Pregnancy and Mindfulness
As a mental health nurse with a specialist interest in perinatal mental health, I thought I would write a blog which might help women during pregnancy especially as we all go through this difficult and challenging time.
Pregnancy whether planned or a surprise is a beautiful time although it is an incredible time of change and regardless of the obvious excitement some women might experience some anxiety. Our mind rushes through all kinds of what ifs and fears and what lies ahead is a time of transition but you are not alone, involve your partner, family, friends and midwife. During the nine months of pregnancy not one day will feel the same, the change is ongoing, so it is important to slow down, pause and discover a place of calm and contentment. Practicing mindfulness during pregnancy can be of great benefit to both mum and baby.
So what is Mindfulness…..
Mindfulness simply means to be present in the here and now, to be fully engaged with whatever is happening free from distraction, with a soft, open and curious mind. Mindfulness helps us to understand why we think and feel the way we do, encouraging us to spend more time in the here and now. Mindfulness can have a definite and positive influence on your pregnancy, baby tunes in to you so being able to focus week by week, will imbue your baby with calm.
The challenge is to take your pregnancy journey step by step, moment by moment with a gentle sense of purpose and a calm mind which is at ease with itself. Mindfulness encourages kindness and compassion which can only be positive for both mum and baby and those around you. Meditation forms part of mindfulness and although it cannot change what happens to us in life, it can help us to change how we experience what happens and it can help us to see things more clearly.
If you have struggled with meditation in the past, leave it behind, let it go because if you are able to practice a few minutes a day during your pregnancy slowly but surely you will begin to note a positive difference and if you can play a meditation to your bump daily it can have a soothing, calming effect on your baby. Meditation is the safest and most effective way to reduce anxiety and stress, thereby helping to restore and promote the immune system of both mum and baby and can also work alongside any prescribed medication a mum may be taking during pregnancy. Meditation also promotes the production of endorphins, the so called “pleasure hormone”, which helps to relieve pain so this is one very real thing you can do as you prepare for your labour and birth. Meditation practices are available on the Valleys Steps website, and it is hoped that a meditation specifically for mum and her bump will be available in the near future.
Meditation and mindfulness practices can be done together with your partner because it will help you to both understand and help each other during your pregnancy journey. Long before childbirth your mind can have a tendency to look to the past, through the experiences of family and friends as well as trying to anticipate every step along the way, mindfulness allows you to give up those ruminating thoughts which go back and forth so you are more able to be content with what is happening here and now. It can also alleviate some of the stress and tension we experience when we struggle with things.
I list some of the mindfulness practices which you may find of benefit during your pregnancy journey:
If you are able, begin to focus on creating a quiet, mental space for yourself where you can have a restful nap and/or sit for five minutes to do nothing and just be in the moment
Allow yourself time and space to honour your feelings and emotions and talk about them with your partner, friend, midwife if you need too.
Embrace your relationships with your partner, friends and family and share the joy experienced during your pregnancy.
Be mindful of your diet and fluids, you and your baby need nourishment.
Play soothing, gentle music and/or sing songs or nursery rhymes to your bump.
Gently rub your bump.
Chat to your bump, tell him/her what you are doing, read or tell stories.
Practice mindful movement, be aware of how your body is feeling, move from your chair in the office/home every hour for a few minutes and roll your shoulders and rotate your hips to reduce tension in your body.
Pay attention to your breath, notice the sensations of breath in your body. ( breath and other meditations are available on valleyssteps website )
Be less judging of yourself and others, keep a kind mind
Listen to the sounds around you rather than the noise we tend to focus on.
Notice nature, take a walk in the garden or look out of the window at the flowers grass, trees, sunshine, birds, rain
Take a look up at the sky.
Take a moment when doing daily activities to focus on the sensations e.g.
Washing the dishes
Brushing your teeth
Being in the shower
Washing your hands
Allocate moments during the day to take a screen break from your phone/laptop.
Be kind to yourself and choose one gift every day e.g.
Enjoy a nice bath
Light a lovely candle
Watch your favourite programme or film
Eat your favourite chocolate
Buy yourself a bunch of flowers
By beginning to be more mindful as your pregnancy progresses you will be able to be present for each moment and allow yourself not to miss anything during your labour and birth experience, to be awake to everything and to watch events unfold before you and within you as nature takes its course.
Enjoy your pregnancy and always remember that your midwife is there for you every step of the way and can offer advice, answer any questions and discuss any concerns you might have at anytime.
You and your baby
Practicing mindfulness of breathing in preparation for birth can be helpful.
This meditation is also a lovely way to connect with your baby and your body.
Lie down or sit in a comfortable and supported position and bring your attention to your breath.
Take a few moments to focus on the part of your body where you feel your breath most strongly and just begin to observe the sensations of breathing.
Then gently place one hand on your belly to connect with your baby and the other hand on your heart and take your attention to the palm of your hands.
Feel the sensations of touching bare skin or clothing, becoming aware of the temperature…….of warmth or coolness….and also of any sensations of movement or vibration….
Remember that you are not seeking out to feel anything and there is no expectation of feeling anything specific such as your own or your baby’s heartbeat, but rather this is a process of connecting with each other
(if you would like to do this practice with your partner, you can sit or lie side by side and each place one hand over your heart and the other one on your belly to connect with your baby) – Living in the Moment by Anna Black
The Headspace Guide to a Mindful Pregnancy Andy Puddicombe
Living in the Moment Anna Black