The most difficult part of my pregnancy didn’t have to do with the physical changes of my body, it had to do with the emotional ups and downs of my worried mind.
Each day of pregnancy brought up different challenges. One day I would feel anxious about making sure I was eating the right foods or exercising in the safest way possible, and the next day I would feel stressed about my upcoming prenatal scan or whether or not I would be able to handle the pain of labor.
Eventually all of this nervousness started to affect my mood, my sleep and my relationship with my partner. In effort to ease my worried mind, I looked into ways that I could naturally decrease my stress and anxiety while pregnant, and that’s when I came across the science behind meditation during pregnancy.
I had heard that meditation was good for people’s mental health but, I had no idea how beneficial it was for pregnant women and their growing babies. Below are the top 5 scientifically proven benefits of why women should meditate during pregnancy.
The Science Behind Pregnancy Meditation
When I became pregnant, my doctor never spoke to me about how stress could affect the health of my growing baby. Research shows that high levels of stress and anxiety increase risk factors during pregnancy, and by keeping stress levels low, you can give your baby a better environment in which to grow (1). Practicing regular meditation and mindfulness during pregnancy can significantly reduce stress (2)
I never knew how important it was for the development of your baby to carry to term until I became pregnant myself. When I learned the benefits of a full-term pregnancy and read about how a study that explored preterm birth found that women who participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early than women with no mindfulness education(3), I was floored. Knowing this, made me up my meditation practice in my third trimester, and encouraged me to share the benefits of meditations with a lot of my friends who were pregnant with twins and had a higher chance of delivering pre-term.
The pain and uncertainty of giving birth was without a doubt on my mind throughout my entire pregnancy. However, knowing that a study of 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 40 percent (4) helped me to have more confidence that meditation would support me during labor.
When my doctor shared with me that I was more likely to get sick during pregnancy I was constantly worried about catching a cold, but because meditation enhances the body’s immune function (5), I knew I was taking big steps towards reducing my chances of contracting a virus.
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 pregnant. When I started meditating, I was shocked to see an almost immediate change in the quality of my sleep, but when I learned that studies have shown that individuals who practice meditation experience higher quality sleep than non-meditators (6), I knew that meditation was playing a key role in me getting better rest at night.
There are so many different forms of meditation out there but the one that really resonated with me throughout my pregnancy was Expectful. Their guided meditations are made specifically for pregnant women, are perfect for beginner or advanced meditators, and speak directly to what I was experiencing emotionally as a pregnant woman.
However, what I truly loved aside from the fact that they are guided, was the variety of meditations that they offer. Their meditations are broken down by trimester, they offer sleep meditations, gratitude meditations, walking meditations and ones for relaxing or starting your day, which helped me to always have access to the meditation I truly needed in that moment.
If you’re interested in trying Expectful, check out their free trial here.
Whirledge, S., & Cidlowski, J.A. (2010). Glucocorticoids, stress, and fertility. Minerva Endocrinologica, 35(2), 109-125.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nagendra, R. P., Maruthai, N., & Kutty, B. M. (2012). Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep. Frontiers in Neurology, 3(54), 1-4.