Mindfulness for Pregnancy I

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    By Magdalena Marzec

    The Meaning of Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment and maintaining an open mind while remaining aware of what is going on around you, without judgement (Sheridan, 2016). This includes paying careful attention to what you are experiencing in any current moment, whether it may be a physical sensation, thought, or feeling, and doing so with purpose, intention, and acceptance.

    Pregnancy Mindfulness

    Tapping into a state of mindfulness and resisting thoughts about the past or future can be difficult, and like any skill, tends to improve with regular practice. The most important thing to remember about mindfulness is the need to be kind to yourself as you acknowledge the details of your experience in the present moment, and simply remain curious and receptive to what is there instead of immediately deciding whether it is good or bad. You can start by practicing mindfulness for just a couple of minutes daily!

    The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness During Pregnancy

    Pregnancy Mindfulness

    There are numerous benefits to practicing mindfulness throughout various stages in life. Becoming more aware of what your body, mind, and surroundings are telling you is a form of self- care practice that can help you develop new coping strategies and stay happy and healthy (Sheridan, 2016). While this is useful in many different situations, it can be particularly helpful during pregnancy, when so many new changes are occurring. Practicing mindfulness throughout the prenatal period has been shown to reduce feelings of depression, distress, and anxiety associated with pregnancy, as well as worries related to labour itself, and improve overall mood among expectant mothers (Krusche, Dymond, Murphy & Crane, 2018).

    Considering that prenatal depression is not only a predictor of postnatal depression but can also have a direct and significantly negative impact on the entire family unit, mindfulness may be especially useful in the appropriate management of intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness during pregnancy (Krusche et al., 2018). Furthermore, practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve pain management by separating physical experience from mental and emotional experience, allowing for increased emotional control over pain tolerance (Bonura, 2018). As a result, this can have a direct and positive impact on pain experience throughout pregnancy, specifically with regards to common complaints such as lower back and pelvic girdle pain.

    Mindfulness Exercise Ideas

    Yoga is a popular example of mindfulness exercise which includes not only a physical component focused on stretching and strengthening, but also breathing, deep relaxation, and mental meditation (Bonura, 2018). There are often numerous prenatal yoga classes offered throughout the community which focus on providing more of an intimate and personalized experience for expectant mothers specifically, as well as an opportunity to connect with and support one another (Bonura, 2018).

    Pregnancy Mindfulness

    Other mindfulness exercise ideas that combine physical activity with both breathing and focus strategies include martial arts such as Tae kwon do, Kung fu, and Karate, as well as traditional Chinese mindfulness practices like Tai chi and Qi gong (Bonura, Spadaro & Thornton, 2016). Although women who lack previous experience with martial arts may be advised to choose mindfulness exercises that are gentler, those who have engaged in such activities prior to pregnancy may be able to continue enjoying them after consulting their healthcare provider and modifying their practice as needed (Bonura et al., 2016).

    Two specific mindfulness activities that can be practiced independently at home include the following:

    3-Part Breath

    Begin by moving into a comfortable seated position down on your mat, placing a cushion beneath you for additional support if desired, and crossing one foot in front of the other. Bring your knees wider if needed to ensure that your belly rests comfortably onto your lap and relax your hands down on your knees. Take a soft gaze and then close your eyes as you bring your awareness to your breath. First pay attention to its natural rhythm and then slowly begin to deepen the breath. As you bring each inhale deeper into the belly, visualize the oxygen-rich air moving into your uterus, nourishing your infant.

    Pregnancy Mindfulness

    Continue to inhale and imagine your ribcage expanding as well, and finally your chest. Pause at the top of the inhale just below the throat and then follow it with an equally slow exhale. Visualize the stale air leaving your body and your womb as your chest, ribcage, and then belly relax, in that order. As you reach the bottom of the exhale, pause for a moment and imagine that any negative thoughts and emotions are evaporating, releasing anything that no longer serves you and your infant. Repeat this cycle three to four times at your own pace, then return to a normal, comfortable pace of breathing and acknowledge any new physical sensations that may have arisen.

