In The Moment

 

The Benefits of Staying Mindful During Pregnancy

by Kimberly Lawson

Courtesy Bellies and Babies

Sumanah Khan first started practicing yoga in 2012, soon after her final heart surgery as a transplant recipient. She calls the work to become a teacher at Yoga One “one of the most physically and emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.”

So when she became pregnant with her first child, it was a no brainer that Khan would continue to spend time on her mat regularly. What she didn’t count on was how beneficial it would be for her. Working to stay “in a continued state of meditation” helped her to find stillness on the inside and just breathe, she explains. “It allowed me space to be patient and kind with my husband, even when I wanted to yell, and it helped me get that much closer to my little daughter because I would take the time to be still and connect with her and connect with our breath.”

Living in the moment—by meditation, yoga or simply slowing down to take in surroundings—can positively impact a person mentally and physically. For pregnant women, those benefits extend to the womb.

According to a study published earlier this year from researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, being more mindful during pregnancy can yield more positive birth outcomes. After analyzing the questionnaire responses and medical records of more than 900 pregnant women, researchers determined higher mindfulness at 22 weeks was associated with lower depressive and higher positive mood later in pregnancy. “Even more importantly,” the study’s authors note in a report announcing the findings, “while mood was not associated with birth outcomes, higher scores on the mindful facet of letting go of worries at 22 weeks was linked to a higher birth weight and a 12 percent smaller chance of delivering an underweight child.”

Additional studies have also shown that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions, stress and pregnancy-related anxiety.

Angie Allison is the founder of Bellies and Babies, a prenatal and postpartum care center on Monroe Road offering a variety of services, including massage and yoga, with the mission of making the journey into parenthood as smooth as possible. She says being mindful is about returning to the basics.

“Going back to the basics means we’re really following what our body tells us,” she explains, “which keeps us from hurting ourselves mentally or physically. When women think about being more mindful, they think, ‘Oh I need to be more present with my children.’ But it really goes deeper than that.”

One way mindfulness comes into play at Bellies and Babies is during a massage session. Allison says their goal is to help clients pay better attention to their bodies. “They may say things like, ‘Oh I have carpal tunnel.’ Well, carpal tunnel doesn’t start in the arm, it starts in the shoulder. We force them … to really pay attention to how they’re approaching their day. Are their shoulders high when they’re driving? Are they relaxed or are they tensed? We help guide women into deconstructing their lives to be more peaceful.”

She adds: “When you tackle the physical piece, the mental piece goes along with it.”

Courtesy Bellies and Babies

Khan, at Yoga One, continues to teach yoga, including prenatal and “Mommy and mini” sessions. During class, she strives to help yogis enter their own space by starting off with a five-minute guided meditation. “People are coming in from the outside carrying in all sorts of circumstances and experiences,” she says. “My job is to help them drop whatever baggage they may have come into the room with, and give them space to nurture themselves and be about their bodies and their spirits for those 60 to 75 minutes.”

Breath work is also a big part of becoming grounded in the moment. “The breath of yoga is nose-nose breathing, and we guide them through a physical practice that matches their inhalation and exhalation to each movement/posture,” Khan says. “As the class goes on, I can visibly see and hear the yogis get into a rhythm with their breath. When they focus on that, that sort of internal chatter of the mind tends to fades away into the background.”

Becoming in tune with one’s body is such an important part of pregnancy, Khan says, and mindfulness is a part of that. “Our bodies undergo tremendous change from the day we conceive to the day we deliver. With the out-of-whack hormones, the fear of the unknown, the occasional unsolicited advice from loved ones and complete strangers, we need that sense of presence, that stillness, that clear intention and calm determination, to fully experience our pregnancy.”

Yoga One is located at 1318 Central Ave., Ste. D2. For more information, visit Y1now.com. Bellies and Babies is located at 4416-C Monroe Road. Visit BabiesandBelliesNC.com for more information.