Childbirth is a notoriously painful process, and there are many methods for managing that pain and the attendant anxiety that many women feel during labor and delivery. Some choose pain medications, while others choose natural methods such as breathing techniques, massage, and warm baths.
Meditation during labor and delivery is also particularly beneficial for managing pain and for encouraging an easier birthing process overall. Though the chaotic image of a typical delivery room may not seem compatible with the tranquility and focus of most meditation practices, meditation during childbirth actually has many benefits.
Benefits of Meditation
As with regular meditation practice, meditation during childbirth can produce many physiological benefits, including the regulation and balance of hormones. Meditation has been shown to decrease levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (which can increase anxiety during an already stressful situation) and can increase hormones such as melatonin and DHEA, which help boost the immune system and promote a sense of calm.
Meditation also increases the production of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers in the body.
In addition to its impact on the production of hormones and other chemicals in the body, meditation can also help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and helping to reduce anxiety. High levels of anxiety have been shown to decrease tolerance for pain, so meditation can also help to alleviate pain by reducing anxiety.
Finally, meditation helps to improve positive energy and enhance mood, helping nervous and anxious mothers to eliminate negative or worrisome thoughts and allowing them to focus on delivering healthy and happy babies.
Types of Meditation During Labor
Every woman is different, and every one will respond differently to different types of practice. It is best to try different methods in the months leading up to delivery to determine what will work best for you.
Some common types of meditation during labor and delivery include:
This type of breathing (similar to Pranayama breathing in yoga) is very different from the type of breathing practiced in Lamaze and other childbirth preparation classes.
Instead of focusing on short, rapid breaths to power through contractions, women are encouraged to breathe deeply and slowly through the diaphragm to instill a sense of peace and calm and to feel more power and control over the senses.
Focusing on a positive and calming image can often be enough to help women focus and relax during labor.
Some options include thinking about a favorite vacation or a happy moment and focusing on the positive feelings that those situations created. Women can also choose to focus on the baby, imaging the journey through the birth canal until the baby will be held safely in her arms.
Other types of meditative practice during labor and delivery can include mantras and chanting, quiet reflection, or listening to soothing music.
There is no preferred or more effective method — every woman must choose what works best for her to make her feel relaxed and in control.
Regular meditation practice leading up to and during labor and delivery can have profound physiological and emotional benefits for both the woman and her newborn baby. Not only can it help to reduce complications and ease the birthing process, but it can also help women effectively manage their pain and to feel empowered throughout the birthing process.
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