    3-Part Breath Video

    V
    Video created by Magdalena Marzec 
    1:37 mins, November 2018

    Head to Toe Body Scan and Relaxation

    Move your way onto your back, using blankets or cushions beneath you as needed. Allow your toes to flop out and your arms to relax down at your sides. Let your eyelids become heavy and then softly close and focus on releasing your body onto the mat below. Feel the floor hold you up completely. Bring your attention to your face and focus on softening the little space between your eyebrows, then the remainder of your facial features. Relax through the back of your head and down the length of your spine.

    Pregnancy Mindfulness

    As you mentally scan each individual body part one at a time, from head to toe, focus on softening it fully before continuing to the next one. Visualize your arms, hips, and belly relaxing. Feel your infant release completely in utero, and then move down your legs all the way to your feet, and finally the tips of your toes. Release any physical tension, tightness, tenderness, and pain as you go. Maintain this final position for a couple of minutes, enjoying your stillness, then wiggle your fingers and toes to bring awareness back into your body. Finally, check in with yourself for any new sensations that may have arisen.

    Mindful Pregnancy Resources

    Mindful Birthing

    Lotus Blue

    “Mindful Birthing” is a resource for both pregnant women and those who are already parents, and the official website for the “Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Program”. This program guides parents-to-be in yoga and mindful meditation practice and includes information regarding the process of childbirth, strategies for pain management during labor, advice on comfortable birthing position, as well as tips on breastfeeding and parenting after birth. It prepares expectant mothers and their partners for the challenges of parenthood through the development of both physical and mental awareness. The classes are offered internationally and teach participants about the importance of physical relaxation, mental engagement, stress management, confidence building, and effective communication, among other skills.

    URL: http://www.mindfulbirthing.org/classes-training/parents/


    Mindfulness4U

    Lotus Blue

    “Mindfulness4U” is a website that focuses specifically on the promotion of mindfulness for various aspects of life, including pregnancy and childbirth. A significant section of the website is dedicated to answering any questions that expectant parents may have regarding strategies in developing a mindful approach to pregnancy, labour, and birth. The benefits of mindfulness are discussed as well as its use in coping with both physical and mental pain, and even parenting itself. Specific tips are provided to enhance awareness and coping, including the importance of sleep, breathing, and social support.

    URL: https://mindfulness4u.org/mindfulness-in-pregnancy-and-childbirth/


    Expectful

    Lotus Blue

    “Expectful” is a meditation app that offers 10- and 20-minute segments of guided audio specifically for aspiring, expectant, and new mothers. The app includes videos regarding the benefits of developing a regular meditation practice during pregnancy, as well as physical exercise ideas. There are numerous different meditations offered, dependent on whether women want to engage independently or with their partners, and how far along through their pregnancy they currently are. Information is provided on fertility treatments, trimester expectations, and ways to occasionally take a break from thinking about parenthood, if needed. The app helps women become more mindful and grounded in preparation for birth.

    URL: https://expectful.com/


    Spotify (Guided Meditation and Relaxing Music for Pregnant Women)

    Lotus Blue

    This section of the “Spotify” website provides pregnant women with numerous choices for relaxing meditation music. The songs feature gentle and soothing piano, flute, and harp options, and many of them are titled as though they are meant to relax the unborn infant in addition to the expectant mother. The music is a source of guided meditation, promoting mindfulness, relaxation, intimacy, and deep sleep, among other things. With a variety of both shorter and longer options to choose from, mothers-to- be are given an opportunity to enjoy physical and mental stress relief through sound.

