When it comes to celebration and times of happiness there are few things that can rival the birth of a child. People will offer their congratulations, send cards with their blessings or swamp you with a multitude of presents ranging from baby booties to gnome-sized hats. Everyone it would seem, from family members to forgotten friends on Facebook, will welcome the new addition with oversized smiles and giant grins. Newborn babies beat fireworks into a distant second place for the number of oooh’s and ahhhhh’s generated for a single event. Everyone it would seem is happy. But when this ensemble cast of well wishers exhaust their facial muscles, decide to go home and get on with their familiar and comforting daily routines, life for some mothers can be overwhelming and frequently stressful.
It’s not really surprising. After surgery or any type of trauma we’re told to rest up in bed, we’re signed off work and given instructions to sleep and recuperate. People bring us grapes, Lucozade and we watch daytime TV until we become an expert in antiques and house renovations. Now if we compare this with childbirth, we not only have minimal time to recover, but have the added anxiety of trying to look after a baby that doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s quite a lot to take in!
While most women will experience some form of “baby blues” shortly after giving birth, if the problem persists or actually gets worse then postnatal depression could be the result. It’s a serious condition and according to the NHS affects 1 in 7 women in the UK. With the exact cause still unknown, it’s presumed that the physical & emotional stress of childbirth, hormonal changes and our own social circumstances (support network, relationships) all contribute to postnatal depression. Symptoms can include:
• Lack of interest in your baby
• Negative feelings towards your baby
• Worrying about hurting your baby
• Lack of concern for yourself
• Loss of pleasure
• Lack of energy and motivation
• Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
• Changes in appetite or weight
• Sleeping more or less than usual
• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
First time mothers are also more susceptible as they not only have to cope with sleepless nights, fatigue and the demands of a new routine, but also have to adapt to their changing role and the limitations therein.
So is there anything that can be done to help cope with postnatal depression? There are the standard forms of self-help guidance, cognitive behavioural therapy and of course prescription medications, which may help get us there eventually – but are there any alternatives that can deliver meaningful results more quickly?
Vedic meditation is a technique that’s being used more frequently for expectant mothers and those suffering with postnatal depression. It differs from other meditation techniques in its ease and effectiveness of practice, particularly for those of us who already have a million things to do! Where other methods are based on contemplation or concentration (e.g. focusing on a candle), the use of a simple sound, or mantra, quietly spoken in the mind with eyes closed, allows the mind to naturally enter a different state of awareness. The busy mind that’s innately trying to cope with the innumerable worries of being a mother, slowly settles and the anxiety starts to fade away.
It’s in this place of calm, peace and quiet where the healing begins. Our over-stimulated nervous system, which is frequently on alert, gently reverts back to a balanced equilibrium. Things no longer seem overwhelming, we are free of anxiety and we can face our challenges with a rational frame of mind. The areas of our brain associated with reasoning are also strengthened and the branch of our nervous system, which facilitates our rest and relaxation responses, begins activating again. So we find it easy to descend into deep sleep very easily. Coupled with the profound rest we gain during Vedic meditation (2 to 5 times deeper than the deepest point in sleep), we are more robust, rested and resilient. Quite the virtue when coping with disrupted sleep patterns.
The brain, as with any other muscle in the body, needs time to rest and re-charge. Finding time to do this with a new family can be a challenge, but 20 minutes in the morning and evening is manageable for most, and the results of this short dive into meditation can be nothing short of dramatic. Our outlook on the world changes and with it the body responds. When we’re calm our hormones can revert back to how they should be, serotonin (our happy hormone) is produced and the pressures of rushing between Peppa Pig and potties can seem much more manageable, perhaps even enjoyable!
When relieved of the baggage of stress and strain we are more present and can enjoy each new evolving and ever changing moment with joy and energy.
Having a child can be one of the most amazing and profound moments of our lives. While it’s certainly not easy all of the time, everyone has the ability to tap into their full potential and do the best that they possibly can. Meditation is simply a tool that allows you to surprise yourself with how capable you can really be.
About the Author: Will Williams is the founder of Will Williams Meditation in London. Follow him on Google+