Motherhood, Pregnancy and Meditation:
15 Amazing Health Benefits of a Mindful Birth For Mother and Child
BY DR. JULI FRAGA
photo: melancholie photocase.com
There’s nothing quite as profound as the journey toward motherhood. Over the course of nine months, a woman’s body undergoes countless physical transformations—her belly expands to make space for her growing baby, her breasts change as they prepare to make milk after delivery, and her ligaments soften to prepare for giving birth.
For a long time, moms-to-be have focused on accompanying these physical changes by nourishing the body with prenatal vitamins, healthy food, exercise and plenty of rest. All of which are known for helping to create a healthy pregnancy.
However, recent research shows that a pregnant woman’s body isn’t the only key factor when it comes to a healthy pregnancy—the health of her mind is as well. In fact, the mind and body connection has a profound effect on the wellness of both mom and baby during pregnancy. Luckily, when it comes to keeping the mind healthy, you don’t need to spend 30 minutes at the gym or make sure you take all your vitamins. All you need is a space to sit and a few minutes a day to practice prenatal meditation.
The Health Benefits of Meditation During Pregnancy
Many expectant mothers might be surprised to learn how meditation benefits their developing baby, their birth outcomes, and their emotional health. Several recent research studies show that mindfulness meditation can help women manage pregnancy-related stress, help prevent preterm birth, and help them cope with the fears of childbirth. We’ve outlined some of these studies about meditation for pregnant women below, highlighting the science behind this age-old practice.
Here’s some of the science behind pregnancy meditation.
Promotes a Healthier Birth Process
1. Decreases risk of premature birth 
High levels of stress and anxiety increase risk factors for premature birth during pregnancy, lowering stress levels through regular prenatal baby meditation gives you and your baby a better environment in which to grow. One research study also found that women who participated in a prenatal mindfulness program were 50% less likely to give birth early when compared to those who did not receive mindfulness education.
2. Improves Immunity 
Science shows that meditation improves the body’s immune function, ensuring physical wellness for mother and baby.
3. Decreases Childbirth Fears 
Research shows that women who learn mindfulness skills as part of childbirth education experience less fear about the childbirth process.
4. Helps Women Manage the Pain of Labor 
One study shows that people who attended a four-day mindfulness meditation training were able to decrease the intensity of physical pain by 40%. Pregnancy meditation tips and techniques can ease the labor process.
5. Helps Women Manage Symptoms of Insomnia 
Mindfulness meditation helps women manage the symptoms of insomnia, which helps prevent preterm birth, suggesting another potential benefit of meditation for pregnant women.
The Emotional Benefits
6. Decreases Risk of Prenatal Depression and Anxiety 
Women who learn the life skills of mindfulness during pregnancy experience fewer symptoms of prenatal depression and anxiety, highlighting the importance of learning how to meditate and practice baby/prenatal meditation.
7. Lowers Cortisol Levels (the stress hormone)
Practicing mindfulness meditation helps reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which is associated with physical and emotional distress. Research shows high levels of the hormone may negatively impact the baby’s physical and cognitive development and suggests that pregnancy meditation can benefit the mom and baby’s mental health.
8. Helps Women Cope With Uncertainty 
Science shows that practicing mindfulness meditation, including pregnancy or baby meditation, can help mothers cope with the myriad physical and emotional changes that pregnancy brings.
9. Regulates Emotions 
Learning the life skills of how to meditate helps us to regulate our emotions, making it more likely that we can ‘respond’ instead of ‘react’ to stressful situations.
10. Helps Women Cope with Stress 
Research shows that women who learn mindfulness skills, like prenatal meditation, during pregnancy experience a greater decrease in prenatal anxiety than those who do not learn meditation techniques for pregnant women.
The Science Behind Postnatal Meditation
Mindfulness meditation isn’t only beneficial during pregnancy; science shows it’s helpful during the postpartum period, too. In fact, research also suggests that ‘Mindful Parenting’ helps mothers (and fathers!) to manage the stress of parenthood, offering health benefits throughout the parenthood journey.
Physical Benefits and Emotional Benefits
Here’s some of the science behind postnatal meditation.
11. Improves Sleep Quality for New Parents 
Sleep disruption is part of new parenthood, but research shows that individuals who practice meditation experience higher quality sleep than non-meditators.
12. Increases Milk Production [4,5]
Low milk supply is stressful for new mothers, and stress can impact production. Post-pregnancy meditation can help lower stress levels, positively impacting the breastfeeding experience.
13. Reduces Risk of Postpartum Depression 
Almost 20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD), the #1 complication of pregnancy. Research shows that mindfulness may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, improving a woman’s psychological health through pregnancy meditation and mindfulness practices.
14. Enhances Stress Tolerance 
New parenthood is filled with unknowns, and coping with the uncertainty that motherhood brings is stressful. Research suggests that mindfulness practices, such as prenatal and baby meditation can help increase one’s tolerance for emotional discomfort, which increases your ability to cope with feeling out of control or overwhelmed—a common experience for new mothers and fathers.
15. Increases Parental Well-being 
Research shows that practicing mindfulness meditation helps mothers to manage parenting stress, which helps to increase positive interactions with their babies and children.
How to Begin a Pregnancy Meditation Practice
Despite [1,2] what people believe, you don’t have to schedule a long meditation retreat to learn and benefit from the life skills of mindfulness meditation. To begin practicing prenatal meditation, simply focus on one thing like your breath, a single word, or a sensation in your body. If your mind wanders, simply bring your focus back to whatever you were focusing on.
Like exercise, mindfulness meditation is a practice that grows the more you do it. Over time, you’ll become more aware of your thoughts, anchoring into the present moment instead of ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future.
The Easiest Way to Get Started
Meditation apps, such as Expectful make the practice accessible and easy to use. Expectful provides specific guided meditations for women throughout their fertility, pregnancy and new motherhood journeys.
The company helps women strengthen the mind and body connection along with their connection to themselves. The app and website offer a menu of mindfulness meditation options for pregnant women and couples to cultivate everything from sleep to deeper connection (just to name a few). Grounded in science, the meditations are all developed by licensed hypnotherapists, meditation experts, sound engineers, and psychologists. 
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3. 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.
4. 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.
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About The Author
Dr. Juli Fraga is a psychologist and health writer. She specializes in women’s health, especially as it relates to the reproductive and maternal wellness. She’s written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. You can find her on Twitter, @dr_fraga.