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Pregnancy is a joyous time. That’s what all the baby books, websites and TV ads say, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. While pregnancy can be a period of pure excitement for many women, for others it can be incredibly overwhelming; as hormones and general life changes can cause feelings of dread.
In late 2016, a study by the Trinity College Department of Psychiatry found that one in six Irish women are at probable risk of depression during pregnancy – among the highest of the 34 other OECD countries.
This means that every year, there are around 11,000 or more Irish women struggling to deal with the emotional impact caused by their pregnancy.
Stress and negative mood during pregnancy can not only be an unpleasant experience but can be dangerous too. Professor Veronica O’Keane who lead the research also pointed to growing scientific evidence that women who suffer from depression while pregnant are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia, which raises blood pressure. It also increases their chances of giving birth prematurely or having a low-weight baby.
Using Mindfulness For Pre-Natal Stress, Anxiety or Depression
If you are feeling consistently down, emotional, teary or stressed during your pregnancy, you should always talk to your doctor. Pregnancy does not need to be a sad or overwhelming time. If you are overcome with negative emotions, talk to someone who can provide you with professional help or advice.
If you want to manage your feelings in another way, there is evidence to suggest that mindfulness could help.
Research published in the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Journal in 2017 indicated that mindfulness can be a coping tool for negative feelings. The pregnant women who carried out mindfulness practices had improved psychological functioning and showed greater childbirth self-efficacy. They also had lower post course depression symptoms.
How To Practice Mindfulness in Pregnancy
If you’re not particularly used to mindfulness then the concept of being mindful when you’re carrying a child might seem absurd. How are you supposed to slow down and live in the moment when you’re feeling exhausted and under the weather 24/7?
But being mindful doesn’t have to mean sitting on a yoga mat in your garden, channelling mother earth. There are simple ways to introduce mindfulness to the everyday activities you do during pregnancy.
- Slow down
For those of us who thrive on being busy, slowing down can seem impossible as there’s so much to prepare for before the baby arrives. But pregnancy is the perfect excuse to take some ‘me time’ and turn it down a notch. Avoiding over-scheduling yourself will help you become calmer if you choose to embrace it.
- Sleep and body scan
You’re probably sick of people telling you to ‘enjoy your sleep now’ while you can but it’s advice worth taking. If you get into the practice of napping when you can, it will be able to practice the age old tip of sleeping when your baby sleeps.
If you’re having trouble switching off, try body scanning as you lie in bed. Starting with the top of your head, bring awareness to each part of your body, releasing any tension and breathing deeply as you move down to the tips of your toes. If you’re unsure of how body scanning works, there are plenty of YouTube videos to guide you through.
- Focus on what you can control
If you’re suffering from the world’s worst morning sickness or crippling Braxton Hicks, it’s almost impossible to think about anything other than the pain or how terrible you’re feeling. If you can, realise that it is temporary and not within your control. Think about the other parts of your physical health that are good and focus on those.
- Do yoga
There’s no better way to really delve into mindfulness than with yoga. And there are plenty of pregnancy yoga classes in Ireland that will teach you some great techniques, stretches and breathes that will help strengthen your mind and your body as the pregnancy progresses and for when you go into labour.
- Be present
Once you get past the 20 week mark, pregnancy soon starts feeling like a bit of a rush to the finish line. You have a bit of bump, you can feel the baby move and now you’re just dying to meet the little one. It then becomes very easy to start wishing the time away. This is especially true if your pregnancy is difficult or unenjoyable. But, if you can, try to find something in every day to relish and soak up. Downloading pregnancy apps that give you daily updates of your baby’s growth and progress can help you feel more present in the journey.
- Learn breathing exercises
Learning some deep breathing exercises can be an excellent coping mechanism in pregnancy. It helps slow your heart rate down and can take your mind off pain and discomfort. Breathing techniques can also be beneficial for the health of your baby as it improves the circulation of the blood and boosts the oxygen supplied to your body. It is also helpful for relaxation during labour.
If you are going to learn breathing techniques, it’s best to do it with a professional like a pregnancy yoga instructor as doing it wrong and taking in short sharp breaths can make you dizzy and lightheaded.
- Consider the small victories
When you compare yourself to other pregnant women, especially those in the media, you can put immense pressure on yourself to measure up to those who look perfect throughout or have the energy to go an exercise at seven months.
Instead of holding yourself to these unrealistic standards, celebrate your own small personal victories; like going for a walk or feeling up to meeting friends for lunch. Some days even getting out of bed will be worth patting yourself on the back for.
- Practice gratitude
The best way to embrace mindfulness to its fullest is to practice gratitude. Even on your worst days when you’re feeling sore and fed up, try to count three things every day that you’re grateful for. It might sometimes be as small as making it one day closer to the finish line.
Writing down your three things every morning will help you really think about them and will be nice to look back on as your pregnancy progresses.
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If you are feeling down during your pregnancy, you should always see a doctor. Here are some of the most common symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling sad and tearful for no reason.
- Finding it impossible to cheer up.
- Anxiety, depressions, feelings of hopelessness.
- Feeling moody, impatient and irritable.
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping.
- Feeling emotionally numb.
- Avoiding social contact, isolating yourself.
- Feeling suicidal.
Have you tried mindfulness during pregnancy? What are your thoughts? Let us know by using the hashtag #MyIrishLife