Mindfulness is definitely a buzzword, like many a new fad in the wellness industry we may have reached peak saturation in terms of hearing about this as a skill/method/technique. Which is a shame as I think it makes people roll their eyes when they hear the word, rather than prick up their ears. How do you feel about mindfulness? For me, it has been transformational in terms of my day to day length of tether. Sleep deprivation and the associated other demands on your body and mind through pregnancy and motherhood can leave you feeling scattered, tetchy, angry, Hulk Mum. Mindfulness offers a bit of a pause, a life buoy for those moments when you feel like you’ve fallen into a choppy sea of anxiety or anger.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental discipline that enables us to respond differently to challenging circumstances, sensations, emotions and thoughts rather than follow our habitual reactions. Mindfulness is now widely considered to be an inherent quality of human consciousness – what makes us human is our capacity to turn our attention and awareness to the present moment. Mindfulness can be cultivated through meditation practice and increases engagement with what our habits and behaviours are, allowing for a clearer understanding of how your thoughts and emotions can impact on our health and how much we enjoy our life.
Mindfulness-based approaches in healthcare began in the late 1970s the USA with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. In the 1990s Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed; drawing from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and MBSR, by Mark Williams at Oxford University, John Teasdale at Cambridge and Zindel Segal in Canada. MBCT is now a recognised and recommended way of reducing the risk of recurrence in depression and anxiety disorders (NICE 2009).
The definition of Mindfulness
‘The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non- judgmentally’ Kabat-Zinn (2005)
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy, with around 12% of women experiencing depression and 13% experiencing anxiety at some point – many women will experience both. Depression and anxiety also affect 15–20% of women in the first year after childbirth.
Information from NICE 2014 Female health: The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), Using information supplied in 2013 by members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ perinatal faculty
How can Mindfulness help in pregnancy and motherhood?
MBCT is already established and recommended by NICE as an effective treatment for the prevention of recurrent depression
Research into the prevention of depression in pregnancy and the postnatal period has not yet identified an effective treatment (Dennis et al 2005)
Early research suggests mindfulness could be beneficial in the perinatal period
‘Participants showed increased childbirth self-efficacy and a trend towards lower pain catastrophizing and significantly lower depression symptoms post-course than controls; the difference grew in magnitude postpartum’
Duncan, L et al (2014). Mind in Labor: Effects of mind/body training on childbirth appraisals and pain medication use during labor
‘A mindfulness-based course that combines mindfulness training with information and coping methods regarding pregnancy, childbirth and parenting concerns is more likely to optimise maternal well-being during this unique and important reproductive interval’
CM Guardino et al (2013) Randomised controlled pilot trial of mindfulness training for stress reduction during pregnancy
Practising mindfulness allows you to cultivate skills to enhance pain management, release stress, anxiety and other scrunchy emotions during the often turbulent transition to parenthood and, well, everyday life with small people
You learn to truly pay attention to present moment experiences (sensations, thoughts, feelings), what you’re feeling right here, right now, deliberately and non-judgementally
Mindfulness help participants to see more clearly the patterns of the mind, helping to avoid an escalation of swirly negative thinking and the tendency to be functioning on autopilot
Mindfulness for childbirth and parenting has the potential to reduce the risk of postnatal depression and increase your ‘availability’ of attention for the baby. Offers you a buffer for those days when everything is a bit pharghhhnnngggg! Literally offers you a bit of breathing space to process and respond rather than constantly react.
All the skills you learn through focusing on mindfulness are relevant throughout pregnancy, through your childbirth experience and day to day parenting … and are transferrable life skills – for the whole of motherhood life.
What I love about mindfulness approaches
The thing that I personally find so effective about the mindful approach is that it works with YOU, with your body, your senses, your thoughts, it’s simply a way of tuning into your internal radio which is constantly playing. It works beautifully with movement such as Pilates, so for me it’s a natural link to what I already teach mums for working with their body – looking to have a similar focus on the mechanics of the mind as well. It’s simply offering you a kind of map to understanding your mind and being able to navigate without feeling so lost. Steering yourself as opposed to being blown by the winds of your mind without realising.
Are you interested in finding out more about how mindfulness can help you in pregnancy and birth, and can help you in your mothering day? Have a look in The Supermum Myth, there are plenty of mindfulness-based activities within, which will start to foster a deeper connection and awareness of your mental landscape. And in Pilates for Pregnancy I offer lots of mindfulness-based approaches for your BODY-MIND, including some hypnobirthing techniques for your birth experience.
I offer one-to-one coaching packages and workshops for pregnancy and early motherhood, helping you to be the calmer, confident mum you always knew you could be. Get in touch if you’d like to work with me.
How are you today?
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