Pregnancy: How Meditation Benefits Both Mom & Baby
Pregnancy: How Meditation Benefits Both Mom & Baby
The latest research has confirmed that the many incredible benefits of meditation do indeed pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
From inception to delivery (and beyond), here are the wonderful ways meditation helps both mom and baby.
Meditation Makes Mom A Black-Belt Master Of Anxiety
The Endless List Of Pregnancy Worries
Pregnancy can really wake up a woman’s inner worrywart.
"Will my baby be healthy? How will I support this new human? Will my life ever be the same? Will I be a good mom?"
In their quest to give birth to the world’s top ranked superbaby, soon to be moms often agonize over every little decision: what to eat, what to drink, how to feel, and what to do.
"Don’t eat sushi, smoked salmon, raw eggs, or sandwich meat...Got it. Zero coffee, beer, and wine...Ok. No hot tubs or long baths...Check. Make sure I take my daily prenatal vitamins...I’ll try. Don’t overexert myself...Easy. Stay positive...Will do...The list never ends!"
So many things to remember!
Unchecked, a future mom's worries and concerns can build-up, intensify, and become all-consuming — eventually breaking even the strongest woman.
If her fears and doubts become overhwhelming, it can affect much more than her daily routine. It can affect her baby.
How A Pregnant Woman's Stress Can Affect Her Baby
A 2016 study at the University of Denver (Davis et al) looked at how a pregnant woman’s level of stress affects the mini-human growing within.
The researchers found that when too much of the stress hormone "cortisol" passes from mom to her unborn baby, it can cause big problems.
Like what? The researchers told Newsweek that, when compared to normal babies, babies with stressed out moms exhibited "much higher" sensitivity to stress, while displaying more "fearful expressions and behavior" later on as toddlers.
High Cortisol Babies Become Fearful, Depressed, School Skipping Teens
Years later as adolescents, a brain scan of the same high cortisol group showed that, on average, their fear center "amygdalae" were much larger than normal.
Confirming the finding, the group also displayed mental health disorders like social anxiety and depression, while behaving more fearfully than normal kids.
For example, the group was far more likely to be "scared" of going to school, cutting class far more often than the control group.
Luckily, there is a wonderful way for expectant moms to lower their levels of cortisol and therefore — potentially avoid the long list of negative repercussions for their babies. It’s called meditation.
How Meditation Neutralizes Mom's Cortisol
With a highly referenced University of California-Davis study (Saron at el, 2013) leading the charge, meditation has been shown over and over again to drop cortisol levels by a staggering amounts, with 50%+ quite a common finding!
Cutting stress hormones in half not only completely relaxes an expectant mom's mind and body, but her little one also basks in this magnificent state of tranquility.
Want more? The stress dissolving benefits of meditation go above and beyond simply cutting stress hormones. So, what else can the ancient practice do?
More Ways Meditation Melts Mom's Stress, Anxiety
From deactivating the fearful region of the brain (amygdala), to transforming how the mind handles incoming thoughts, to slowing down "monkey-mind" chatter, to raising mom’s emotional "break point", we could go on and on about how meditation makes any expectant mom a black belt master of stress.
Note: If you want to learn more about how meditation makes mom bulletproof to stress, then we highly recommend this article.
How Meditation Disables Pregnancy Related Depression
A Bed Of Roses Pregnancy Is Not
Being "with child" is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life.
However, for many women, this is an incredibly anxious, confusing, and scary time. Pregnancy's never-ending stress barrage can, like a game of Jenga, stack up one unstable block at a time.
Without a proper outlet or release, a woman's highly unstable stress situation can hit a tipping point. As you can probably guess, what comes after the Jenga blocks come crashing to the table? Depression.
A study by The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that up to 23% of all women struggle with depression during pregnancy.
The thing is, with wonky hormones and all, depressed pregnant women are often misdiagnosed by doctors.
The Depression-Pregnancy Paradox
When it is diagnosed correctly, a good and knowledgable doctor is a bit handcuffed with what he can do.
A pregnant woman taking medications with both known and unknown side effects is like tiptoeing across a field of land mines.
Left untreated, depression can leave soon-to-be-mom without the required energy, strength, and desire to nourish a happy and healthy baby.
Depression can take a once happy and normal routine and rip it to shreds, leaving an expectant mother with a laundry list of bad habits.
Poor nutrition, alcohol, cigarettes, and hard drugs can all lead to big problems down the road, including premature birth, slow brain development, and low birth weight.
Medicate Or Not?
Little ones born to depressed moms have been shown to be less active, have shorter attention spans, and tend to be more disruptive.
Experts have debated whether or not medication is the highest and best route for women during pregnancy, as the baby will also be taking it once it crosses the placenta.
With problems like physical abnormalities, cognitive impairments, heart problems, and low birth weight, many informed women opt to steer clear of antidepressants altogether.