    URL: https://open.spotify.com/album/4RChB95tXEaZMGCnzINcPP


    The Headspace Guide to a Mindful Pregnancy

    Lotus Blue

    This novel, written by a Buddhist monk, is offered as a hardcopy, e-book, or even audio book version. Andy Puddicombe, an experienced father himself, uses his words to guide expectant parents towards developing a deeper sense of mindfulness throughout their journey through fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth, and finally into parenthood. The creation of a peaceful environment for both parent and infant is promoted throughout this novel, as a strategy behind easing mental stress and navigating the challenges associated with parenthood. Readers are encouraged to engage in just 10 minutes of meditation each day to begin reaping the benefits of increased awareness.

    URL: https://www.amazon.ca/Headspace-Guide-Mindful-Pregnancy/dp/1444722220


    Reference List

    Bonura, K.B. (2018). Just breathe: Mindfulness as pain management in pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 33(1), 6-9. Retrieved from https://icea.org/about/icea-journal/

    Bonura, K.B., Spadaro, N.I., & Thornton, R.W. (2016). Mindful fitness: Guidelines for prenatal practice. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 31(1), 14-17. Retrieved from https://icea.org/about/icea-journal/

    Krusche, A., Dymond, M., Murphy S.E., & Crane, C. (2018). Mindfulness for pregnancy: A randomized controlled study of online mindfulness during pregnancy. Midwifery, 65(1), 51-57. Retrieved from https://www.midwiferyjournal.com/

    Sheridan, C. (2016). The mindful nurse: Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to help you thrive in your work. Charleston, SC: Rivertime Press.

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      Mindfulness for Pregnancy II

      Mindful Pregnancy
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        By Noorshan Nanji

        What is Mindfulness?

        Mindful Pregnancy

        Mindfulness can be described as a heightened sense of awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting “one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” (Larkin, 2015, pgh. 4). It occurs when we shift our focus to the present, and calmly acknowledge it without judgement (Murphy, n.d.). Being pregnant can bring about all sorts of unfamiliar feelings and sensations. Some changes we may be aware of and others are quietly occurring in the background. It is important to be in tune with ourselves when these changes occur, so they can be addressed appropriately. Below, we will discuss the many benefits of practicing mindfulness while pregnant, including the physiological, mental, and emotional benefits. We will also look into why and how practicing mindfulness can support prenatal well-being. Lastly, we have included two mindfulness exercises for you to try at home with a helpful video to help guide you and we have provided five additional resources that you and your partner may find beneficial as you move forward through a healthy and mindful pregnancy.

        Benefits of Mindfulness during Pregnancy

        Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, and it is not uncommon for new Moms to fear the pain of labour and delivery (Bonura, 2018; Fraga, 2017; Murphy, n.d.). Luckily practicing mindfulness has many physiological, mental, and emotional benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to help with insomnia, assist with weight loss, and help reduce chronic pain (Fraga, 2017; Murphy, n.d.). In one recent study, pregnant women were randomly assigned to either a mindful childbirth workshop or a traditional childbirth class. Results showed that the participants that attended the mindful childbirth workshop felt better prepared for childbirth and were less likely to turn to opioid pain medication during labour (Fraga, 2017). Remaining present and responding to the labour experience by utilizing mindfulness techniques can help the woman endure her physical and emotional suffering (Fraga, 2017). Mindfulness has also been shown to help with postnatal recovery (Bonura, 2018).

        Mindful Pregnancy

        Practicing mindfulness also has several mental and emotional benefits. It can help you feel more connected to your pregnancy experience, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and help you feel more positive (Dhillon, Sparkes, Duarte, 2017; Newman, 2016; Murphy, n.d.). Participants from the study mentioned above were interviewed again after giving birth and those that attended the mindful childbirth workshop had lower scores of prenatal and postpartum depression symptoms (Fraga, 2017; Dhillon et al., 2017; Mindful Staff, 2014).

