If you find yourself consuming an extra side of anxiety with that tasty pickle-and-peanut-butter sandwich (did we say balanced diet?), take note: Pregnancy is a prime time to begin meditating. Habitual meditation can ward off any worry you may have about delivery day and bring about a happy, healthy baby to boot. Judging by the size of those prenatal pills you’re popping, you’d do anything for your little one, so find a quiet space, make some time for yourself, and get ready to get focused.
Think about it
Do visions of miniature Buddhas come to mind when you hear the word “meditation”? You may be surprised to learn that the contemplative discipline has become increasingly common in the Western world, especially among pregnant women. Simply put, meditation is a means of using thought, contemplation and reflection to help cope with medical problems, tension and anxiety. There is no single way to meditate, but rather multiple techniques that share the goal of quieting the mind and releasing the body from stress.
It’s natural to worry about your developing baby, impending delivery, and new life as a mom, but when uneasiness reaches higher peaks, the baby in your belly can be at risk. Heightened stress levels have been linked to a variety of health problems during pregnancy, such as increased odds of preterm labor and low birth weight. Learning to keep your stress levels in check can help ease you through the physical and emotional trials of pregnancy, from the first bouts of morning sickness to the final contractions in the delivery room. Meditation is an easy and effective way to calm your mind and, in turn, ease the angst.
Schedule a time of day, whether early in the morning or right after work, to set aside for meditation. Pencil it in on your daily calendar and keep your appointment. It’s important for you and your baby! Before the deep breathing and visualization exercises begin, be sure to create an atmosphere that will encourage you to meditate correctly. Free your space of distractions by turning off your cell phone, putting away your laptop, and asking your partner to hang out in another room for a while. Try dimming the lights or lighting a few candles—whatever puts you in the right mood to relax. Peaceful music is also a great way to set the tone and create a sense of tranquility. Sit on couch cushions or a yoga mat, if you have one. You may even choose to sit in a chair if it’s most comfortable for you. You can also lie on your side and use a pillow for extra support. Make sure your clothes are comfy: You don’t want what you’re wearing to distract from your dedicated time for peace and quiet.
There’s no place like om
Have a place, time and cozy clothes picked out? Let the meditation session begin.
• Sit or lie in any position that allows you to keep a straight spine and head.
• Focus on your breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply in a natural rhythm, preferably through your nose.
• Place your hands on your belly and concentrate on its movement as you inhale and exhale. Try the “so hum” technique to better direct your attention: Say “so” aloud as you breathe in, and “hum” as you exhale.
• Working your way up from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, focus on relaxing each individual muscle.
• Empty your mind. Let your worries go by the wayside by counting slowly from one to 10 or visualizing a peaceful scene, such as a flowing river or snowy mountaintop.
• Make the effort to meditate for 10 to 20 minutes daily.
You may feel instantly refreshed after your alone time, or it may take several attempts before your body finally allows you to relax. If it takes you longer to adjust to regular meditation, don’t despair or decide to give up on it altogether. There are several different practices to try, including guided meditation on CD and DVD and online meditation classes. If you are taking prenatal yoga, your instructor might be a great resource for specific techniques to incorporate into your daily meditation routine.