Exploring Mindfulness for a Healthier & Happier Pregnancy
Walking into my first prenatal yoga class, I felt a bit silly. I consider myself an experienced yogi and although I haven’t practiced regularly in a couple years, I expected prenatal yoga to be too easy. I even worried I would get bored. At 17 weeks pregnant, I decided to finally go mainly due to insomnia and extreme leg cramps I was experiencing. I thought that some stretching would help ease my legs and mind for a more restful sleep. Little did I know I would walk away from my first class feeling as though my entire body and mind had been reset.
In my first trimester and the beginning of my second, I didn’t understand how anyone could describe pregnancy as peaceful. There are moments- a quiet evening on the couch happily feeling those first few movements in your belly, or laying awake and imagining all the feelings you’ll have when you hold your baby for the first time. But, most of the time, at least for me, pregnancy meant a barrage of information (not to mention advertisements) coming at you from all sides. Not to mention endless doctor appointments and blood-draws!
Now, in my 24th week, I understand. I feel the peace and naturalness of a growing life. I feel the wonder at my own changing body. I credit mindfulness with allowing me to be gentle with myself during this time and embrace it for the graceful period it is.
I remember I was surprised that my first pre-natal yoga class was actually challenging! We went through the most basic of asanas, but even those are made more difficult when your balance is off and you have a big bump! I certainly got the physical exercise I needed, but I was shocked to find that the meditation and quiet of the flow was what my body was really craving. Now, yoga helps me maintain my strength and fitness, while also focusing my mind.
The class of mamas-to-be chanted mantras and filled ourselves with good intentions, all the while sending loving thoughts to our babies. The focus on our baby andourselves as a “life-giving goddess” is something that can get lost in everyday life as a pregnant woman. Between opinions and unsolicited advice from friends, family, and even strangers, it’s hard for me to remember that I’m the mother of this little person and I already have everything inside of me necessary for taking care of them. This moment of mindfulness seemed to make the connection between me and my baby glow more brightly than I had felt in a while- lost between the twisting anxieties and fears of pregnancy.
According to a study from the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, as many as 18% of pregnant women are depressed during their pregnancy with rates of depression to be 7% in the first trimester, 13% in the second trimester, and 12% in the third trimester. (C. Vieten & J. Astin (2008). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Volume 11, (Issue 1) pp 67–74.)
During the study, thirty-one pregnant women were given a “Mindful Motherhood” intervention, which included: “(1) mindfulness of thoughts and feelings through breath awareness and contemplative practices, (2) mindfulness of the body through guided body awareness meditation and mindful hatha yoga, and (3) presentation of psychological concepts that incorporate mindfulness such as acceptance and cultivation of an observing self.” The women who received the intervention were compared against mothers in a control-group.
Mothers who received the intervention showed significantly reduced anxiety than those who did not.
In many ways, pregnancy is a greatly isolating experience. Even more so as a first-time mom-to-be, coping with the fear of the unknown. Mindfulness through meditation and yoga helped me, and continues to help me, refocus on the life inside of me and reclaim my peace and courage for this exciting journey.
Source: C. Vieten & J. Astin (2008). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Volume 11, (Issue 1) pp 67–74.