If you’re like me, pregnancy comes with a mix of emotions. If you’re here, you’re probably overjoyed about the little one growing in your womb. But it’s natural for stress to sneak in, too. If you’re experiencing more anxiety than you’d like, regularly partaking in mindful pregnancy activities could be exactly what you need.
There are so many benefits to mindfulness when you’re pregnant. Read on to learn how mindfulness can improve your pregnancy and birth experience and get ideas for mindful pregnancy activities you can do!
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To put it in the simplest terms, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness to the present moment and observing your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment.
In daily life, it’s easy to get pulled out of the present and into thoughts about the past or worries about the future. But intentionally practicing mindfulness can train your mind to spend more and more time in the present.
Benefits of Mindful Pregnancy Activities
There is a lot of research on mindfulness out there, and the results are quite positive. For the general population, mindfulness holds benefits like:
- reduced stress
- improved sleep
- enhanced focus
For people who are pregnant, the benefits of mindfulness expand even more. Too much stress during pregnancy can increase the risk of poor childbirth outcomes and postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).
But fortunately, the available research shows that practicing mindfulness during pregnancy has incredible benefits.
Several studies (linked at the end of this post) have shown the following benefits for pregnant people who practice mindfulness:
- reduced anxiety and stress
- fewer feelings of hostility and shame
- decrease in symptoms of depression
- increased mind-body awareness
- improved childbirth experiences and greater childbirth self-efficacy
In some of these studies, the benefits of a mindfulness intervention lasted past pregnancy and into the postpartum period.
My Experience with Mindfulness in Pregnancy
Personal story time: The day after I we found out I was pregnant, my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. That was a serious roller coaster of a week. I was so excited to be pregnant, but I was also trying to process this scary news about my dad’s health.
I remember being scared that the stress I felt about my dad’s cancer would affect my baby negatively. This wasn’t a type of stress that I could fix or modify, and it wasn’t going to just go away. I didn’t want to ignore the reality of my dad’s diagnosis and fake being positive just to put off my grief and anxiety until later.
But I also didn’t want to be consumed by those feelings. So I called in my mindfulness practice, which had been serving me well for years. It has helped me to hold all of the emotions I was feeling at once, to experience peace in my body, and to be present with my dad and my baby instead of getting lost in worries about the future.
5 Mindful Pregnancy Activities
The beautiful thing about mindfulness is, the more you practice it, the more natural it becomes. So if you’re just starting out, choose one or more of these mindful pregnancy activities to build into your routine.
With enough practice, you’ll eventually be able to stop and notice when you’re out of the present moment and use your practices to bring you back to it.
When you sit down to journal, you create a time when you’re intentionally checking in with your thoughts and feelings. And that’s what mindfulness is all about!
Pregnancy can involve all kinds of emotions, some of which might feel conflicting or confusing. But it’s possible (and totally normal!) to feel more than one thing at once.
Journaling during pregnancy can help you recognize, untangle, and process all of your feelings. You can write about whatever comes to mind. Or, if you’re having trouble getting started, try responding to some pregnancy journaling prompts.
I also recommend having a special journal just for your pregnancy that you can pull out to read in the future and even share with your child someday! To that end, you may want to invest in a high-quality journal. My favorites are LEUCHTTURM1917’s hardback journals, which come in gorgeous colors, provide a smooth writing surface, and will last for years to come. They are truly heirloom quality!
2. Listening to Stories from Family and Friends
Asking your family and friends to share stories of their pregnancy and parenting journeys is a beautiful mindful pregnancy activity. They will likely feel honored that you want to hear about their experiences, and you may learn about details that you’ve never heard before.
When you meet with your loved one, choose a time and place where they’ll have your full attention. Dial into the sound of their voice, their body language, and their facial expressions. Notice what emotions or sensations arise in you as you listen.
You can ask family and friends about:
- their pregnancies
- their birth stories
- your birth or adoption story
- their experiences raising children
- the challenges and joys they’ve experienced in parenting
3. Mindful Walking
Mindful walking is a two-for-one since you’re getting both a mindful pregnancy activity and some exercise!
The next time you go for a walk, leave your headphones at home so that all of your senses are tuned in to what’s around you. As you walk, notice your surroundings. What sounds do you hear? Which scents can you smell? How does the wind or sun feel on your skin? What details can you see that you might not usually notice?
Allow the act of noticing to bring you into the present moment. Enjoy the act of walking, soaking in every detail instead of thinking about what you have to do next. If you notice that you’re distracted from the moment, let your thought pass and come back to the present.
4. Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are considered mindful pregnancy activities because of the way they ask you to pay attention to your breath. As you breathe in and out, you can follow the path of your breath and the way it fills up your belly. You might also notice the way deep breathing makes your body feel.
Deep breathing is also an excellent way to regulate your nervous system. Because of this, it can help manage anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as improve sleep and focus.
Two easy breathing exercises to start with are diaphragmatic breathing and 4-7-8 breathing. You can find diaphragmatic breathing described in this post (it’s number 7 on the list).
To practice 4-7-8 breathing, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable place to sit. Extend your spine to sit up tall, and roll your shoulders up toward your ears and down your back.
- Empty your lungs of air.
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
- Pause at the top of the breath and hold it for 7 counts.
- Breathe out through your nose for 8 counts.
- Repeat this cycle for a predetermined amount of time (like 3 minutes) or number of times (like 5 cycles). As you practice 4-7-8 breathing more, you may build up the amount of time you spend in this breathing exercise.
5. Tune in to Your Body
The mindful pregnancy exercise of tuning in to your body is one of my favorites because I’m so passionate about embodiment.
Pregnancy is an amazing time to tune in to your body because there are so many new changes and sensations to notice.
For this mindful pregnancy exercise, a body scan is the perfect practice. Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. If you feel safe, close your eyes. Take your attention to the top of your head and notice any sensations that are happening there. Next, bring your attention to your forehead, then your right eye, your left eye, your nose, and your mouth.
Continue in this way, noticing every part of your body until you reach your toes. Then, bring all of your body into your awareness. You might imagine that your awareness is a blanket. Starting at your toes, pull it up and over your body until you’re fully covered with by it.
Prenatal yoga is another great way to tune into your body during pregnancy.
These mindful pregnancy activities will help you stay present and decrease stress during pregnancy.
Which mindful pregnancy activity will you try first? Tell me in the comments!
- Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study
- Mindful pregnancy and childbirth: effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on women’s psychological distress and well-being in the perinatal period
- Randomised controlled pilot trial of mindfulness training for stress reduction during pregnancy
- Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison