The world of midwifery has evolved into an evidence-based practice where research is needed before we can implement new ways of providing care. After experiencing how mindfulness helped me prepare for my own journey into motherhood, I made a professional decision to incorporate mindfulness into all aspects of my maternity care.
Personally, I can vouch for the positive influence that mindfulness has on the women I support, but obviously, it is impossible for me to determine the long-term impact on their growing infant! This makes me determined to compile as much evidence-based research on the subject, so I can make mindfulness in pregnancy common place in our Maternity Units.
When you do a medical publication search on “The Effects of Maternal Stress on the Unborn Child” you get endless amounts of journal articles. But… when you search “The Effect of Maternal Mindfulness on the Unborn Child” the research is limited, but thankfully growing!
One such study conducted in the U.K assessed 79 infant’s neurocognitive functioning at 9 months of age. These infants where categorized into a group born from mothers who did not practice mindfulness during pregnancy and the ones who did practice mindfulness during pregnancy, both from 20 week’s gestation.
Now… I have to use a few fancy words to give the correct impression and information, so bear with me! Science can test what is called ERPs (Event Related Brain Potentials) in infants by measuring their auditory attention. Auditory attention in infants is a key aspect of early neurocognitive functioning. Simply put, “using sound to determine an infant’s response to that sound while measuring their brain function at the same time”.
What this study found; was the infants whose mother practiced mindfulness during pregnancy devoted fewer attentional resources to frequently occurring irrelevant sounds. So, they did not use their brain function on sounds that do not matter or sounds that are irrelevant to teaching them something! Showing that positive traits and experiences of the mother during pregnancy can affect the unborn child.
If the research continues to study the “unborn child” not just the pregnant mother, then it will be easier to educate women on the importance of mindfulness in pregnancy. If we can emphasize the beneficial effects that a positive psychological state during pregnancy has on their unborn child, this may promote healthier behavior’s in pregnant women.
If you are unsure of how to practice mindfulness, it can be as easy as going for a walk on the beach. Mindfulness can be a state of mind, or a physical activity that you schedule into your daily life. We can make a conscious choice to practice mindful activities and we can also spend time working on our emotional reactions to the world around us. If we keep the physical and emotional practice of mindfulness in balance, we are on the way to living a more positive life!
5 Tips for Emotional Mindfulness:
- Stay in the present moment.
- Don’t over analyze every situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Accept that there is only so much that can be done. If you cannot control things that are outside your control, try working on the ones you can change.
- Trust in something bigger than yourself.
- Find the beauty in every moment, even the horrible ones.
5 Activities That Can Help You Stay Connected to Your Physical Self:
- Go for a walk – in nature.
- Join a Yoga class.
- Listen to an inspiring podcast.
- Practice meditation in your daily life, see below for a useful free app.
- Harness the power of creativity. You might like to paint a picture, write in a journal, or for the non-creatives try some colouring in!
MINDFULNESS TO ME…
Being aware and responsive to everything around us. The more aware we are of our thoughts and how these thoughts control our emotions and our behavior the easier it is too self-reflect and grow.
I aim to find the beauty in all things, even if it is difficult. I fight with myself to control negative emotions, so that I can be free at of any ego.
I want to teach my kids not to be afraid of their emotions, but to acknowledge good thoughts and bad thoughts, but to move on and not be critical.
Move forward each day and grow as compassionate human beings.
That’s what I hope for as a mother and as myself, I will practice every day to live a mindful life…
Written by Amy Read (RM/RN/IBCLC) Owner of The Mindful Mama Co.