Mindfulness relieves labor pain, improves postnatal recovery

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Credit: Hardie Photography

Research has shown that even under extreme circumstances, like during childbirth, we can (and should) practice mindfulness. Of course, it won’t totally ease pain or anxiety during childbirth—mindfulness isn’t sorcery that can simply wave those away. But the practice of being grounded and mindful allows birthing parents (and their partners) to feel less fearful, more connected, more satisfied, more bonded, and even to have better postpartum recovery and better parenting in the long run.

To learn more about how mindfulness works in the context of childbirth, I spoke with Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the Science Director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and a mother of three.

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[Dr. Simon-Thomas:] Focusing on just this moment, and something tangible and physical in this moment, steers you away from those worrying thoughts that are, in many ways, the most unpleasant part of pain. Instead, by focusing right on the part of the body that hurts—and not dwelling on why, how long, how bad, am I gonna die—the moment of hurt passes, and then you are onto the next moment.

In childbirth, body mindfulness is just now, and then the next now, and the next now, and then—after a bunch of those nows that nobody is counting—it’s over and there’s a baby!

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