Literature Review: “Prenatal Meditation Influences Infant Behaviors”

The first study, to my knowledge, of the effect of prenatal meditation’s effect on the behavior of the infant was released last year by an obstetrician in Hong Kong. This experiment recruited 64 pregnant Chinese women to learn meditation, with 59 women in a non-meditating control group. The meditation practices included mindfulness, compassionate meditation, mindful breathing, and progressive relaxation, which are also, fittingly enough, techniques that we implement in Calm Birth®.

Maternal salivary cortisol levels and mental-well-being were assessed periodically throughout the pregnancy and after delivery. As expected, salivary cortisol was lower in the meditation group. This measurement is fairly common in studies concerned with prenatal stress. What Dr. Chan did that sets this study apart from the others was to take a measurement of cortisol from the cord blood after delivery and compare the meditation group’s cortisol levels to the control group. He found that the cord blood cortisol levels of babies from the meditation group were higher than those in the control. While this may seem counterintuitive, a higher level of cortisol is actually beneficial in this case: it means that the babies were well prepared for the natural stress of birth, which prepares them to be alert upon entering the world. A more balanced endocrine system, which develops in a less stressful environment, enables an individual to have more appropriate stress responses, instead of a consistently elevated level of cortisol.

At five months, infant temperament was assessed using the Carey Infant Temperament Questionnaire. Statistically significant findings indicated that infants of the meditation group had more positive responses to new stimuli and “better temperament.”

The findings are clearly in support of prenatal meditation having a positive effect on the mother and offspring. This study is exciting, and hopefully will be the first of many. A plethora of research has indicated the negative effects of maternal stress on the child, but now scientists are beginning to explore the nonpharmacological interventions to counteract stress and prepare women to birth and live in a more balanced way.

Calm Birth has long been supported by scientific evidence, but studies like this reaffirm the importance of meditation in childbirth. The age of empowered birth is here, and we are happy to help usher it in.

If you want to know more about Dr. Chan’s study, you can read the full text at this link:

Reference: Chan, K.P. (2014). Prenatal meditation influences infant behaviors. Infant Behavior and Development: 37(4), 556-561.