TLDR: Pregnancy can be a wonderful time, and it can also be a challenging time. This author discovered the many benefits of meditation during her pregnancy, and she shares how it can improve your pregnancy, too.
The day I found out I was pregnant was the happiest and scariest day of my life. My emotions ranged from excitement to fear, from love to anxiety, and from a sense of comfort to a waterfall of uncertainty. The only thing I could focus on was getting in to see my doctor so he could ease my mind and assure me that my baby was okay.
On the morning of my first visit, I practically leaped out of bed. During the appointment, my doctor prescribed a prenatal vitamin, connected me with a nutritionist, and went over how to approach exercise. Leaving his office, I expected to feel a sense of relief, but instead, I felt anxious. And as my pregnancy continued, so did my worry.
I longed for doctor visits so I could hear my baby’s heartbeat and know that she was okay. Even then, though I’d feel relief each time knowing that my baby was healthy, the feeling was quickly replaced with anxiety over not being able to hear her heartbeat again for another stressful month.
It was during this time of emotional uncertainty that a friend recommended Expectful–a platform that makes it easy for expectant and new moms to meditate. Desperate to reduce my stress, I signed up for the free trial.
At first, I wasn’t sure if it was doing anything, but after just three days, I noticed an increase in my energy. A week later I was more relaxed, and within a month, I felt like a new woman.
The more I meditated, the less I worried. The random negative thoughts that led me down a rabbit hole of stress and anxiety were no more. Instead, I was filled with a feeling of deep connection to both my baby and partner.
Just as exercise kept my body feeling strong, meditation helped my mind feel more focused and energized. Just as my prenatal vitamin gave me the nutrients and minerals my body needed, meditation gave my mind the ease and self-assurance I had yearned for.
This shift transformed my whole pregnancy, and I was left wondering why my doctor didn’t talk to me more about my mental health during such an important and challenging time.
I wanted to understand how meditation benefits pregnancy, so I dove deep into the available research. What I found made me realize that meditation was doing a lot more than just reducing my stress—it was helping me give my baby a better start in life.
Here’s a breakdown of a few of the benefits of meditation during pregnancy:
Meditation Reduces Risk Factors
Meditation decreased my stress and anxiety during pregnancy, and this did a lot more than just make me feel good—it helped protect my baby, too. Research shows that high levels of stress and anxiety can increase certain risk factors during pregnancy1 , and by keeping my stress levels low2 , meditation potentially helped me give my baby a better environment in which to grow.
Meditation Can Promote a Healthier Pregnancy
I was fortunate enough to have a full-term pregnancy3 and a baby with a healthy birth weight (I gave birth to Annabell two days before her due date, and she weighed seven pounds, three ounces), both of which are important for her development. It’s possible that meditation contributed to my pregnancy reaching full term; a study that explored preterm birth found that women who participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early4 than women with no mindfulness education.
Meditation Can Reduce Pain During Labor
Pain management is also a key benefit of having a meditation practice, whether you’re pregnant or not. In a study, a group of people who attended a four-day mindfulness meditation training found that they were able to decrease the intensity of a painful stimulus by nearly half5 . Meditation helped me breathe and be present during labor, and allowed me to focus more on my inhales and exhales, rather than putting all of my attention on the pain. Not only was pain reduction a helpful tool during birth and labor for me, but it was also beneficial during my pregnancy and recovery when Annabell needed me more than ever.
Meditation Enhances Immunity
I was lucky that I never got sick during my pregnancy or as a new mother. This was potentially a benefit of my meditation practice; after researching, I learned that meditation enhances the body’s immune function6 . Staying healthy not only kept my body strong during pregnancy, but it also protected Annabell, too.
Meditation Promotes Higher-Quality Sleep
One of the first things that made me realize how much my thoughts were affecting me was my inability to fall (or stay) asleep while I was pregnant. When I started meditating, I was shocked to see an almost immediate change in the quality of my sleep—and then I learned why that was. Research has shown that people who practice meditation experience higher quality sleep than people who don’t meditate7 . I slept even better knowing that meditation was playing a key role in my ability to get better rest at night. All this research, plus my own positive experience with meditation during pregnancy and motherhood brought me to the conclusion that meditation could be playing a key role in improving the pregnancy of so many others.
I think we should all push for talking more about emotional and mental health during pregnancy, and that we can learn more about how meditation can help during one of the most mentally demanding times. It’s my hope that within the next few years when people walk into their doctor’s office looking for the tools that can support them during pregnancy, meditation will be right in line with prenatal vitamins, nutrition, and exercise.