes them feel fresh.
Deep breathing meditation techniques help the lungs to detoxify and throw the toxins out of the body. This revitalizes the body and enhances the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Hence, pregnant women who practice meditation daily are more active and fit throughout their pregnancy period.
Women are more susceptible to infectious diseases during pregnancy. The immune system during this phase is modulated, hence, women need to be a little extra careful.
Mindfulness meditation can be helpful for pregnant women because it boosts the immune system and keeps infectious diseases at bay. Here’s how meditation strengthens the immune system:
- It reduces the pro-inflammatory markers and reduces overall inflammation.
- It activates the immune cells.
- It activates the enzymes that produce antibodies against bacteria and viruses.
- It reduces stress, which otherwise lowers the ability of the body to produce natural antibodies and fight against infections.
Thus, meditation can improve the fitness levels of pregnant women by enhancing the natural immune defense system of the body.
Which Types of Meditation can Women Practice During Pregnancy
There are many different types of meditation techniques, but women need to try out different techniques and see what suits them the best. Pregnant women can feel the positive mind and body changes only when they meditate regularly. Here are some effective meditation techniques:
- Deep breathing meditation, in which you focus on your breathe each time you inhale and exhale.
- Sound or music meditation, in which you can meditate while listening to your favorite sound or music.
- Chanting or mantra meditation, where you can use a particular phrase or prayer or a word to focus on.
- Guided or concept meditation, where you visualize an object and focus on it.
- Third eye meditation, in this type of meditation your entire focus is on the third eye or the area on the forehead between the eyebrows.
- Muscle relaxation meditation, a simple technique where you lie down on the floor or bed and focus on a group of muscles. You then try to tense the muscles and let them relax slowly.
- Walking meditation, where you focus on your breathing while you walk.
Helpful Tips For Pregnancy Meditation
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Focus on your posture- Sit with your back straight and erect.
- Choose a quiet, peaceful and open area with proper ventilation, for example- a balcony or a garden. You can even practice meditation in your room.
- Initially, begin with 8-10 minutes of meditation. You can then gradually increase the time as you get comfortable.
- Practice meditation at the same time daily.
- It is always better to meditate 2-3 hours after a meal. Do not meditate after eating a heavy meal.
- Morning is the best time to meditate when you are fresh and active.
- Learn the correct technique of meditation from an experienced trainer.
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