Why Meditation During Pregnancy Matters
On This Page
- Pregnancy meditation may improve sleep.
- Pregnancy meditation can help quell birthing fears.
- Pregnancy meditation may improve body-confidence.
- Pregnancy meditation may help with depression.
- Pregnancy meditation can boost positive feelings.
- Pregnancy meditation may impact Baby, too!
- How to Meditate During Pregnancy
- Pregnancy Meditation Apps and Resources
The list of pregnancy to-dos can feel as endless as, well, pregnancy itself! But even if your calendar is jam-packed with baby prep classes and nursery decorating, it’s still a good idea to make time for a little pregnancy meditation. In fact, the more overwhelmed you feel, the more you may benefit from meditating during pregnancy!
Thanks to brain scans, we know that regular meditation can actually change a person’s brain structure, creating not only more neural connections, but stronger ones in the areas of the brain that control your senses, your ability to think and concentrate, and your capacity to process emotions. That means the brains of habitual meditators are better equipped to digest and decipher negative emotions, they’re less likely to experience age-related loss of function, and they’re all-around healthier.
What does all this mean for expecting parents? Keep reading to learn the science behind how pregnancy meditation may benefit you—and your baby!
Pregnancy meditation may improve sleep.
Meditation apps are the most popular health app category in America—and the most popular reason folks download these types of apps during pregnancy is…sleep, according to a 2022 report in the journal Digital Health. That’s not super surprising, considering up to 76% of individuals experience sleep disturbance during pregnancy, with that number ballooning to nearly 84% after 8 months of pregnancy. The good news? It seems that all those downloads may be working. The Sleep Foundation notes that mindfulness meditation may improve sleep quality on a level similar to exercise or cognitive behavioral therapy. The Digital Health findings above also note that pregnant users say that the app was most helpful for improving sleep, followed by anxiety and stress. (Learn more about how to get the sleep you need during pregnancy.)
Pregnancy meditation can help quell birthing fears.
Being afraid of the pain that accompanies labor and childbirth is natural. After all, the unknown is scary! But there are ways to help tamp down your childbirth fears. Research in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth showed that when first-time moms attended a weekend mindfulness-based childbirth class with their partners, they were better able to cope with their labor and birth fears. It’s thought that mindfulness can be instrumental in keeping birthing parents present and responsive while in labor, which can help to ease their physical and emotional pain. Other research has shown that quelling childbirth fears may even shorten labor. A Norwegian study noted that the labor of first-timers who feared childbirth were, on average, 47 minutes longer than those who weren’t fearful. (Learn more about how to mentally and physically prepare for birth.)
Pregnancy meditation may improve body-confidence.
In order to make, carry, birth, and feed babies, the human body must go through a ton of big-time changes that sometimes prompt folks to view their amazing bodies negatively. And having a not-great body image is associated with poorer quality of life and fewer positive health behaviors, such as physical activity. The good news? A 2022 pilot study found that women who took a three-week mindful meditation class focusing on self-compassion reported lower body dissatisfaction and shame—and greater body appreciation and self-compassion. For additional help reclaiming your postpartum mental health, explore our Happiest Baby Mental Wellness Toolkit, which is packed with resources and exercises designed to boost your confidence and well-being.
Pregnancy meditation may help with depression.
Up to 20% of birthing parents in America experience depression either during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. While that number is scary, it’s important to remember that there are strategies to not only treat prenatal and postpartum depression, but to help side-step it too. Some options include talk therapy, support groups, antidepressants…and/or meditation. In fact, pregnant folks with depressive symptoms who took a 1-hour expert-guided mindfulness meditation training session (roughly) twice a week for four weeks, improved the “prevention, remission, and reduction of depression during pregnancy,” according to a 2022 meta-analysis in Frontiers in Psychology. It’s thought that meditation works, in part, by reducing levels of cortisol (the main stress hormone), improving behavioral regulation, and enhancing the function in the insula, which is a part of the brain associated with emotions.