        How Being Mindful Can Support Prenatal Well-Being

        Maternal stress is linked with poor outcomes in the baby, including “preterm birth, low birth weight, miscarriages, lower Apgar scores, smaller infant head circumference, and postpartum depression” (Frazer & Stathas, 2015, page 77). Research has found that in addition to providing benefits to women while they are pregnant, practicing mindfulness and lowered levels of anxiety have been found to have a positive effect on babies after they are born (van den Heuvel, Johannes, Henrichs, & Van den Bergh, 2015; Matvienko-Sikar, Lee, Murphy, & Murphy, 2016). Benefits include preventing premature birth and promoting healthy development thus leading to fewer developmental problems (Newman, 2016; Murphy, n.d.).

        How to Have a Mindful Pregnancy

        Are you ready to have a mindful pregnancy? It’s important to remember to not make this a competition and to start small (Murphy, n.d.). Practicing mindfulness can be achieved in whichever manner that works for you. What works for one person may not work for another and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you are focused on the present moment and are accepting things as they are, mindfulness can be practiced through yoga, listening to music, through seated or walking meditation, or through an informal means, such as mindful eating (Fraga, 2017).

        Below are some mindfulness tips and exercises to help you get started as you embark on your journey of having a mindful pregnancy. There is also a video to help guide you in practicing mindfulness at any time and in any place. You may want to utilize all of them, or just try one at a time. Ensure you are only practicing what you are comfortable with.

        Mindful Pregnancy
        • Become aware of your emotional and physical needs by staying present in the moment. It’s okay to say “no” to social events and other offers when there is too much on your plate (Douglas, n.d.; Jonkman, n.d.). Ensure that you are caring for your physical well-being by engaging in some form of exercise, such as yoga or walking.
        • Be kind to yourself! Practice self-compassion and do something each day for yourself, whether it be a bath or an indulgence (Douglas, n.d.).
        • Slow down and acknowledge that things may not always go according to plan (Mindful Staff, 2014). Take breaks and celebrate small achievements (Jonkman, n.d.).
        • Spend a few minutes each day in silent reflection to connect with your baby. Acknowledge and appreciate the miracle that is occurring in your body and express gratitude for all that you are able to do (O’ Leary, Dockray, & Hammond, 2016; Douglas, n.d.; Jonkman, n.d.).
        • Remain open-minded to learning and adapting (Douglas, n.d.). It is important to let go of any preconceptions and accept things as they come (Larkin, 2015). Don’t feel afraid to reach out to other women who have been on this journey before you or seek the help and advice of a healthcare professional if you are feeling anxious, stressed, or uneasy.
        • Lastly, let your mindful practices adapt with your baby and do what works for both of you (Mindful Staff, 2014). What may have worked during pregnancy may no longer be feasible. Part of practicing mindfulness is accepting what is and growing positively.

        Try this Mindful Breathing Video

        Video created by Noorshan Nanji 
        1:39 mins, November 2018

        Mindful Pregnancy Resources

        Mind the Bump

        Lotus Blue

        Mind the Bump is a free mindfulness meditation app that expectant mothers and couples can use as they prepare to start their new family. This free app provides mental and emotional support and offers education on both adult and child
        brain development. The app provides guidance from the first day of pregnancy until 24 months after giving birth. Additionally, the app was created by psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize in mindfulness and perinatal health. These healthcare professionals also have knowledge on how to deliver health related content online. This is a great resource as it can be accessed at anytime and anywhere.

        URL: https://www.mindthebump.org.au


        Fit 4 Two Prenatal Yoga

        Lotus Blue

        This link provides information on where pregnant mothers can find prenatal classes to attend in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Yoga is an excellent exercise for pregnant mothers as it incorporates mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and strength-building exercise to prepare for labour and delivery. Additionally, the benefits of exercise are plentiful for both physiological and mental well-being.

        URL: http://www.fit4two.ca/classes/prenatal-yoga


        A Food Guide for Pregnant Women

        Lotus Blue

        This resource provides information for pregnant women about what to eat and what not to eat. During the crucial period of development, expectant mothers should be mindful of what they are consuming and ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need to achieve optimal health for themselves and their baby. Certain foods may need to be avoided during pregnancy and others may need to be consumed in greater quantities. This Food Guide will answer all questions and more, and directs you to additional resources if further inquires arise.

