Whether you’re interested in an unmedicated birth, or you know you’re scheduled for an induction or c-section, there’s a lot of factors about birth that you can’t control. That’s why mindful meditation is so helpful for labor.
That’s why I’m such a fan of guided meditation for pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I used these methods for my third and fourth births, and they were game changers.
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If you’re considering meditation or Hypnobirthing for your own birth experience, read on to learn the benefits of these techniques and how you can use them in your own labors.
How mindful meditation helps you stay calm
Meditation and prenatal yoga is great for reducing stress and anxiety. In fact, a 2016 study showed that mindfulness meditation decreased perceived stress and improved parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system) function.
With mindful meditation, you learn to be less reactive to what’s going on within you and around you. This ability helps you stay calm no matter what’s happening.
An example: When my oldest daughter was a toddler, I would get so frustrated trying to get her to sleep. I would be sitting there rocking her, but inside I was a wreck, worried that she would never go to sleep.
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But when my second daughter was a toddler, putting her to bed was a completely different experience. I had been taking prenatal yoga (I was pregnant with my third child), and I had been learning mindfulness. As I sat there rocking her, I paid attention to what I felt. I noticed my feet on the floor. I felt her little bottom resting in the crook of my arm. I felt her soft head cozied up to my chest. It was… relaxing.
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Meditation lets you learn to stop and breathe without having to “do” anything. While meditation usually lasts at least 5-10 minutes, the practice teaches you how to stay calm even when you can’t drop everything for a full session.
For example, if you’ve got a sore, achy back, nausea, and pressing deadlines at work, not to mention hormone swings, you likely feel stressed out.
How mindful meditation can help with pregnancy
Imagine how the ability to be less reactive will help you with all the aches and pains of pregnancy.
Mindfulness helps you pay attention and “listen” to your body. If you have an achy back, for example, mindfulness reminds you to actually take the time to do a few cat/cow stretches or take a rest.
Even in day-to-day life, we tend to carry stress and tension in our body. In fact, stop for a moment right now. Are your jaws tightened? Are your eyebrows slightly furrowed? Check your shoulders; can they be loosened?
Meditation, especially techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, can teach you to relax your body. With practice, learn to relax on command. This skill is incredibly helpful during labor and birth.
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Mindful meditation is especially helpful for the insomnia you often experience during the third trimester. In fact, these meditations contain a Yoga Nidra exercise that helps you relax into a rejuvenating sleep. Many moms say they love to use it every night as they go to bed.
Combining meditation and prenatal yoga
For the best birth preparation, I highly recommend combining mindful meditation and prenatal yoga. Honestly, yoga is a form of moving meditation anyways, and it gently trains you to listen to your body, and even to be comfortable with discomfort (such as when you hold a pose that challenges you somewhat).
Just make sure your yoga teacher is certified in prenatal yoga and truly believes in a gentle practice. You don’t need to be pushing yourself to the limit when you’re pregnant.
Benefits of meditation during labor
Often with labor prep, we’re taught “pain management” techniques. Basically, we’re taught how to avoid and fight pain. Believe it or not, this mindset can backfire.
When you’re trying to fight something off (like pain), you’re likely in fear, causing you to tense up. This tension can actually make labor more painful, because you’re fighting your body.
Instead of fighting off painful contractions, it’s more helpful to relax and accept what’s happening. But acceptance of discomfort takes practice.
Can you use meditation for a Caesarian or induction?
Often, we focus on mindful birth preparation for those wanting an unmedicated birth. But meditation and other birth prep techniques are helpful regardless of how your baby comes into this world.
If you’re looking a scheduled C-section in the face, you might be nervous. And that’s understandable; after all, it’s a major surgery!
But mindful meditation can help you stay calm as you wait for the big day. And if you’re disappointed about your birth experience (for example, if you were hoping for a home birth but have to have a Caesarian), meditation can help you work through those feelings and ultimately accept and own your delivery.
How to prepare for labor and birth using meditation
If you choose to use meditation to help you through labor, it’s not going to be enough to turn on a birthing affirmations track the day you start feeling contractions.
You need to start practicing meditation as early as possible. That way, your body is trained to respond to soothing messages, so you can relax easily.
One of the easiest and best ways to practice your birth meditations is to listen to one right before bed. Even if you fall asleep during your meditation, that’s okay – that means your mind and body is learning to respond by relaxing.
During your day-to-day life, try to be mindful. Any time you notice it, release any tension in your jaw or between your eyebrows.
Make sure you’re not holding your breath. Often when you’re stressed, you tend to forget to breathe. Once you’re aware of this, you’ll be amazed how often you need to release a held exhale.
Best meditations for labor and birth
There are several options out there for birth meditations, and they all have their pros and cons.
Free birth meditations – pros and cons
Many guided birth meditations sound good, but they’re only a few minutes long. But when you have a labor that lasts hours (or even a day or two), a 4-minute guided relaxation simply won’t be enough to cut it.
Others you find for free (like on YouTube might be long enough, but they have ads in them. And trust me, you are not going to be okay with an ad for toothpaste interrupting your labor. Plus, if the signal is bad wherever you’re laboring, you might deal with your meditation tracks buffering. Not cool.
And frankly, many people who record a birth meditation and put it out on the internet have zero credentials. No expertise in birth coaching, no certifications, nothing. And because these kinds of meditations need to be carefully worded, they might actually cause more harm than good.
I loved the Hypnobirthing book (the original one). I can’t say enough about how helpful it was with my last two birth experiences.
Hypnobirthing comes with two guided relaxation tracks. While these meditations are long enough and have good cueing, honestly, many moms have found the narrator’s voice grating.
Meditations for Pregnancy and Birth
During my fourth pregnancy, I told my dear friend and yoga teacher about my problems finding a good birth meditation. I knew how soothing her voice is, and I knew she had certification in prenatal yoga.
I told Sharon how I wish I could have her voice with me during delivery. She was kind enough to record several meditations for me, and they’re perfect. They were exactly what I needed for my fourth labor.
Now, we are sharing these Meditations for Pregnancy and Birth with you. There is a full-length, 25 minute guided relaxation, a 30 minute Yoga Nidra (perfect for helping you go to sleep – I’ve had several moms tell me how much they love it), and a vocal toning guided meditation. In addition, there are bonus training videos included so you know exactly how and when to use these meditations.
Sharon is an E-RYT500 Professional Kripalu Yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist with prenatal expertise. Her passion is to share with others how to reconnect with your self and your body through the interplay between breath and movement. I love the fact that now, people from all over the world have heard these beautiful meditations from this beautiful woman.
Conclusions on mindful meditations for birth
No matter what kind of birth you expect, meditation can be a great way to prepare for a calm, empowered experience.
Find a meditation track that works for you as soon as possible (preferably by the beginning of your second trimester, but don’t stress if you wait until later). The sooner you start practicing meditation, the more effective it is and the better you can quickly relax when labor actually happens.
I strongly recommend these meditations – let me know what you think.