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Why You Need to Sit Down & Shut Up: Pregnancy Meditation

We know you’re busy getting ready for the baby: Attending appointments, buying supplies and researching how to parent, all while carrying out your normal daily chores.

But we’re going to ask you to stop all that. In fact, we’re going to ask you to stop everything. But just for a few minutes.

While the thought of sitting down in silence with your own thoughts may sound scary at first, it’s highly beneficial to both you and your baby.

In this guide, we’ll outline the benefits of pregnancy meditation and give you a quick how-to on each type of meditation.

 

What is Pregnancy Meditation?

The word “meditation” may bring thoughts of a Buddhist sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed, chanting “om” for hours on end.

If that’s the case, it’s time to paint a new picture: A pregnant woman sitting on her sofa, breathing in and out with her eyes closed. It only lasts for 5 minutes, then she gets on with the rest of her day.

Meditation is a practice where someone focuses their attention on a word, thought, object, visualization, sound or activity. The objective is to try to clear your thoughts and just focus. Through this, you can achieve a calm and quiet mind.

It’s important to note that if you’re just beginning, you may experience racing thoughts and your mind may not be completely quiet. This does not mean you failed at meditating. Meditation is the practice of TRYING to clear your mind. Many experts suggest acknowledging your thoughts and simply letting them flow by, bringing your attention back to your focus point (object, word, etc.).

Depending on the type of meditation, it’s usually done while sitting in a quiet environment. It can last from as short as one minute to over hours.

Although meditation has Asian origins and is a spiritual practice for some, Western research has shown its effectiveness. Over the years, meditation has become more commonly practiced. From a patient trying to relieve anxiety to a CEO trying to increase productivity, the practice can benefit most people.

There are many different types of meditations, which we will cover below.

The Benefits of Pregnancy Meditation: According to Science

In general, meditation has been shown to have numerous benefits:

  • Sleep improvement
  • Stress relief
  • Increases positive emotions
  • Decreases pain and inflammation
  • Increases emotional intelligence
  • Improves memory, focus and productivity

Meditation can also bring specific benefits to pregnant women.

Stress Reduction

Whether pregnancy has brought more stress into your life or if you’re just worried about your baby, meditation may help.

A 2016 Indian study of 74 pregnant women found that mindfulness meditation significantly decreased stress and lowered blood pressure. Researchers concluded that the practice can help control the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the fight or flight response).

Improves Infant Behavior

A 2014 Chinese study concluded that prenatal meditation has a positive influence on infant behaviors. The researcher developed an Eastern-based meditative practice that focuses on mindfulness, cognitive therapies and Western psychology.

The 179 participants filled out an infant temperament questionnaire and their babies’ cortisol levels were tested. The researcher found that infants with meditating mothers had better mood scores. The study’s author recommended that care providers provide meditation resources to pregnant women.

Lowers Risk of Pre-term Labor

If you’re at risk for pre-term labor or just want to prevent it, try a relaxation exercise.

A 1999 study examined the effect of a relaxation practice on preterm labor. Researchers gave participants tapes of the exercise and asked them to do it daily. They found that women who followed the daily practice had significantly longer gestations and larger newborns. The authors concluded that since the therapy is so low cost, it should be offered to all women who are at risk for preterm labor.

May Help You Stop Drinking or Smoking

Even though you know drinking during pregnancy is a big no-no, you may still struggle from abstaining. Instead of just using sheer willpower and your desire for a healthy baby as motivation, try meditation too.

A 2014 study showed that meditation is a promising treatment for those suffering from alcoholism. A small group of alcohol-dependent adults were asked to complete an 8-week meditation course along with at-home meditations. With the new practice, participants abstained from alcohol about 95% of the study days. About 47% were completely sober from alcohol during the study. These success levels matched the results of alcoholics using medication at a 12 or 16-week follow up. This means the study showed that meditation was not only as effective as using medication to stop drinking—but it produced quicker results too.

If you’re a smoker, meditation may help with that, too. In one post, meditation expert Pragito Dove discusses how she used relaxation techniques to stop smoking. A 2012 study concluded that mindfulness training may offer bigger benefits than those offered by current smoking treatments.

