As a doula, I know one of the best ways to ensure you have a healthy birth is to start with a healthy pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy can mean lower instances of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, difficulty during labor, and the necessary use of medical interventions.
Most know that eating right and exercise are key to a healthy pregnancy. But a truly healthy pregnancy goes beyond nutrition and optimal fetal positioning, your mind must be healthy as well. It is a tough concept for most Americans, to understand the role the mind plays in health. We live in a very busy, high stress society. And many times if a mental issue arises, pharmaceutical medications are prescribed. It should be noted that even though drugs can help it is still recommended to follow a mindfulness regimen to get to the root of the issue. Plus pregnancy brings along a whole other level of stress: financial stability, keeping baby healthy, juggling work/family with the pregnancy, unsupportive family members, etc.
When your body and mind are stressed, cortisol is produced, a buildup over time can be harmful. It is proven that babies who are exposed to high levels of stress, while in utero, are more likely to have mental issues and developmental delays. A hindered mindset will also impede labor. The laboring mother needs to produce the optimal amount of oxytocin to start and maintain labor and she also needs a certain level of endorphins, which are the natural pain relief produced by the body. But mental blockage can impede the right hormones from being produced and in turn make labor more difficult or stop it all together. A calm mental state will also help the immune system as well as the healing process after birth.
It is apparent that mental clarity and mental health are important in pregnancy, birth, and in the postpartum period. To achieve this, you can start a regimen in early pregnancy. Practicing throughout pregnancy makes you more aware of the pregnancy itself and will prepare you for the ultimate test, birth. Mindfulness can be achieved by daily meditation, yoga, massages and keeping a journal to jot down your feelings about pregnancy and life in general. There are several books available to help you on your journey to self discovery, some even tailored for pregnant women.
This practice is also helpful beyond pregnancy and birth. It will help you adjust to life with a newborn and a parent in general. Focusing on yourself is not just a luxury, it is a necessary element to help you become the healthiest person and parent you can be!