Meditation Matters

Over the past decade there have been hundreds of studies on the science of mindfulness and meditation, as well as the unwanted effects that stress and anxiety can create during pregnancy.

Read on to learn about the research on meditation during pregnancy, and why it’s so important for you and your baby.

None of us can predict or control all the factors that can lead to increased stress, especially during pregnancy. But practicing regular meditation and mindfulness during pregnancy can significantly reduce stress 1 and anxiety levels 2. Through meditation you can learn to maintain an inner calm regardless of your external circumstances.

Meditation increases your ability to recognize emotions in others and to practice compassion 7. These skills can help cultivate a stronger relationship with your partner and make you feel more connected to your baby.

Mindfulness training during pregnancy has been associated with more optimal infant outcomes, including fewer problems with self-regulation and negative affectivity 3. It has also been related to better sound processing among babies 4.

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 painful stimulus by 40 percent 5. Researchers have also discovered that meditators have significantly lower pain sensitivity 6. Pain reduction can help you have an easier pregnancy, delivery, and recovery, no matter what your birth plan looks like.

A study that explored preterm birth found that women that participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early than women with no mindfulness education 1.

Meditation enhances the body’s immune function 8.

At least 1 in 10 women experience postpartum depression, although the prevalence may actually be much higher9. Mindfulness practices have been associated with reduced depression during and following pregnancy10, which can greatly improve psychological health2.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Van den Heuvel M.I., Johannes, M.A., Henrichs, J., & Van den Bergh, B.R.H. (2015). Maternal mindfulness during pregnancy and infant socio-emotional development and temperament: The mediating role of maternal anxiety. Early Human Development, 91(2), 103-108​.
  4. Van den Heuvel, M.I., Donkers, F.C.L., Wilkler, I., Otte, R.A., & Van den Bergh, B.R.H. (2015). Maternal mindfulness and anxiety during pregnancy affect infants’ neural responses to sounds. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10, 453-460.
  5. 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.
  1. Grant, J., Courtemanche, J., Duerden, E.G., Duncan, G.H., & Rainville, P. (2010). Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators. Emotion, 10(1), 43–53.
  2. Kemeny, M.E., Foltz, C., Cavanagh, J.F., Cullen, M., Giese-Davis, J., Jennings, P., … Ekman, P. (2012). Contemplative/Emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses. Emotion, 12(2), 338-350.
  3. 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.
  4. Halbreich, U., & Karkun, S. (2006). Cross-cultural and social diversity of prevalence of postpartum depression and depressive symptoms. Journal of Affective Disorders, 91, 97-111.
  5. Dimidjian, S., Goodman, S.H., Felder, J.N., Gallop, R., Brown, A.P., & Beck, A. (2015). An open trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the prevention of perinatal depressive relapse/recurrence. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 18(1), 85-94.