Pregnancy can be stressful.
Suddenly, it seems like every decision you make is going to ‘make or break’ the health of your baby.
This is especially true if you have health challenges, like gestational diabetes, to manage.
But your mental well-being during pregnancy is absolutely crucial.
Mindfulness is one way you can take care of yourself, especially your emotional and psychological health, during pregnancy.
But mindfulness is an elusive term.
It might conjure up images of meditating on a mountaintop or going to a spiritual service.
Whatever your initial feelings about it, mindfulness simply means being aware–aware of whatever it is you put your attention to– be it your posture, food, emotions, all of the above, or something else entirely.
It might sound “woo woo,” but there’s loads of research showing the benefits of mindfulness (even an entire center run by UMass Medical School devoted to studying it!).
In today’s post, my friend Parijat Deshpande, who happens to be a pro at helping women through high-risk pregnancies, stops by to explore 5 benefits of a mindful pregnancy.
With increasing awareness about the importance of maternal mental health, it’s becoming imperative that stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy all need to be discussed, properly managed and prevented.
Not only do they affect mom’s emotional well-being, but stress, depression and anxiety can also significantly impact mom’s physical health, baby’s health and birth outcomes.
Stress during pregnancy has been linked to an increased rate of infant mortality, low birth weight and preterm birth.
In fact, a study conducted in 2011 found that women with high levels of stress during pregnancy have a 25 to 60% higher risk for delivering early even after accounting for other established risk factors for a preterm delivery. (Clin Perinatol. 2011)
According to the March of Dimes, chronic stress in women can also cause pregnancy complications such as hypertension in mom and developmental delays in babies.
Just as important as it is to take medications, exercise and eat healthy, it is critical that moms take charge of their emotional well-being during pregnancy and make stress-management a daily habit.
Practicing mindfulness during pregnancy has shown to have incredible results in improving mom’s overall well-being during a typical and high-risk pregnancy. Lowered stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms during pregnancy improve mom’s emotional and physical health, baby’s health and reduce the risk of postpartum mood disorders.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being consciously aware of your feelings, thoughts and body sensations in the moment and accepting them.
Mindfulness is not about relaxing, emptying your mind, getting rid of negative thoughts or difficult feelings. It’s also not just about meditation.
Being mindful is being in the present and acknowledging what’s happening right now without judgment.
So frequently when I work with moms who are struggling with a high-risk pregnancy, I hear them share how they think they should be feeling or coping with their pregnancy complications. That judgment in their experience adds to their pre-existing worries and stress, which is less than desirable during an already complicated pregnancy. Mindfulness-based techniques are some of my go to resources that I teach my clients because of how much I know my moms will benefit.
Turning mindfulness into a daily habit can have a profound impact during your pregnancy.
5 Benefits of a Mindful Pregnancy
1. Reduces Anxiety, Worry, and Depression
Anxiety and low mood during pregnancy can impact your ability to make healthy choices for you and your baby such as choosing healthy foods to eat, following your doctor’s prescribed treatment protocols and exercising regularly.
Practicing mindfulness can help by significantly reducing pregnancy-related anxiety, worry and depression. (Arch Womens Ment Health. 2014 Oct). This helps you feel calmer, make better sleep better and most importantly feel connected with your baby so you can be fully present for the special milestones.
2. Reduces Risk of Depression Relapse
Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of antepartum and postpartum mood disorders and and anxiety disorders. Practicing mindfulness lowers stress and improves mood, and thereby reduces the risk of depression during pregnancy and postpartum especially if you have a history of depression and are at higher risk for a recurrence.
3. Helps Prevent Preterm Delivery
Mindfulness is also important to improve the health of your pregnancy as well as give your baby the best start to life by staying pregnant for as long as possible. Lowered, anxiety, stress and depression can reduce the risk of preterm contractions, early delivery and low birthweight. This means less chance that your baby will need to go to the NICU and gives your baby the best start at a healthy life.
4. Reduces Pain During Pregnancy and Labor
Women who practice mindful yoga have been shown to experience less pain, stress and anxiety during their entire pregnancy than women who did not. (J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2009 ). Using these techniques during labor has also shown to help moms with pain during contractions and the delivery.
5. Strengthen Attachment/Bonding with Baby
Most importantly, practicing mindfulness allows for you to be fully present for the special moments, milestones and happy times during your pregnancy and afterwards. It allows you to be able to fully immerse yourself in developing a strong attachment bond to your baby during pregnancy and after, which will help with milk production as well as helping your baby thrive physically and emotionally as s/he grows.
Reducing the risk of postpartum mood disorders and anxiety disorders is critical and practicing mindfulness is an excellent resource.
Whether you’re a first time mom who’s anxious about what to expect during pregnancy or you’re terrified because of a pregnancy complication that has left you on bedrest, mindfulness practice is a powerful way to manage your emotions and improved the health of your pregnancy and your baby.
About the author: Parijat Deshpande, MS, CWC, CSMC is a Perinatal Wellness Counselor who works with women who are terrified during their high-risk pregnancy to help them cope with the stress, anxiety and overwhelm. Combining her professional training in clinical psychology with her personal experience with a very high-risk pregnancy, Parijat helps moms feel more confident, more in control and find more hope as they fight for their baby. For more strategies on how to manage your high-risk pregnancy, download the FREE checklist.
Before you go, we’d love to hear from you.
- Which of the 5 benefits of a mindful pregnancy did you find most surprising?
- If you’re pregnant, what practices or habits are you using to stay mindful, present, and aware?
Until next week,
PS – If you have gestational diabetes, there’s no doubt you have more stress in your pregnancy than other moms. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. When you know how to control your blood sugar naturally, GD isn’t nearly as stressful.
Want to learn more? Be sure to check out my free video training series that teaches you how to manage your blood sugar using my real food approach. Go HERE to sign up.