What are the benefits of meditation during pregnancy, and can it even help you have a pain-free labour?
With our pregnancy blogger Gill from A Baby on Board just weeks away from the birth of her second baby, here's a guest post about the advantages of using meditation in labour, and the potential benefits to both you and your baby:
Pregnancy for many is undoubtedly a happy and joyous time. The expectation of a new addition to our family is certainly a time for celebration and enjoyment. It’s almost expected of us and people kindly send their well wishes and cards of congratulations. It can therefore be alarming for some when they find the experience of labour strangely challenging and stressful.
The changes in hormones, concerns about wanting to be a good mother and potential alterations to your own personal lifestyle, can all play there part towards ensuring our minds become a bundle of nerves to closer we get to the joyous day. While we can solider on, put on a brave face and ultimately get through it, research has shown that the levels of stress and anxiety experienced during labour can have a direct influence on the birthing process and on our newly born children.
While it’s no magical pill and can’t guarantee that your children will graduate from Cambridge with honours and a medical degree, meditation has been shown to help reduce the discomfort, both physical and mental, for many expectant mothers. So if you’re finding it a bit of a struggle and you’re tired from eating gherkins with ice-cream, maybe these tips and advice may help.
How can meditation reduce stress & anxiety?
It’s of no great surprise that during pregnancy a woman’s hormonal system is turned completely upside down. Emotions are altered and we can often find ourselves more susceptible to stress and anxiety.
When stressed, adrenaline and cortisol are released throughout the body causing anxiety for both the mother and baby. The very sensitive fetal nervous system can experience the mother's stress and the baby can start mirroring the mother's stress patterns. These negative experiences can influence the developmental process (both physiological and behavioural) which in turn may have adverse consequences for the mental/physical health, well-being and aging of the baby throughout the entire life-span.
Meditation has been used to help control these hormonal surges by bringing the production or adrenaline and cortisol down to more manageable levels. By focusing internally we can reduce the neo-cortical activity of the brain and enable the production of more Theta waves, slowing brain, heart, and blood stream activity. All contributing to a more healthy environment for our children.
Studies have shown that new-borns whose mums meditate tended to be less fussy and were naturally more easy-going.
Just as the initial stage of conception was presumably a fairly enjoyable experience, one that was free from stress and anxiety (well we hope so), giving birth can be made easier by obtaining this same clarity of thought, free from the constant chattering of our mind.
By practicing meditation, letting go and reaching a relaxed and comfortable state of mind, we can let nature take its course without the disruption of unhealthy thoughts, hormones and nervousness.
Meditation: a natural painkiller?
Pain is probably one of the very first things pregnant women fear the most, and for good reason, we’re intrinsically programmed to avoid it! But don’t loose heart, your body is designed to give birth, and the easier you take it, the easier it will be.
Pain management is something not many people associate with meditation. It can however be controlled naturally through the practice of deep relaxation, stimulating the hypothalamus glands that release more endorphins into your body. Similar in principal to how many painkillers work.
A Wake Forest University study conducted by Fadel Zeidan in April 2011 showed that regular meditation training could reduce pain by up to 40 percent. When compared with morphine or other pain-relieving drugs that typically reduced pain ratings by about 25 percent, the results are both surprising and encouraging.
Because the mother’s hormonal system is tightly linked to the baby’s, the future new born will in turn feel more relaxed. They will start producing more endorphins themselves that can ultimately lead to less agitation and a smoother labour.
Meditation is a natural and free tool, and it is also the amazing opportunity to start creating synergy and connection with your baby during birth.
Reduction in Caesarean Sections and Epidurals
Meditation has been shown to reduce the need for anaesthesia, surgery and drugs during the delivery. The human body by its very design has all the necessary tools to counteract some of the discomfort associated with labour. It’s of no real surprise that the way we think has a direct relation to how our body behaves. All meditation provides is an optimal environment for nature to take it’s course.
Research examining the affects of meditation prior and during labour shows that the need for caesarean section surgery can be reduced by up to 56%, and the use of epidurals by up to 85%.
So now how can you put this into practice?
Meditation is the process of mastering your mind and reaching your inner-self, and as with anything worthwhile in life, it’s something that needs training.
Start with 20 minutes meditation twice a day during your pregnancy’s early stages. While results should be noticeable immediately you will feel significantly more relaxed and in tune with your body within five weeks.
On the “day of the birth” two easy techniques can be used:
• Breathing techniques – run a deep and equal breaths to calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress (inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four)
• Deep sound toning – consists of singing a vowel sound or syllable for the length of an exhalation. By repeating this vocal exercise our whole body resonates with the vibration of the sound, our breathing becomes slower breathing and thus we obtain a more relaxed body and mind.
Will William who teaches Vedic meditation in Brighton, recommends pre-natal meditation for any mother willing to live a healthier and happier pregnancy and claims that:
“Meditation during pregnancy and labour has been proven to be so successful that in some cases mothers have laughed their way through childbirth!”
Did you try meditation during pregnancy, and did it help with your labour? Leave a comment below and let us know.