There’s no denying that childbirth is a painful experience. But what if it could be a little less painful with the help of pregnancy meditation?
Some people who practice meditation while pregnant say labor can be a less painful experience when the mother enters into a meditative state during delivery.
Changing your reaction to the ‘outer world’
Nancy McCaochan, managing partner at Karma Yoga in Bloomfield Township, has been practicing yoga and meditation for 22 years and has given birth to four children.
With her first child, she practiced yoga in a meditative state while pregnant (holding yoga postures and breathing deeply), which prepared her to change her mind’s response to the pain of delivery.
“It didn’t hurt,” she says, “I was able to shift from pain to discomfort.”
McCaochan says meditation allows a person to dissociate slightly from the outside world and to separate her thoughts with the actual reality of a situation.
“It creates some distance between our experience and our perception of the experience because most of what we experience is not the outer world, it’s our reaction to the outer world,” she explains.
During delivery her mind and body were trained to recognize the difference between perception and reality and relax.
Sounds too good to be true, right? But McCaochan says the meditative technique isn’t something a mother could simply try out during labor.
“You can’t just pick it up a week before delivery,” she says. “You’re retraining your nervous system.”
For those interested in learning how to practice meditation, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health offers some advice:
“There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).”
If you’d rather be guided through the breathing with the help of an instructor, Karma Yoga offers prenatal classes that teach both yoga and meditation to expecting mothers.
Research also shows that meditation offers benefits beyond a better labor experience.
“Depression affects up to one in five women during pregnancy, at a time when women do not want to take antidepressants for fear of harming their child,” notes DoYouYoga, a popular yoga program that’s been featured in the Washington Post.
“A 2012 study from the University of Michigan demonstrates that meditation can help reduce symptoms in women at high risk of depression, thus alleviating the stress associated with the disease and boosting feelings of connectedness moms have with their babies,” it adds.
And the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes some research shows meditation can “reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety … and insomnia.”
The meditation practice doesn’t have to end once the baby is born, either. In fact, you can involve your kids in the practice. ArtofLiving.org encourages parents to get a child interested in meditation by challenging him to sit for 10 minutes without moving – and just focus on breathing. It also recommends engaging a child’s senses during meditation and creating a special, appealing place for practicing.
Did you meditate during pregnancy? What did you think of it? Tell us in comments.