Published on May 18th, 2020
It’s normal to have some anxiety during pregnancy as your body changes and your hormone levels fluctuate. And though anxiety is an inescapable part of life, that doesn’t mean you have to just tough it out. Getting ready for your baby’s arrival requires significant planning, and you deserve to relax as much as you can in the months leading up to your birth.
If you’re looking for a convenient, natural way to destress, meditation is ideal for a pregnant woman.
Meditation and mindfulness practices have a host of positive health effects, and there’s no physical limitations or equipment required. You can meditate just about anywhere, at any time, to get some much-needed relaxation.
All you need is you, your growing baby, and your mind. Read along to learn the benefits of meditation and to find the right meditation technique for you!
Benefits of Meditation During Pregnancy
Meditation is known to have a variety of health benefits. Scientific studies have measured the efficacy of practicing meditation and its ability to help people with everything from general anxiety to cardiovascular issues.
According to Healthline, known benefits of meditation include:
- Decreasing stress
- Promoting overall emotional well-being
- Improving sleep
- Coping with pain
Importantly, because meditation lowers stress, it can help with both emotional and physical health. You may have witnessed firsthand that stress can extend beyond the mind and into the body, causing an upset stomach, headaches, and more. Over time, these effects can build up, leading to inflammation and a range of negative health outcomes.
Meditation and its Role in Stress Management During Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, everyone from your doctor to your mother may be telling you that it’s important to stay calm. However, this can actually cause additional stress—stress about being stressed. Studies show that meditation can specifically help with this kind of pregnancy anxiety and control your stress level.
In a 2014 trial, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles studied women experiencing pregnancy-related anxiety. One group entered a six-week mindfulness program, while the control group conducted reading about pregnancy. Due to this experiment’s unique design, both groups’ anxiety improved. However, the women who practiced mindfulness reported a more significant decline in stress.
An additional 2016 study suggests that women who meditate don’t only perceive less stress: the practice actually produces positive physiological changes. Shobitha Muthukrishnan and her colleagues write that:
“There was a significant decrease in perceived stress scores, a significant decrease of blood pressure, and a significant increase in heart rate variability in the test group which indicates that mindfulness meditation is a powerful modulator of the sympathetic nervous system and can thereby reduce the day-to-day perceived stress in pregnant women.”
This study suggests that meditation actually decreases anxiety’s effects on the body, including elevated blood pressure and heart rate.
Meditation May Help Your Infant, Too
In a 2014 study, researcher Ka Po Chan studied the effect of meditation on maternal and fetal health. Chan found that fetuses demonstrated lower levels of cortisol when their mothers practiced meditation, which may indicate that their environments were less stressful. In addition, after giving birth, women filled out a questionnaire on their infants’ temperament. Chan writes that:
“…the infants of intervention group have better temperament at fifth month [which] reflects the importance of prenatal meditation in relation to child health. Present study concludes the positive effects of prenatal meditation on infant behaviors and recommends that pregnancy care providers should provide prenatal meditation to pregnant women.”
Chan notes that women who experience less anxiety during pregnancy are less likely to experience postpartum depression. Therefore, it’s likely a compounded effect: meditating mothers reported better infant behavior in part because they themselves were happier.
Tips for Meditation
To promote a peaceful environment for you and your growing baby, here are some tips to get started and for a more mindful practice.
- Get comfortable
- Start with deep breathing
- Use a fetal doppler
- Choose a technique to stay present
- Start slow
- Stay consistent
Tip #1: Get Comfortable
So you’re ready to start meditating. But when you think of meditation, you may picture a Buddhist monk sitting in a cold, damp cave. While the goal of meditation is to neutrally observe your sensations, that doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to discomfort. In fact, it can be much easier to sink into your meditation if you feel at ease in your environment.
To make sure you’re comfortable, start off by finding a place in your home where you’re unlikely to be interrupted by noise like a spouse’s phone calls or a cat scratching at the door. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing that keeps you adequately warm.
Then, choose your position.
Find Your Seat
Meditation is traditionally practiced in a cross-legged seat. However, you can practice meditation in any position that is comfortable for your body. Options include:
- Sitting on a cushion – Experiment with different leg positions, and consider supporting your knees with pillows, blocks, or even folded towels.
- Finding back support – Sit against a wall if that helps you relax your spine. Alternately, sit in a chair.
- A restorative pregnancy yoga position – You may be able to fully relax in a prenatal yoga pose like supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle pose). Be sure to use pillows, bolsters, and other props to support your position.
Tip #2: Start with Deep Breathing
The breath is the doorway into a deeper awareness of your body and your baby. Deep breathing is known to help facilitate relaxation even outside of meditation practices. This is because this breathing exercise affects other bodily systems. Harvard Health Publishing explains that:
“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.”
