The benefits of meditation
From the first trimester to the delivery room and even post-natal, meditation could potentially have huge benefits for you and your baby. Katherine Price investigates.
Pregnancy can be a stressful experience enough without having to consider the repercussions stress could be having on your baby.
Recent research has linked feelings of stress during pregnancy with poorer coordination in children, and even suggested it could be passed on by dads, meaning that stress could be affecting your unborn child in ways you hadn't even considered. But could meditation help us slow down our hectic lifestyles and benefit mum and baby?
Meditation is the simple practice of focusing on your breathing, relaxation and clearing your mind of thoughts. It can help you control your emotions and mood swings (and with all those hormones who doesn't need that?), it can help reduce stress and anxiety, and one study has suggested it could be even more effective in reducing pain than morphine.
Researchers in Hong Kong found a link between pre-natal meditation and a positive influence on the baby's health and behaviour and recommended that prenatal meditation should be offered to pregnant women.
For an effective meditation:
- Set aside time for your meditation so you aren't thinking about other things – this is your only task now, and you are more likely to stick to it if you schedule it in. Whether it's every day or just once a week, we all know the importance of scheduling in mama me-time.
- Choose a quiet place where you aren't going to be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position, whether that's on the floor, on a mat, a chair or a bed, you and your bump should be comfortable.
- Use podcasts, CDs, videos, books, classic or music if they help – or even simply a darkened room if it helps you clear your mind. Find what works for you.
- Slowly increase your meditation time. This will come the more you practice, the more you meditate the longer you'll be able to keep your mind clear and free of niggling thoughts. Take it from 10 minutes to 15, then 20, and so on. Don't make huge demands of yourself to start; take it slowly.
Sonia Wynn-Jones, a meditation tutor and founder of the Peace of Mind meditation centre, says meditation can really help silence those niggling doubts and concerns about pregnancy and birth: "It may well be the happiest times of a woman's life, but it may also be one of the most stressful. Especially for first timers!"
She says it can really help mums-to-be and new mums with their confidence and self-esteem as well as de-stressing, and can even help during birth: "Not only is it good to help you remain calm, but it can also be very helpful when it comes to pain control. When we are in pain, we automatically tense up and tighten our muscles, which makes it even worse." The breathing and muscle relaxation exercises involved in meditation can be used to counterract this.