Types of Meditation and How to Practice Them

Meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. There are many types of meditation. If one doesn’t work for you after a few attempts, try another.

Guided Meditation

If the act of simply breathing while focusing on nothing sounds way too vague, consider guided meditation. These recordings tell you how to breathe and how to deal with your flowing thoughts.

You’ll Need:

  • A guided meditation recording. You can find free ones on YouTube or a meditation app such as Calm. There are also pregnancy-specific meditations on apps such as Positive Pregnancy.
  • A laptop, phone or another device to play the meditation
  • A place to sit or lay

How-To:

  1. Spend some time trying to find the right guided meditation. You may relax with one teacher’s voice, while another may irritate you.
  2. Find a comfortable spot to sit and play the recording on your device and follow the instructions.

Visualization Meditation

If you’re new to meditation or have a hard time being alone with your thoughts, a guided visual meditation may be a good place to start.

You’ll Need:

How-To:

  1. Spend some time trying to find the right guided meditation. Some recordings take you through a forest or beach while others are more abstract.
  2. Find a comfortable spot to sit and play the recording on your device and follow the instructions.
  3. If you find your thoughts drifting, gently bring your attention back to the recording.
  4. Once you learn a few good visualizations, you can do them yourself without a recording, if you wish.

Mindfulness Meditation

Research has shown that mindfulness meditation has many benefits. The practice helps people bring mindfulness into their daily lives—making them happier and less stressed.

How-To:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay.
  2. Focus on your breathing. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Focus on the sensations of breathing in this manner.
  4. If your mind starts to race, it’s okay. Don’t judge your thoughts or entertain them. Simply bring your attention back to your breathing.
  5. While it may be difficult to focus at first, your mind will usually get quieter over time.
  6. Start with a few minutes at first and work your way up. We recommended meditating for 10 minutes, but if you’re too squirmy, even 3 minutes to start will do.

Visual Focus Meditation

Focusing on something visually may help you better direct your attention.

How-To:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay.
  2. Find a physical object to focus on, such as a candle flame, and place it in front of you. Another option is to visualize a symbol in your mind, such as a heart or an infinity sign.
  3. Simply focus on the object or symbol while you breathe in and out.
  4. If your mind begins to wander, come back to the object or symbol and refocus.
  5. Start with a few minutes at first and work your way up. We recommended meditating for 10 minutes, but if you’re too squirmy, even 3 minutes to start will do.

Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation is the type of meditation you’re thinking of when you picture a Buddhist monk chanting. Speaking a word or phrase can help you clear your mind without silence.

How-To:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay.
  2. Choose a word, phrase or sound. Examples include om, love, joy, etc. You can even invent your own phrase or sound.
  3. Repeat this phrase over and over, focusing on it. You can do this in your head or out loud. It doesn’t matter how loud or quiet you are.
  4. Start with a few minutes at first and work your way up. We recommended meditating for 10 minutes, but if you’re too squirmy, even 3 minutes to start will do.

Movement Meditation

If you can’t bring yourself to sit down in silence, that’s okay! Many physical activities can be a form of meditation.

Meditation Movement Exercises Can Include:

  • Yoga
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Walking or jogging (hint: focus your attention on something specific, such as the color of each front door you pass)
  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi
  • Gardening

How-To:

  1. Choose the movement or exercise that works best for you.
  2. Focus on the movement and let your thoughts simply pass by.

 

Are you thinking of trying prenatal meditation? If so, comment below which type of meditation you think will work best for you. If you have any pregnant friends, share this article to help them calm their minds, too!

P.S. Looking for other ways to decrease stress while pregnant? Our fetal dopplers are at-home devices that allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat inside the womb—ensuring you that he or she is okay. Pretty amazing, right?

 

References:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638314000733

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1552-6909.1999.tb01990.x/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106278/

http://discovermeditation.com/2066/blog/meditation-news/quit-smoking-with-meditation-technique/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191261/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4866093/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today

https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation#movement-meditation

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638314000733

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