Luckily, meditation is the best way to lift mom out of both prenatal and postpartum depression (before and after delivery).
And the reasons why could fill a library.
How Meditation Lifts Mom Out Of Depression
For starters, meditation supercharges mom's body with the very same neurotransmitter that, when low, triggers depression: serotonin.
Second, meditation quiets the brain's "fight or flight" stress mode amygdala which depressed folks often have stuck on hyper-mode, 24/7/365.
Third, meditation strengthens and literally "grows" the very same brain region which shrinks when we get depressed: the hippocampus.
Fourth, meditation totally transforms the depressed mind. The ancient practice quiets repetitive / negative thoughts, while repaving a positive thought neuro-highway.
Looking for more ways meditation dominates depression? Then we recommend this article which goes into great detail.
All added up, mom's meditation-grade bulletproof brain bulldozes all of depression’s roadblocks, increasing the chances of giving birth to a bonafide superbaby.
Enhanced Connection Between Mother & Child
The Importance Of The Mother-Baby Bond
Every mom wants her baby to be happy and healthy.
While most pregnant women know that they need to minimize bad habits like drinking and smoking, the "in the womb" mother-baby bond is also of utmost importance.
While there are a number of ways to strengthen this bond, including prenatal massage, talking, singing, and playing soothing music — the best method of all is quite possibly meditation.
Why is this bond so important, then? In the womb, babies are highly tuned into mom's mental and emotional state. For example, if mom is hurt or frightened, then her unborn baby’s heart rate can double.
On the flipside, baby bumps not only know and feel when mom is calm and happy, but they also experience the same wonderful emotions and benefits.
How Meditation Strengthens The Mother-Baby Bond
Then, it makes sense that a chronically upset mom might cause personality and even health problems down the road for her little one.
As just one example it is a well known medical fact that moms with high blood pressure and hypertension significantly increase the risk of preeclampsia and preterm brain damage.
If mom is practicing meditation with regularity, then her baby bump is sharing all of the magnificent benefits.
A highly referenced study by the Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in India found that for 169 pregnant women, a daily yoga and meditation practice significantly improved birth weight, reduced premature births, and lessened the overall medical complications for newborns.
Of course, this study is just the tip of the iceberg. Meditating moms benefit their babies in so many more ways.
Meditation For Mom Is Meditation For Baby
If the little one is agitated, moving around, kicking mom's belly like Pelé, then the ancient mind practice comes in extra-handy.
Meditation's super fertile environment not only nourishes an unborn baby's health and happiness, but also soothes him/her when antsy.
The Mother-Baby Bond Goes Even Deeper
While every mom wants her unborn child to know that he/she is both wanted and loved, relaying this information is not always so easy.
If only there was a highly tuned mental and emotional state for mom to communicate this profound message.
Actually, there is!
Beating Addiction: Healthy Baby In The Balance
The Alarming Addiction Statistics During Pregnancy
Needless to say, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use during pregnancy have dire repercussions for an unborn child’s physical and mental development.
While most pregnant women are aware of these problems, putting down the wine glass and putting out the cigarette are much easier said than done.
And the statistics are now confirming that old habits are indeed — very hard to break.
A 2013 National Survery on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH) study found that nearly 10% of pregnant women were actively drinking alcohol, with 20% of this group reporting in as binge drinkers (5+ drinks in one sitting).
A 2011 Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS) surveyed 24 states and found that only half of pre-pregnancy smokers managed to quit through delivery day.
Luckily, meditation is a super effective way to curb any and all addiction. Junk food? Check. Smoking? Check. Alcohol? Check. Hard drugs? Check.
Let Us Count The Ways Meditation Kicks Bad Habits To The Curb
For starters, a 2002 study published in the The American Journal of Psychiatry (Goldstein et al) found that meditation activates the brain’s "happy center" prefrontal cortex.
This happens to be the same brain region super stimulated when we are high and silent during withdrawal (the crash).
Moreover, meditation pumps our brain full of the natural feel-good chemical "dopamine," the very same "hit" we get from smoking, drinking, and other drugs.
When mom activates her brain’s reward center through natural means, like meditation or exercise, then there is simply no chemical void to fill and no need for substance abuse or addiction.
Note: In the interest of brevity, we kept this section short. Meditation conquers addiction in many more ways. We suggest this article if you would like to learn more.
Painless Childbirth? How Meditation Can Help
Predicting Labor Day Pain
When it comes to how much pain is experienced during childbirth, the truth is that no two women are alike. A soon to be mom's place on the pain spectrum is like throwing a dart blindfolded.
A combination of genetics, baby dimensions (!), life experiences, state of mind, and stress levels are what ultimately determine an expectant mom's delivery room experience.
Luckily, when it comes to pushing a fresh human into the world, meditation is the very best way to train a woman's mind and body to minimize the pain.
And the science backing this claim is colossal.
