Guest blog by Hillary Talbott Rolan, Diplomat Oriental Medicine NCAAOM, Fellow American Board Oriental Reproductive Medicine, Acupuncture Physician, Clinical Herbalist, Certified Masters of Wisdom Meditation Teacher, and Certified Life Coach
As prenatal and postpartum providers, we are often all too aware of how stress can contribute to less-than-optimum outcomes in our patients. The pandemic has certainly highlighted that correlation! But how do we go about reducing the stress response in our prenatal and postpartum patient populations when we have less one-on-one contact than ever before?
The simple answer is we meet our patients where they are – at home. We at GoMo Health are on a mission to reach and teach as many prenatal and postpartum patients the benefits of a daily mindfulness practice. We believe that teaching patients about the value of a mindfulness practice, along with how to do it, will not only decrease the stress response in our patients but in our providers too.
Science shows us that when you can change a human’s emotional state, you can change the actions they are willing to take. This is because all human action is driven by emotion. If you want to change your patients’ actions to take better care of themselves and their children, you must empower them to learn how to take control of their emotional states first. Science shows us that this is best done with the introduction of a daily mindfulness practice, but can also be in the moment with something as simple as introducing uplifting music when we are feeling low. We’ve all had the human experience at some point in our lives of being in a bad mood, only to hear our favorite song come on, and rather instantly we are transformed into a more positive emotional state. That’s exactly why we have combined carefully curated music and our spoken word meditations with the ability to listen to them together or separately at the touch of a button.
When we educate our patients about the “why” behind a suggested self-care practice, they are much more likely to apply our suggestions. The GoMo Health prenatal and postpartum initiatives do exactly that. Here are some of the “why’s” to help you encourage your patients to adopt new habits that can drastically improve their emotional states and their outcomes along with improved provider-patient relationships:
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
If the definition of stress is simply an unmet need or expectation, it’s easy to see why we all have it. Fertility challenges, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting are all fraught with unknowns, inherently increasing the propensity for stress. While we can’t stop stress or change our patients’ circumstances, we can teach our patients to flex the muscle of their minds through daily training of mindfulness exercises to reduce their anxiety levels. I like to think of daily meditation as the tool that helps our brains to become more mindful the rest of the day.
Mindfulness practices that involve the cultivation of compassion have been associated with less fear of the unknown, allowing the practitioner to be in a more present state of mind to accept what is happening rather than wishing their experience was somehow different. This in and of itself creates less stress in an organism. Imagine a world where every parent was more compassionate and able to pass that skill onto their child from the very beginning of their life!
We know that stress reduction is correlated with better fertility in humans. Every couple that has experienced fertility challenges has received unwarranted and frustrating advice from their well-intentioned loved ones or medical providers to simply relax in order to conceive. While telling a patient to relax won’t help, explaining to them that even low-grade fight or flight can cause their sex hormones to drop and their circulation to be routed away from their reproductive organs to their limbs so they can run or fight helps them to understand why they might want to give stress reduction techniques like mindfulness a serious try.
A 2011 study that looked at preterm birth found that women that participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early compared to the women with no mindfulness meditation practice. The trick is that mindfulness practices must be implemented before preterm birth occurs. Mindfulness practices include, but are not limited to, meditation, prayer, breathing exercises and even learning how to use our senses to anchor us in the present moment.
Reduced Instances of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression and anxiety are documented to occur at a rate of 1 in 8 women, however, rates are thought to be much higher especially in developing nations where it is estimated that 80% of women do not seek care and are not diagnosed. Mindfulness practices have been associated with decreased rates of depression during and after pregnancy and may improve psychological health.
Improved Child Outcomes
It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold. What if you could improve your child’s behavior before they were even born? Mindfulness training during pregnancy has been associated with more optimal infant outcomes, including fewer issues with self-regulation.
The growing body of evidence for mindfulness practices as a part of wellness is staggering. Don’t take our word for it though. We encourage you to implement our pre-and postnatal Personal Concierge programs today and witness the positive changes in patient outcomes for yourself. Here are some free meditations to help get you and your patients started.
The Interconnected Mind, Body, and Spirit:
A Maternal and Child Health Infographic
A healthy pregnancy is impacted by more than just physical well-being. Research shows that supporting the physical, emotional, and mental health of pregnant women has a positive impact on their prenatal and postpartum experiences.