Pregnancy can be a beautiful—but overwhelming—time. Between morning sickness, body changes, hormonal mood swings, and the other 10,000 things you have to deal with during pregnancy (ah, the beauty of bringing a new life into this world!), chances are if you’re with child right now that you’re feeling anything but calm, centered, and serene. But, there’s something that might be able to change that: meditation. In fact meditation and pregnancy go hand in hand.
“Pregnancy is an emotionally and physically stressful time in a woman’s life,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “Mediation is an easy and simple way to help deal with some of these challenges, making this memorable journey enjoyable.”
If you’re looking to incorporate a bit more mindfulness and a lot less stress into your pregnancy, keep reading. Here, we unpack how exactly meditation benefits pregnant women and how to work it into your days.
Meditation can help reduce anxiety during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is so, so exciting. But, let’s be real—it’s also so, so anxiety-inducing. “Pregnancy can be both a time of joy and excitement, but also one filled with worry and fear,” says Dr. Felice Gersh, OB-GYN and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.
It’s easy to get caught up in all your pregnancy-related worries—(“What if I have an allergic reaction to this food/detergent/cat/literally anything in my environment and it hurts the baby? What if the baby comes early? Should I have a natural delivery or opt for an epidural?”)—and feel like one ball of stress for the entire nine months.
Meditation has been shown to lower the levels of cortisol in the body and shift the body out of the “fight-or-flight” response.
Luckily, you don’t have to walk around like a tightly wound rubber band until you give birth. Meditation can help you kick that pregnancy-related anxiety to the curb. Meditation has been shown to lower the levels of cortisol in the body and shift the body out of the “fight-or-flight” response—which will leave you feeling a lot calmer, centered, and relaxed.
“Reducing the body’s innate stress responses, and increasing the output of the parasympathetic nervous system through meditation sets the stage for a calm and peaceful pregnancy,” says Gersh.
Meditation can lower your blood pressure.
Hypertension (or high blood pressure) can be a nasty side effect of too much stress. It can also be an extremely dangerous side effect during pregnancy—for both mama and baby. As mentioned, meditation is amazing at keeping stress at a healthy level during pregnancy—and incorporating meditation into your daily routine may help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, too.
“Meditation can lower hypertension by reducing free radicals and oxidative stress—the factors which create inflammation,” says Gersh. “[Inflammation] can lead to hypertension by inducing vascular ill-health and arterial constriction. By lowering stress, mediation can reduce inflammation [and] free radicals, and promote vessel dilation.”
Meditation can make it easier to deal with whatever pregnancy throws your way.
When you’re pregnant, it can feel like your body throws something new at you every day—whether it’s a new ache or pain, a new craving, or a rollercoaster of mood swings. Meditation has been shown to increase psychological resilience. Or, in other words, when you meditate, you’re better able to deal with adversity—of which there is plenty during pregnancy.
So, while meditation won’t make those intense crying jags, sore back muscles, or pickle-and-chocolate cravings disappear, it will make it easier for you to handle them—which, truth be told, is the next best thing.
How to Add Meditation to Your Days
Now that you know that meditation is a must-try during your pregnancy (what mama-to-be doesn’t want less stress?!), let’s talk about how, exactly, to make that happen.
Step one? Start as soon as possible. “It’s never too soon to incorporate meditation into your pregnancy routine,” says Ross. “Meditation is learned over time and with daily practice … the more you practice meditation, the better you become at it.”
To get started, choose a place where you can sit quietly and comfortably (depending on how pregnant you are, this could be sitting cross-legged on the floor, in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, or even laying down). Allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to your breathing. Breathe deeply, focusing on the breath going in through your nose and out of your mouth. If your mind starts to wander, that’s OK. That’s it! It’s super simple—but super effective.
If you find that the “sitting and breathing” technique doesn’t work for you (or you can’t shut your brain off long enough to relax), no worries! There’s no “right” way to meditate—you can try a guided meditation, focus on a mantra, or just meditate on the gratitude you feel for your pregnancy and the baby you’re getting ready to bring into the world.
“The good news is [that] there are many ways to learn what style of breathing [and meditation] works best for you,” says Ross. “Experiment and stay open-minded to this age-old method of finding relaxation and comfort.”