Pregnancy and early parenthood are filled with intense changes that can bring both joy and stress. Research shows that mindfulness can boost our moods and reduce anxiety and depression. It can also improve concentration and memory, decrease heart disease and high blood pressure, and strengthen our immune systems.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness is simply increasing our awareness in the present moment during our activities and calmly acknowledging arising thoughts and feelings. We can be mindful when we are at work, at home sharing meals, cleaning the house or even changing diapers.
Meditation is simply practicing this technique of being aware while resting our minds. With repetition, we can become more present in our bodies and deepen our connection to something larger than ourselves. Usually it is done while sitting in a quiet place while focusing on the breath or a repeated word such as “peace.”
How do we become more mindful?
Take your time. If being more mindful can actually help us achieve more with less effort, why not slow down and cut down on the multi-tasking? Whether you are pregnant or parenting, give yourself the gift of not over-scheduling. Slowing down is about knowing our limits, listening to our bodies and saying “yes” to more activities that bring us joy and peace. Not only will we feel calmer and balanced, but physical aches and pains can often decrease.
Check in with your breath. Our breath can tell us a lot about how we are doing in a given moment or day. When we are rushed, anxious or overwhelmed, we become shallow breathers and what we need is to take deep, cleansing breaths. This is especially important in pregnancy because our lung capacity is compromised and our growing babies need oxygen-rich blood to grow. Our breath can be an anchor in stormy waters; take the time to notice it several times throughout the day and breathe in deeply.
Start a meditation practice: Millions of people practice meditation around the world and it can be easy to incorporate five to ten minutes a day into our daily lives. When you first get started, using a guided audio can be helpful to keep you on course (links below). It’s natural to get distracted by all the thoughts swirling around in our heads, and a recorded meditation can help us stay grounded in the present.
Mindfulness can open us up to compassion and new possibilities, and help prepare us for the challenges of pregnancy, birth, parenting and beyond. Take the time to enjoy the journey!
Websites and apps
- Guided meditation by Tara Brach (Tara Brach is an author and meditation instructor. Her website contains many free guided meditations that range from 5 to 25 minutes as well as longer online series)
- Mindful Motherhood
- Mindful Birthing
- 10 Percent Happier – Mindfullness Meditation – The Basics
- Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year by Cassandra Veiten
- Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke
- Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
- Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Rebecca Montgomery, CNM, MSN, is a nurse-midwife with the University of Vermont Medical Center midwifery practice. She is also a certified yoga teacher.