Mindfulness meditation: what’s it got to do with fertility?
10th February 2019
‘Mindfulness’ is something we hear a lot about these days, and has become really popular over the last few years. With roots in Buddhism, mindfulness meditation is actually a really ancient tradition – but you don’t have to have any particular beliefs to try it.
Mindfulness meditation – what is it?
Put simply, mindfulness is the process of focusing what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without being caught up in thoughts, images, worries, pressures or judgments. It can help us to:
- Approach things with a freshness of mind.
- Be in the moment.
- Notice when our mind is wandering.
- Feel more in touch with bodily sensations.
- Act with more kindness and compassion towards ourselves.
- Focus on something without judgment.
- Notice and accept our thoughts and emotions.
This quote nicely sums up what mindfulness is:
Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)
Mindfulness can help people to find peace and contentment when they are troubled. However, it is a common misconception that mindfulness exercises are done to relax and ‘switch off’. Actually it is about being present and focused on our current state – which is harder than it sounds, and takes time and practice!
Mindfulness meditation benefits – what’s it got to do with fertility and pregnancy?
Practicing mindfulness has been found to benefit emotional health and wellbeing. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect how the brain works and even its structure. For example, research has found that it helps change the part of the brain that causes depression. Mindfulness can also improve physical health more generally. For example, new research has found that mindfulness can help manage chronic pain. Practicing meditation is therefore a brilliant way to improve your overall preconception health.
Practicing mindfulness has not only been found to benefit wellbeing but it has also been found to reduce the fear of labour, decrease the use of pain relief and lower the risk of postnatal depression – so it is a useful skill to learn and practice early! So at Adia we have developed a free meditation programme designed for fertility.
How can it help with fertility problems?
Mindfulness meditation can also be used to manage the stress that can be caused by fertility problems – and there is positive evidence that it’s beneficial for pregnancy rates too. A study of first time IVF patients found that women who practiced meditation presented a significant increase in mindfulness and self-compassion as well as higher pregnancy rates. There have also been a number of randomised control trials on the efficacy of the mind/body programmes for people undertaking fertility treatments. Those who used the mind/body programme experienced significantly lower levels of distress as well as higher pregnancy rates.
Mindfulness meditation exercises – how can you try it?
Mindfulness can mean lots of different things to different people – it’s often used as an umbrella term. There are lots of ways that you can bring mindfulness moments into your everyday life:
A lot of us eat on the go, or eat while doing something else – whether that’s working at your desk or watching the television. The next time you’re eating, try doing it mindfully. Pay attention to the taste, sight and texture of what you’re eating, and you may find you appreciate it more!
We all like to think we’re good listeners, but there’s a huge difference between nodding as you wait for your turn to talk and actually being present and mindful of what others are saying. Often people find that their mind wanders or other thoughts pop into their mind that distract them from fully listening. As well as helping you live more mindfully, active listening can improve your communication and personal relationships.
Mindful walking or running
The next time you are walking or running, instead of looking at your phone or listening to that podcast notice the feeling of your body moving and the environment around you – this might include sights, sounds and smells.
- As soon as you wake up in the morning, rather than jumping out of bed, pause long enough for 3 whole breaths.
- Take the time to sit and have your first drink in the morning – whether that’s tea, coffee, juice or water. Be aware of the smell, the taste, the temperature and everything else. Appreciate the moment and notice when the mind has wandered.
- On your commute to work, make the beginning and end of every journey another mindful moment and be present for 3 breathes.
- Take a moment before going to bed to appreciate something good which has happened in the day.
- Although yoga nowadays is often thought of as a form of physical exercise, traditionally, yoga practice has been a multicomponent discipline involving physical exercises and the enhancement of mindful awareness through the practice of meditation. Therefore, yoga is an excellent option for mental health and relaxation.
Mindfulness guided meditation
You can also try a guided meditation, this is where a guide (the guide for all of our meditations is the brilliant Clare Connolly, one of our fertility experts) will talk you through the exercise. Some people find this approach really helpful, both to learn the techniques as well as to have a set time period and routine each day. We have developed a guided meditation programme which is grounded in mindfulness techniques, and designed around your reproductive cycle. The meditations are just ten minutes long. So if you’re tying to conceive, why don’t you give it a try!
Mindfulness morning meditation – when to practice?
You may find that meditating in the morning means it’s easier to fit into your daily routine. Once the afternoon comes along and it gets hectic, any number of things can come along and bump it off the to-do list! It’s also a great way to start your day. But some people also prefer to meditate before bed. It’s really about figuring out what works for you.
Meditation also can help prepare the brain for stressful situations. For example, meditating for a few moments before a doctor’s appointment can help shift the brain and body out of the stress response and into a state of relative calm. So the next time you face a stressful situation, try a few moments of meditation before hand.
If you’re planning for pregnancy in 2019, join Adia and access our daily 10 minute guided fertility meditations