Pregnancy meditation can boost positive feelings.
While there are plenty of good feelings to be had during pregnancy, there may also be a lot of stress, worry, and anxiety, too. To help the positive outweigh the negative, it may be a good idea to give prenatal meditation a go. A small study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that third trimester moms-to-be who participated in a 9-week mindfulness meditation program with their partners (and who regularly practiced at home, too) experienced stronger, more frequent positive feelings (like gratitude, enjoyment, and hope) after the program. Those good feelings carried over after Baby arrived, as well, with new parents noting that continued meditation bolstered their relationship quality with their baby and their partner. Hong Kong researchers were so impressed by these feel-good outcomes that they suggest incorporating meditation in prenatal care “will be a necessity in future.”
Pregnancy meditation may impact Baby, too!
You’ve heard of “eating for two,” but what about “meditating for two?” It turns out that infants whose moms participated in eight weeks of mindfulness-based training during pregnancy had healthier stress responses at 6 months old, according to a 2022 report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Compared to the control group, the offspring of meditators exhibited more self-soothing behaviors and their hearts returned to normal more quickly following a stressful interaction. The best part? The ability to “bounce back” from stress early on is tied to better health outcomes later in life.
How to Meditate During Pregnancy
Dr. Harvey Karp is a big proponent of mindful meditation for pregnant individuals, parents, toddlers…anyone! To dip your toe into meditation, Dr. Karp suggests trying this:
Completely relax your face muscles.
Slow your breathing down.
These two key steps seem simple enough to do, but it takes some practice to master the art of concentrated stillness! First, release all the tension in your facial muscles, like your face is a wet rag! Next, sit in a comfy spot with relaxed shoulders, hands on lap, and slowly inhale through your nose (silently count to 5) then slowly exhale through your nose (for another silent 5 counts). Make a little whooshy sound as the air flows in and out. (It helps to visualize a safe, cozy place while you’re doing these meditative breathing exercises.) As you breathe in, let one hand slowly rise and as you breathe out, let it slowly drop and continue until you feel completely relaxed. Dr. Karp calls this Magic Breathing, and it’s a wonderful calming tool for the whole family!
For help, you can turn to SNOObie—our white noise machine/nightlight/sleep trainer that may already be at the top of your baby registry! SNOObie features Magic Breathing tracks that synchronize light and sounds to guide you through your meditative breathing. Start with the Fast Magic Breathing track and work up to the deeper, slower breathing in the Slow Magic Breathing track.
Pregnancy Meditation Apps and Resources
Check out the following meditation resources for more on getting started with pregnancy meditation:
More on Pregnancy Health and Wellness:
- 20 Affirmations to Prepare for Labor and Delivery
- Is Hypnobirthing Right for You?
- Prenatal Yoga How-To’s
- Depression During Pregnancy—What Moms-to-Be Need to Know
REFERENCESCleveland Clinic: Meditation
Appinventiv: Top Meditation App Statistics to Know in 2022
Pregnant women’s use of a consumer-based meditation mobile app: A descriptive study. Digital Health. March 2022
Sleep patterns and sleep disturbances across pregnancy. Sleep Medicine. April 2015
Sleep Foundation: Meditation for Sleep
Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. May 2017
Fear of childbirth and duration of labour: a study of 2206 women with intended vaginal delivery. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. June 2012
Self-compassion and body image in pregnancy and postpartum: A randomized pilot trial of a brief self-compassion meditation intervention. Body Image. December 2022
Perinatal depression: A review. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. May 2020
Effect of mindfulness meditation on depression during pregnancy: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2022
Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Education: Promoting Family Mindfulness During the Perinatal Period. Journal of Child and Family Studies. April 2010
Perceptions and experiences of pregnant Chinese women in Hong Kong on prenatal meditation: A qualitative study. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice. December 2015
The Effects of a Prenatal Mindfulness Intervention on Infant Autonomic and Behavioral Reactivity and Regulation. Psychosomatic Medicine. June 2022
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.