        URL: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/a-food-guide-for-pregnant-women/


        Breathing Space Counselling

        Lotus Blue

        Breathing Space Counseling was founded in 2016 by two registered therapeutic counselors. It provides private counseling, couples counseling, a counselling support group for mothers, and professional development for counselors. The values of Breathing Space Counseling include inclusion, compassionate acceptance, realness, trust, freedom, accountability, and fun. This is the perfect space for moms and couples to unwind and momentarily let go of any responsibilities and just focus on themselves in a safe and supportive environment.

        URL: http://breathingspacecounselling.ca/


        Dancing Star Birth

        Lotus Blue

        Dancing Star Birth is a handy one-stop link that directs you to several Vancouver-based resources. Here, you can find information to guide you through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Some of the resources this site has gathered directs you to prenatal yoga classes, midwives, doulas, acupuncture, chiropractors, where to find postpartum support, information on art therapy, information on natural health care services, and support for new fathers. Whatever you are looking for, Dancing Star Birth is sure to have it!

        URL: https://dancingstarbirth.ca/resources/


        References

        Bonura, K. B. (2018). Just Breathe: Mindfulness as Pain Management in Pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 33(1), 6–9.

        Dhillon, A., Sparkes, E., & Duarte, R. V. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 8(6), 1421-1437.

        Douglas, A. (n.d.). Practicing Mindfulness During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood. Having-A-Baby.Com. Retrieved from http://having-a-baby.com/practicing-mindfulness-during-pregnancy-and-early-motherhood/

        Fraga, J. (2017). The Benefits of a Mindful Pregnancy. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/well/family/the-benefits-of-a-mindful-pregnancy.html

        Frazer, C., & Stathas, S. A. (2015). Mindfulness: Being Present in the Moment. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 30(2), 77–83.

        Health Foundations Birth Centre. (2013). 15 reasons to do yoga in pregnancy [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.health-foundations.com/blog/2013/11/04/15-reasons-to-do-yoga-in-pregnancy

        Jonkman, A. (n.d.). How I used mindfulness during my difficult pregnancy. Headspace. Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/02/25/difficult-pregnancy-mindfulness/

        Larkin, B. (2015). WTF is Mindfulness, Really? Greatist. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/grow/what-is-mindfulness

        Matvienko-Sikar, K., Lee, L., Murphy, G., & Murphy, L. (2016). The effects of mindfulness interventions on prenatal well-being: A systematic review. Psychology & Health, 31(12), 1415–1434. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2016.1220557

        Mindful Staff. (2014). Mindful Pregnancy. Mindful.org Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/mindful-pregnancy/

        Morrell, S. (2016). How mindfulness can help during pregnancy [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://maven46.com/lifestyle/2016/11/mindfulness-can-help-pregnancy/

        Murphy, C. (n.d.). How to Have a More Mindful Pregnancy. Parents Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-life/emotions/how-to-have-a-more-mindful-pregnancy/

        Newman, K. (2016). Four Reasons to Practice Mindfulness during Pregnancy. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_reasons_to_practice_mindfulness_during_pregnancy

        O’ Leary, K., Dockray, S., & Hammond, S. (2016). Positive prenatal well-being: conceptualizing and measuring mindfulness and gratitude in pregnancy. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(4), 665–673. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-016-0620-x

        van den Heuvel, M. I., Johannes, M. A., Henrichs, J., & Van den Bergh, B. R. H. (2015). Maternal mindfulness during pregnancy and infant socio-emotional development and temperament: the mediating role of maternal anxiety. Early Human Development, 91(2), 103–108. https://doi-org.ezproxy.kpu.ca:2443/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.12.003

        Yoga Shack BC. (2015). Prenatal [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.yogashackbc.com/index.php/events/prenatal/


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