Better Brain, Less Pain: In Four Days, Meditation Cuts Pain By Half
In a 2001 randomized, double-blind study of 78 volunteers, researchers from Wake Forest University (Zeiden et al) found that, after only four days of meditation training, the subjects' could handle pain 27% better than the control group.
On the findings, the lead author Dr. Zeidan told Science Daily: "Our team has demonstrated across four separate studies that meditation, after a short training period, can reduce experimentally induced pain. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that something unique is happening with how meditation reduces pain."
Imagine significantly increasing your "say uncle" tap out point, without opiods or other painkillers... in only four days!
Keep in mind that women have up to nine months to reprogram their pain neuro-circuitry, plenty of time for mom to go the "natural" or the "minimal medication" route if that is her goal.
Meditation Boosts Two Natural Painkillers: Endorphins & Dopamine
Above and beyond neuroplastic brain upgrades, meditation also releases powerful all-natural "inner anesthetics" into the body.
Endorphins, which are up to 100 times more powerful than the strongest painkiller, morphine, are released in abundance both during and after meditation.
The same chemicals responsible for "runners high," endorphins feel so awesome that they keep many "run rats" addicted to the pavement.
Dopamine, a chemical messenger known for numbing pain, is another chemical very helpful in the delivery room.
A 2002 study (Kjaer et al) at the John F Kennedy Institute in Denmark found that meditation increased endogenous dopamine levels by a whopping 65%!
With a strong cumulative effect, the more a woman practices meditation during pregnancy, the more dopamine and endorphins she can pump out in the delivery room.
And mom doesn't need to be a high altitude pro-meditator to experience these powerful benefits, with dramatic results often seen in sixty days or less.
Reducing Pain Through The Power Of Visualization
As one of the Lamaze technique's key principles, visualizing a successful, pain free delivery is very well proven to work.
As countless elite athletes and successful people can attest, meditation is the perfect state of mind for visualizing the perfect outcome.
It makes sense then, that smart moms can use their daily meditation sessions to envision a perfect, pain-free childbirth.
Since delivery day is the ultimate event, achieving the ultimate outcome is easy with meditation.
The takeaway: Add up all of these wonderful meditation benefits and what does mom get? A calm, collected, and potentially even painless childbirth experience.
How Meditation Can Help Mom Finally Get To Sleep
Pregnancy And Insomnia Go Hand In Hand
"Get some sleep while you can!" is common advice given to pregnant women.
As many insomniacs can attest, forcing yourself to sleep usually results in a night of staring at the alarm clock.
With an expanding belly, aching body, hourly toilet runs, and fear/uncertainty about the future, catching some ZZZ's is ten times more difficult with a bun in the oven.
In fact, a 1998 National Sleep Foundation poll found that up to 78% of women experience chronic sleep problems during pregnancy!
While off-limits for an expectant mom, one of the more popular and effective insomnia fixes is melatonin.
Meditation, Melatonin, And Mom
Serving as the on-off switch for a restful night of shuteye, melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland, with levels peaking just before bedtime.
While we could pick apart all of the reasons modern humans have shut down the production of this mission critical chemical (including screen addiction, caffeine, workaholic culture, etc), pregnancy's sleep roadblocks eclipse them all.
So, why can’t an expectant mother just go to the local health food store and pick up a bottle of melatonin? Because safety.
Why Melatonin Supplements Are Seen As Off-Limits For Pregnant Women
While this supplement is generally seen as safe, for pregnant women the answer is not so clear — with experts debating precisely why for at least a few decades.
The issue with melatonin supplementation during pregnancy is that it may have a negative effect on a woman’s reproductive system. With that being the baby’s home for nine months and all, it's a real concern.
While no studies have conclusively proven that pregnant women supplementing with melatonin brings negative effects, its link to reproduction is concerning enough that many health experts say "stay away".
Meditation Boosts Melatonin Naturally
Luckily, mom can harness the power of her own body to crank out more melatonin naturally. How? Meditation.
Rutgers University researchers found that meditation boosted melatonin levels by an average of 98%, with many participants seeing gains of 300% or more!
When mom taps her own inner melatonin reserve, this bypasses the potential pesky side effects of supplementation (sleep pills), which can pump moms melatonin up by an alarming 2000% or more!
More Ways Meditation Solves The Riddle Of Insomnia
Piling on the ways meditation is like magic for insomniac soon to be moms, the ancient practice has been shown to strengthen the most important REM sleep brain region (the "Pons"), quiet sleepless beta brainwaves, while burying today’s stress and tomorrow’s worries.
By harnessing the power of meditation for night after night of spectacular shuteye, soon to be moms can potentially sidestep many common sleep-deprived problems, including depression, inflammation, unbalanced hormones, birth complications, fatigue, chronic pain, the list goes on.
Great sleep is critical for both mom and baby. Meditation is the super safe, ultra-effective magic molecule.