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3 Mindfulness Meditation Practices for Pregnancy and Beyond

October 9, 2023
Isabelle Pope
Image Credit: Georgia Maciel

Mindfulness is a specific type of meditation. As stated in Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, Ph.D and Richard Mendius, M.D., “Mindfulness involves the skillful attention to both your inner and outer worlds” and is the “doorway to taking good experiences and making them a part of yourself.” In simpler terms, it is to focus intently on what you may be feeling in a moment, but not necessarily passing any judgment on said feelings. Mindfulness meditation is inherently spiritual and is rooted in Buddhist practice; however, regardless of your religious and spiritual affiliation, practicing mindfulness meditation has many benefits for anyone – including during and after pregnancy.

Mindfulness meditation can improve your mental health.

Pregnancy is a huge undertaking, with many physical and mental changes throughout. Because of this, both pregnant and postpartum individuals are more susceptible to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Fortunately, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression, as well as stress, therefore overall improving a person’s mood. Shelley Kind says that mindfulness meditation works because it teaches you to respond to stress with awareness, rather than responding instinctively to whatever may be happening. It also helps you to be open and accepting of your emotions, so you are better equipped to process them. 

Mindfulness meditation can improve your physical health; specifically, it may improve your immune response.

When a huge change happens to your body, especially when that change involves creating and giving birth to life, it is common for your immune system to weaken. There are studies that demonstrate that consistent practice of mindfulness meditation can lead to an increase of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that develop from stem cells in bone marrow to protect the body from a variety of infections. This indicates that mindfulness meditation can play a positive role in your overall immune health and response to infections or diseases, which can prevent the likelihood of getting sick during pregnancy.

Mindfulness meditation can improve your well-being by helping to exercise more empathy and compassion, for others and yourself.

The postpartum period can be challenging in that many moms find it more difficult to extend empathy and compassion for themselves during a huge life adjustment. David Gelles, author of Mindful Work writes in Chapter 6 that mindfulness can generate compassion for ourselves and others because we are able to recognize that our frustrations are not unique and that many people feel the same, helping us acknowledge our own and other people’s humanity. Gelles looks at using mindfulness meditation in a business setting, but it applies, because let’s be honest —being a mom is a full-time job

Taking these amazing benefits into account, here are three different types of mindfulness meditation practices you can try!

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation centers around the concept of focusing on the action of walking. The practice allows you to be present during this activity in a way that you may not normally. This particular mindfulness meditation practice could be especially helpful during the early parts of the 4th trimester during your recovery! Whether you’ve had a vaginal or cesarean, walking itself is a great way to ease back into physical activity*. And since walking meditation is purposefully meant to be much slower than your typical walk, it really eases you back into things. 

How it’s done:

  • Find a place (indoors or outdoors) where you won’t be disturbed and where you can walk 10-15 paces back and forth. 
  • Slowly walk 10-15 steps. Take a breath or a break for as long as you’d like at any point during the walk, and then turn around and repeat.
  • Deliberately think about each step as you are taking it and the components of each step. Recognize that you are lifting your foot and placing it on the ground. 
  • Take in sensations that you wouldn’t normally focus on, such as the ground under your feet or the sound of your breathing.
  • When your mind wanders, simply acknowledge the thought, let it go, and return to focusing on the sensations of your walk.

Pro tip: 

  • Consider applying the overall principles of this meditation to participate in a similar practice: mindful eating!

*It is important to check with your healthcare provider(s) regarding your physical activity after birth, especially if you have had a c-section. 

Body Scan

The purpose of the body scan is to connect with your physical self and acknowledge any sensations or feelings related to your body without judgment. As such, this mindfulness practice is beneficial if you are pregnant because you can become more aware of all the things your body may be telling you by tuning into each and every part of yourself. 

How it’s done:

  • Find a soothing place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Allow yourself to find and come into a  comfortable position.
  • Focus on your breath and how your belly rises and falls. When you are ready, start with your feet and explore the sensations you feel.
  •  Are your feet hot or cold? Do they feel comfortable? Are they at ease?
  • Slowly move to your legs. Once finished, move onto your pelvis and abdomen, and so on and so forth, being sure to really acknowledge the sensations you feel in every part of your body. 
  • Once you get to your head, imagine there is a hole at the top of it, where all the stress and tension will flow out as you breathe (particularly with each exhale). 
  • When you are in a place of calm, start wiggling your fingers and toes and slowly bring yourself back to the place you are. 

Pro tip

  • If your body allows, lay down on the ground, on something soft like a rug – it completely enhances the experience. 

Forest Bathing:

Rooted in Japanese culture, Forest Bathing is about embracing yourself and the sensations you feel, but in a forest or simply in nature. If you choose to walk in the forest, it is slightly different from walking meditation in that instead of focusing solely on your steps, you are also acknowledging the sensations that come specifically from nature. Forest bathing is a great practice during your postpartum period because it encourages you to take time for yourself, away from home. Additionally, mindfulness meditation and being in nature provides the ultimate combination to reduce stress and help you have more empathy for yourself because nature helps to lower stress, improve mood, and promote an uptick in empathy!

How it’s done

  • Before beginning, acknowledge any feelings you may have without judgment, and allow them to “float” away. 
  • Take deep breaths and focus on your breathing. 
  • One at a time, acknowledge your senses in relation to your surroundings: sound, sight, taste, scent, and touch. 
  • Breathe to center yourself once you have acknowledged your senses. 

Pro tip

  • If it is warm and you have the time and the means, go to a place with a stream or a lake. Listening to, looking at, and touching the water adds an extra positive element to the Forest Bathing experience!

Whether you are currently pregnant or just recently became a parent, we hope you find these three mindfulness meditation practices beneficial. With all the changes you are experiencing, both mentally and physically, these practices can be a great way to improve your mental health, support your immune system and give yourself grace during the challenges you may face. As an added bonus, you can participate in these practices whenever and wherever you want and for however long you want, making it one of the most adaptable ways to support yourself during and after pregnancy (even later in life). Regardless, if you choose to try these practices or not, remember to take a breath and give yourself a moment – you’ve got this, mama!

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