“Oh, we’re thrilled to bits”. “I’ve never been happier”. “Look at you, you’re glowing!”. For some women, this may be their pregnancy. For some of us, it’s damn hard. Whether it’s anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, depression or fear of labour, pregnancy can take a massive toll on our mental health. Practising mindfulness in pregnancy can help us to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions, so I’ve taken a quiet moment to put together this guide to mindfulness when you’re expecting.
what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practise of being present and aware in the moment as it happens, taking note of your thoughts and feelings and experiencing them fully. Whether it’s savouring the smell of your current pregnancy craving (chocolate and pickles anyone?), or just feeling frustrated at not being able to reach over your bump to put your socks on, mindfulness encourages you to experience these feelings without trying to change or suppress them. You can then accept what is happening and how you feel about it, helping you to move on properly without continuing to worry about it.
During pregnancy, it can be a great way to connect with your baby. With everything else going on in our lives, we don’t always make time to bond with our bourgeoning babes. Pausing to think and feel the new life growing inside you brings an element of bodily awareness that you may not otherwise take the time to experience.
benefits of mindfulness in pregnancy
We’ve all heard of the baby blues, though for some of us this arrives even before our little one does! The combination of hormones and worries about being a “good” mother can leave us feeling not so radiant. Around one in ten women experience depression when expecting.
When you need a bit of a boost during your pregnancy, practising mindfulness in pregnancy can help to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Giving your brain a break from all the worries that day-to-day life can bring can really benefit your mental health. I’m not suggesting that mindfulness is a replacement for the medical treatment of mental illness; if you do need help, you should speak to your GP or midwife. But on days when you are feeling less than great, taking a moment for mindfulness in pregnancy is one way to help handle your emotions.
So, instead of worrying about being a good parent in the long run, try to focus on your growing bump in the moment, knowing that they are safe, healthy and very much loved right now. And there’s no reason these warm fuzzy feelings have to end with delivery! Continuing to practise mindfulness after birth can help ease post-partum depression, as you concentrate on caring for your darling in the moment.
the ohms and the ahs
Meditation is one of the more obvious ways to practise mindfulness in pregnancy. This could be by yourself, at a pregnancy yoga or meditation class – whatever helps you relax. There are now plenty of apps or videos to guide you, and some are even directed specifically at pregnant ladies! Take a look at Calm and Headspace – they offer short sessions that you can easily fit into your day, or longer ones for when you really need to unwind. They tend to guide you through breathing exercises to focus the mind, then bring attention to different parts of the body to promote self-awareness.
Mindfulness can help us to have a more positive outlook on our pregnancies and our lives in general. At the end of the day, we often remember the negative feelings but forget the good. By savouring positive feelings when we have them, we take more notice of the happy moments in our day.
Practise gratitude where you can. We all love to complain but recognising the good things in our lives can be great for our mental health. Maybe your back aches, and you’re getting fed up of not being able to drink coffee. But you also have a great support system around you, whether that be a partner, family or friends. Perhaps you’ve managed to go more than an hour without rushing to the toilet! However small, recognising and celebrating your daily wins is a great way to practise positive mindfulness in pregnancy.
looking after number one
Before you know it, you will have a tiny person who is entirely dependent on you. They will dictate how you spend the majority of your time, from how much sleep you get to how long you have to eat breakfast! Take the chance to be selfish while you still can.
Be sure to block out some time in your diary to pause and properly appreciate the sensations of something you enjoy. Sit and take in the feeling of the sun on your skin, the smell of clean laundry fresh out of the dryer, or the kicks of the tiny life growing inside of you. Taking some time out of your day to slow down and focus on yourself and what brings you joy is a great way to start practising self-care before your little one arrives.
Parenting is no smooth ride, and things will inevitably not work out quite the way you wanted them to. We spend so long planning our perfect birth, so it can be really distressing to have something disrupt that. Instead of burying your feelings of disappointment, let yourself experience them. Then, when you’re ready, let those feelings go. That way, instead of holding on to what might have been, you can prepare yourself for what is going to happen now.
to delivery, and beyond!
If you want another reason to give mindfulness in pregnancy a try, it can also reduce the use of pain relief during delivery (no, really). The pain of contractions can cause us to tense up, causing more pain and making them less effective. Breathing exercises help some women to relax during labour, for a less stressful and easier delivery.
Beyond your pregnancy, it can help you to be a more attentive parent when you finally have your precious bundle in your arms. Practising mindfulness before your little one arrives trains your brain to pay attention to the now. It makes your attention more available for your baby, so you can focus entirely on them without being distracted by intrusive thoughts.
In short, practising mindfulness in pregnancy is a great way to make the most of the amazing experience of becoming a mother. It encourages you to treasure every moment, both the good and the bad. After all, it’s all part of the journey that got your precious babe into your arms.