Your body is preparing for motherhood; an incredibly rewarding but physically demanding adventure. If you find yourself in a maelstrom of mood swings – amidst the cramping, soreness, nausea, cravings and other palpable changes that characterise the experience of early pregnancy – you are not alone.
People who have prior experience of this epic journey and those who are embarking on their first pregnancy alike will recognise the resplendent rarity of those moments where you feel truly at peace. They are all too fleeting, when you are usually caught between the rock of your bodily discomfort and the hard place of your pre-birth to-do list.
Expectant parents who integrate meditation into this intensely vibrant period reap multiple rewards. These range from tranquility on tap, to the host of developmental benefits that a calmer host nervous system offers the baby. Mantra-based meditation is one of the easiest types of meditation to take up, making it eminently suited to this brilliant but busy time.
Meditation: a counterintuitive catalyst for calm
In pregnancy, just like the rest of life, we can find ourselves wading stoically through the sands of time that stretch between each mini oasis of calm we experience. It is easy to forget that it is possible to take steps, like practicing meditation, to actively increase our access to serenity.
Pregnancy is a totalistic lifestyle change. It can feel overwhelmingly full of unfamiliar sensations, guidelines to follow and new skills to learn. Adding an extra activity to your day-to-day repertoire may feel counterintuitive. Likewise, you might feel that there is something off-beat about taking time out of your new-parent marathon – preparing the world around you for the new arrival growing inside you – to focus on your own inner world.
However – when your me-time activity is mantra-based meditation – you can benefit your growing baby exponentially, at the same time as carving out some grounding for your frazzled but excited self. Pregnant people who make time for regular meditation effect powerful changes to the functioning of the body, boosting the healthy development of the passenger(s) within.
Explore alternatives to “avoiding stress”
The injunction to avoid stress is one of the most impossible tasks dressed up as advice with which our society traditionally bombards pregnant people, as well as those who are trying to conceive. In reality, stress is inevitable, particularly when your existence involves aggregating your regular financial and professional pressures with the sense of responsibility parenthood entails, all at the same time as taking every possible measure to safeguard the health of your developing baby.
Rather than cautioning people to avoid stress – an endeavor destined to become a stressor itself, by generating a perpetual sensation of failing – a much more holistic approach would be to make everybody aware of protective stress-management techniques like meditation. Knowing that you can defend yourself and your baby against the ill-effects of any stress that you experience will empower you to live your most fulfilled life throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal stress: managing associated risks
The link between prenatal stress and fetal development is not yet fully understood, but is believed to relate primarily to the transmission of stress-related hormones from mother to baby, in the womb.
When we are stressed, our bodies enter a primal state called “fight or flight” mode, producing the stress hormones, called neophrenine and cortisol. These set the heart pumping faster and more blood flowing to the muscles, to ready the body to defend itself from danger. Unfortunately, in our contemporary, western mode existence, the most dangerous thing about nearly all situations that precipitate stress is actually “fight or flight” mode itself, and the long-term health risks of entering this hyper vigilant, tensed-up state.
People who experience stress regularly become predisposed to develop a multitude of associated health problems. Constantly flowing cortisol impacts our breathing, circulation, and the mechanisms by which our bodies process impurities and fight off infections. The stress hormone can also pass from mother to baby via the placenta – an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy in order to pass oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby.
Learning an effective technique to manage stress during pregnancy is therefore one of the most beneficial things an expectant mother can do to reduce the likelihood of the baby developing preventable health problems. High levels of stress not only diminish the nourishing capabilities of the host body, but also heighten the risk of negative birth outcomes, such as premature delivery and low birthweight. Circumnavigating the acute stress state and thereby reducing levels of cortisol in the body will help create the most protective possible atmosphere for the gestating fetus.
Meditating for two: the protective effects of mediation
Everybody who practices it will have different perceptions of the ways that meditation has made a positive impact to their pregnancy. For people who are just getting started, some of the principal benefits of meditating in pregnancy include:
Boosting your mood. Mantra-based meditation not only regulates the nervous system, reducing the toxic effects of stress, it also boosts the production of endorphins, which reduce pain and boost happiness. Mums-to-be who meditate are happier, more of the time, and this has a direct impact on fetal development. Across the potentially emotionally turbulent trajectory of your pregnancy, your sustained contentment will transfer a sense of stability and wellbeing to your offspring in the womb.
Priming the body to nourish the baby consistently. Calming the nervous system through meditation allows the uterine system to function optimally. Meditation helps reduce the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline that accompanies stress, which means that blood flow around the body is more consistent. A developing baby can therefore benefit from a more streamlined supply of nutrients and oxygen than a stressed system would allow.
Making approaching birth easier. It is worth clarifying that mediation itself is not a birthing technique. However, the peace of mind and body that it lends expectant mothers is an excellent backdrop against which to learn the birthing techniques of your choice, helping you waddle towards your due date with confidence.
Mantra-based meditation: the easiest type to take up
There are so many different types of meditation that it is easy to get lost in a maze of contradictory information when trying to choose the best type for you. All types of meditation have their benefits. However, not all types are necessarily equally synergistic with the physical demands of pregnancy. Sitting still for ten days on a Vipassana meditation retreat, for example, helps a person develop new defences against feeling buffeted by the eventualities of life. But it can be somatically gruelling and is therefore not generally recommended for people past the seventh month of their pregnancy.
It is highly recommended that you seek guidance from an experienced meditation teacher as you embark on your practice rather than going solo, and also discuss your plans with your medical care team.
Practicing mantra meditation quickly becomes second nature. Once you’re equipped with your own personal Sanskrit mantra, carefully selected for you by learned guides, you’re ready to get started. Practicing generally involves two twenty-minute sessions per day, in which you silently repeat your mantra in your mind. You can do this anytime, anywhere, allowing this process to work profound alchemical changes to your emotions at the same time as it releases the tension from your nervous system.
You’ll feel the benefits quickly. When you’re taking up meditation during pregnancy, the last thing you need is to spend your precious self-care time feeling confused about whether you’re doing it right, or find yourself wondering whether it’s working. Rather than questioning their presence, let your mantra be your anchor as you cruise through the cocophanies of thoughts that can arise during your practice. People who take up mantra-meditation in pregnancy regularly report their surprise regarding the speed with which they start noticing dynamic changes taking place within their mindsets, bodies and lives.
Rosalind Stone is a wordsmith and editrix with a passion for exploring the emotions that can be evoked through wordcraft, and their ripple effects into our collective consciousness. She believes that meditation can empower everybody to unlock new facets of their personal potential, and currently writes to help more people access its benefits by increasing awareness of Beeja meditation.
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