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Pregnancy and the Transcendental Meditation technique
by Margaret Mullins, MSN, PNP-C, FNP-C
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3 February 2015
After my delivery of twin daughters I was very committed to nursing them. Since newborns nurse round the clock, this meant my sleep was broken and interrupted for weeks, especially because of nursing two infants. It was my experience (and it is often reported as other mothers' experience) that with the Transcendental Meditation technique I was able to relax and get the rest I desperately needed. TM definitely got me through my first year of caring for twins.
What type of harm do stress and sleep problems cause to pregnancy? How can the expecting mother reduce the negative impact of stress, hypertension or high cholesterol, and take the best care of herself and her fetus?
Pregnant women pay extra attention to their nutrition and physical health but there are a number of other health issues that are just as important to a healthy pregnancy.
1. Stress can cause the body to produce hormones that may increase the likelihood of difficulties during pregnancy and delivery. Stress and anxiety can also have a negative impact on the fetus and may have long-term effects on the child, including hyperactivity(1), low birth weight, and problems with cognitive and emotional development.
When you're stressed, your body goes into ''fight or flight'' mode, sending out a burst of cortisol and other stress hormones. If you can't reduce the stress it could alter your body's stress management system, causing it to overreact and trigger an inflammatory response.
Inflammation has been linked to poorer pregnancy health and developmental problems in babies. ''There are some data to show that higher chronic stressors in women—and poor coping skills to deal with those stressors—may be associated with lower birth weight and with delivering earlier,'' says Ann Borders, MD, MPH, MSC. (OB/GYN in the obstetrics and gynecology department, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Evanston Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem)
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique effectively relieves stress. If the person practicing it twice a day for 20 minutes happens to be pregnant, the benefits are multiplied by two (or more!).
2. There is also evidence that poor sleep or insomnia during pregnancy can lead to preterm birth, prenatal depression, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, abnormal length of labor, cesarean delivery risk, and problems with the baby's growth. Studies show that TM practice helps to beat insomnia. By providing the necessary relaxation and stress relief, it can help give much needed peaceful sleep through the night.(2)(3)
3. High blood pressure is never a good thing—but during pregnancy it can lead to decreased blood flow to the placenta, depriving the baby of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. If you had high blood pressure (hypertension) before you got pregnant or you're diagnosed with it before you reach 20 weeks, you have chronic hypertension.
Hypertension increases the risk of placental abruption and preeclampsia—conditions which can be life threatening for both the mom and the baby. In addition, elevated blood pressure raises the chance of premature delivery, which is risky for the health of the child. Blood pressure medications taken while expecting may not be completely harmless for the little one growing in the womb, but the Transcendental Meditation technique has been proven to reduce high blood pressure without harmful side-effects.(4)
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the Transcendental Meditation technique is the only meditation practice that has been shown to lower blood pressure. The AHA statement concludes that alternative treatments that include the Transcendental Meditation technique are recommended for consideration in treatment plans for all individuals with blood pressure much in excess of the norm: 120/80 mm Hg.
While we always encourage women to take the advice of a physician, this great stress relief technique will certainly contribute positively to the process of treating hypertension.
4. High cholesterol levels have been associated with difficulties getting pregnant. Even after conception elevated cholesterol levels increase the risk of complications such as pregnancy-induced elevated blood pressure, and preeclampsia. High cholesterol levels raise the probability of preterm birth or of giving birth to a baby too large for its gestational age.(5)
Research shows that even without a pregnant woman changing her lifestyle or eating habits (every expectant mother should pay attention and alter if needed) Transcendental Meditation practice 20 minutes twice daily results in significantly lower cholesterol levels.(6)
The TM technique will significantly improve your well-being and likelihood of a healthy pregnancy. It will give your baby a stronger foundation for healthy, balanced development. As a new mother, you will find that TM practice reduces exhaustion and stress, leaving you free to enjoy this most precious time of life.
''As a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice in Washington, D.C., I have found that the reduction of stress and deep relaxation during TM practice benefits all women. This is true for the pregnant woman who is juggling the physical demands of pregnancy, the laboring patient who benefits from the increased stamina and greater cardiovascular efficiency produced by TM practice, and the career woman balancing her constant work with family and home demands. The scientific research on the TM program is impressive across a broad spectrum of benefits, including overall better health, normalization of blood pressure, and decreased insomnia, all of which contribute to more balanced health and psychology for women. Recommending the TM course has been a valuable adjunct to my private practice.''—Rebecca Beuchert, M.D
(1) Glover V. (1997) Maternal stress or anxiety in pregnancy and emotional development of the child. Brit J Psychiatry 171, 105-106.)
(2) Chronic sleep loss during pregnancy as a determinant of stress: impact on pregnancy outcome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24994566
(3) Orme-Johnson D. W., et al. Meditation in the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. In National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference on Integration of Behavioral and Relaxation Approaches into the Treatment of Chronic Pain and Insomnia, Bethesda, Maryland: National Institutes of Health, 1995.
(4) High blood pressure and pregnancy: Know the facts. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046098
(5) Maternal lipid profile during early pregnancy and pregnancy complications and outcomes: the ABCD study. National Institute of Health.
(6) Cooper M. J., et al. Transcendental Meditation in the management of hypercholesterolemia. Journal of Human Stress 5(4): 24-27, 1979. Cooper M. J. and Aygen M. M. Effect of Transcendental Meditation on serum cholesterol and blood pressure. Harefuah, Journal of the Israel Medical Association 95(1): 1-2, 1978.
Margaret M. Mullins MSN, PNP-C, FNP-C
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