Mindfulness in pregnancy, birth and parenthood
In this new self-care era, mindfulness and meditation are words we are hearing more and more of. But what exactly are they and how can they be used for pregnancy, birth and parenthood?
What is mindfulness and meditation? Are they the same?
Mindfulness refers to the informal practice of becoming aware of the present moment. You learn to become more aware of yourself and the world around. Meditation is the formal practice of finding your inner peace. Instead of us leaning in to each random thought that pops up we learn to let our thoughts float by like clouds, while we focus on our breath. Sounds dreamy, right?
Combining the informal, wakeful awareness of daily mindfulness with a formal meditation practice is the secret sauce. Each practice enhances the effectiveness of the other.
With mindfulness and meditation having the power to drastically improve people's lives, it is safe to say that these tools are more than buzzwords in the latest self care fad. They are age old techniques that are here to stay.
What exactly is mindful birthing?
Simply put, it is learning the tools of mindfulness and meditation and then applying them to your birth.
In our mindful birth method we focus on what we like to call the five pillars of mindful birthing:
- Knowledge and preparation
- Positive growth mindset
- Fitness and nutrition
Preparing the mind AND body are key
Mindful birthing begins early on in your pregnancy and continues into parenthood and beyond. Pregnancy is a time in your life when you want things to be simple and beautiful. However, in today's busy and fast paced world it can be very unrealistic to spend nine months living a life full of simplicity and beauty. Birth is both a physical and psychological process. It’s important to prioritise regular relaxation times during your day. Even just a ten minute meditation can help facilitate the intensive work of baby making our bodies are doing. As you approach birth, without doing anything, physiologically you will be primed by your hormones for this momentous event - thank you mother nature! When you take the time to be equipped with the full tools of mindful birthing you are able to overcome the psychological aspect also. Which can sometimes be the most challenging aspect of giving birth, particularly for first time mamas. When you can calm the mind, the body follows.
The science behind this age-old and mysterious technique
Mindful birthing is backed up by science and evidence-based research and, thankfully, with all this evidence surrounding mindful birthing coming to light the shift is now moving from mindful birthing is “alternative/weird” to mindful birthing is “essential/works”.
Here are some of the amazing benefits you can expect with mindful birthing.
1. Letting go of fear – by doing so, you can learn to relax and pay attention to the present moment, even if you are experiencing pain. When you are relaxed, pain levels can’t escalate the way they would if you were tensed up and feeling anxious.
2. Building strong bonds – mindfully connecting with your bump on a regular basis, whether it’s talking or singing to it, is more likely to increase the bond you share with your baby once it arrives. Positive affirmations are perfect for this and nurtures your baby’s development.
3. Better sleep – meditation heightens the natural levels of melatonin in our body, which improves our quality of sleep and mood.
4. Improve perinatal mental health – for us, it felt like having a superpower during challenging moments of pregnancy and new motherhood.
Mindful birthing for each stage of the journey
Pregnancy can be an intense time and mindfulness can help you feel calmer and more empowered.
Here are a handful of mindfulness tools we recommend learning are: positive affirmations, love and kindness meditation, breath techniques for birth, creating mindful playlists for relaxation, mood uplifting and sleep, mindful walking meditation, journaling, birth visualizations, and daily gratitude lists.
As you begin to practice regularly not only are you receiving the nourishment of deep relaxation, you are also learning to rewire your way of thinking. By becoming aware of your thought process rather than simply following and believing your thoughts, you learn how to respond mindfully instead of reacting on auto pilot.
You wouldn’t turn up to a marathon untrained, would you?
So why do so many turn up for birth without doing any training? In marathon training you spend many weeks preparing both the mind and body so that you are at your best- physically and psychologically. You eat a healthy diet and motivate yourself that you can do it! We think all mamas, where possible, should adapt the same approach towards their birth.
Eat a healthy well balanced diet to nourish yourself and baby. If you exercised before you became pregnant, continue to incorporate fitness into your pregnancy, as long as it is not medically advised not to. One great exercise you can do is pregnancy pilates and pregnancy yoga.
Practice daily positive affirmations so you fully believe in yourself, your body and baby. You, your birth partner, and your baby are a team. We recommend birth partners practice positive affirmations, too.
In order for labour to progress naturally and to birth your baby it is crucial you have spent the time training yourself to relax, let go of fear and trust the process. Positive affirmations and reading positive birth stories can help this but you breathing can be your anchor.
It has extraordinary power to calm you, and can help you through each contraction so you bring your baby into the world calmly and confidently.
One of the best things about mindful birthing is that these are life long skills you can tap into whenever and wherever you like. By tuning into your mind, body, and breathing you have the power to pay attention, become fully present and recenter yourself. Parenthood has many ups and downs and can be a mix of emotions. From intense love for your new baby to addressing the challenges that come with adjusting to your new role as a parent. Being gentle with ourselves after childbirth is extremely valuable for both parents. This transition also requires lots of intervals of relaxation and self kindness to guard against stress. As new parents, we can easily forget to take time out for ourselves to just sit and breathe. The more you engage in self-care, the more you will help your body and mind recover. As the old saying goes, you can't look after anyone else if you don't look after yourself first.
We love what Eleanor Brown once said: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
We have this new little person that we are fully responsible for but we are also responsible for ourselves, so we can be the best parents we can be.
The most beneficial mindfulness tools for parenthood are: positive affirmations for new parents, body scan for new parents, calm deep breathing techniques, birth reflection exercises, Journaling, creating mindful playlists for relaxation, mood uplifting and sleep, mindful walking meditation, daily gratitude lists.
The biggest secret weapon to help you to experience a dream birth experience are breathing techniques. Simple breathing techniques that work to bring your baby into the world as calmly and safely as possible.
The Dream Birth Company is a mindfulness company focused on pregnancy and birth, founded by two London mamas who bonded over the dream of having an enjoyable birth...not a scary one! They brainstormed ideas, practised and developed their own unique birthing technique that allowed them both to experience the most amazing and empowering births ever. For more information, visit https://www.thedreambirthcompany.com/.