Modern science confirms that deep breathing can help us to relax and prepare ourselves for meditation. Additionally, it can be the meditation itself. In traditional yoga philosophy, there are eight limbs of yoga practice. Pranayama or breathing exercises are the fourth limb, while Dhyana, or meditation, is the seventh.
While this might sound like they’re separate, it’s more accurate to think of them as interconnected. Deep breathing is both a gateway to better meditation and part of the meditation process itself. Deep breathing is also an important practice to factor in when it comes to pregnancy workouts at home.
To get started meditating with deep breathing, try the following practice:
- Once in your comfortable position, close your eyes or look at a fixed point.
- Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand over your heart.
- Inhale deeply, feeling your breath connect with your belly and baby.
- As you continue to inhale, feel your breath arriving further up in your diaphragm under your heart.
- Exhale fully, feeling your breath fall underneath your palms.
- Repeat for at least one minute, building up to 5 minutes over time.
Tip #3 Use a Fetal Doppler
Listening to a fetal doppler while meditating can provide an intimate, reassuring soundtrack to your meditations. Feel free to pair this with deep breathing, imagining that you’re sending your baby nourishing, warm breaths on each inhale.
With the SneakPeek fetal doppler, you can listen to your baby’s:
There’s really no better soundscape to meditate to.
Tip #4: Choose a Technique to Stay Present
When you first start out meditating, you might feel frustrated if you can’t focus. After all, the goal is to get your mind off your daily stressors, not to turn them over and over in your mind. Don’t feel like you have to sit in silence trying your hardest to clear your mind of any thoughts. Instead, use one of the following meditation techniques:
- Mantra meditation – A mantra isn’t just a motto. The Sanskrit word, mantra, means: “to cross over the mind.” These phrases are meant to help you cross over your regular thoughts into peace and stillness. To practice this kind of meditation, repeat your mantra to yourself with each breath. Yogi Approved offers the following mantras for pregnancy, although you can also make your own up:
- Breathing will soothe me and my baby.
- I am full of peaceful power.
- Visualization – Sometimes, picturing something in your mind’s eye can give you a focus while meditating. Try picturing a golden thread connecting your heart to your baby’s heart. On the inhale, this thread brightens. On the exhale, you feel the strength of your connection.
- Counting meditation – If you want to focus on simply clearing your mind, you can also try counting your breaths. Try counting up to 10. When you reach 10, return to 1 and start again. If you lose your place or your mind wanders, notice the thought itself without judgment and then begin again.
Tip #5 Start Slow
You may have a friend who goes for 10-day silent meditation retreats. However, if you try to go from 0 to 60, you may overwhelm yourself. The goal of pregnancy meditation isn’t to add pressure to your life, but to relieve it.
Start off with a short amount of time, meditating for just 3-5 minutes. You can set a timer so that you aren’t distracted by checking the clock. Soon, you may realize that you want to keep meditating even once your timer goes off.
Tip #6: Stay Consistent
The key with meditation isn’t length, but consistency. Instead of meditating once a week for 30 minutes, try meditating for 5 minutes at the same time each day. Create a routine around your meditation practice to help you stick to it:
- Some people find it helpful to meditate in the morning when their minds are clear and to put themselves in a good mindset for the rest of the day.
- Others like to meditate at night to help them relax before bed.
- Don’t worry or stress if you miss a meditation session. Just do it later in the day or start again the next day.
It’s never too early or late in your pregnancy to start meditating to keep your mental health in check. You can try pregnancy meditation starting with the first trimester and onwards. Over time, you may feel called to meditate more often, or for longer periods. However, just a few minutes of daily meditation might be enough to help you feel calm, connected, and confident throughout your pregnancy.
Combat Nerves with the SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test
If you’re experiencing anxiety during your pregnancy, it’s important to have more than one tool to cope. If not knowing your baby’s gender is contributing to your unease, then let’s solve that together.
With the SneakPeek early gender prediction test, find out your baby’s gender as early as 8 weeks into your pregnancy. After you order your test kit, you can collect your sample from the comfort of your own home. Send it in right away to get your results within days.
By combatting the nerves and finding peace in meditation while pregnant, you and your baby will be at ease!
Psychological Health. Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of Mindfulness Training for Stress Reduction during Pregnancy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4160533/
Infant Behavior and Development. Prenatal meditation influences infant behaviors. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638314000733
Jivamukti Yoga. Mantra. https://jivamuktiyoga.com/fotm/mantra/
Yogi Approved. Pregnancy mantras for moms. https://www.yogiapproved.com/om/pregnancy-mantras-for-moms/
Healthline. 12 benefits of meditation. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation
Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Perceived Stress Scores and Autonomic Function Tests of Pregnant Indian Women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4866093/
Harvard Health Publishing. Relaxation techniques. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response