ABSTRACT: Meditation, childbirth meditation, and advanced natural childbirth are defined. The medical paradigm has been expanding, allowing meditation to be seen as an increasing medical and psychological resource in the West. This has resulted in inevitable influence on childbirth. The physiological and psychological benefits of meditation pertaining to pregnant women who meditate are described. Research on the various meditation hormonal benefits and immune enhancement is summarized. The benefits of meditation impacting the labor process are described. An expanded vision of childbirth anatomy is described in the context of meditation methods designed specifically for childbirth. Directions for childbirth meditation research are discussed.
KEY WORDS: Discipline, DHEA, Endorphines, Enrichment, Meditation, Melatonin, Serotonin, Visualization.
Both the words medicine and meditation come from the Latin word mederi, which means "to cure" (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 163). Meditation is a consciousness discipline that enables practitioners to experience optimal levels of cognitive function and optimal levels of psychophysical health, normally blocked by the mind in its undisciplined activity. Meditation science is based on venerable traditions, primarily Buddhist and Hindu, and has extensive knowledge of short and long term benefits of proven methods transmitted in those traditions. Childbirth meditation is the practice of meditation as an enrichment method in prenatal care and as a valuable postnatal care method.
With the progressive increase of the presence of meditation traditions and traditionally trained meditation teachers in the West in the past 50 years, and with meditation now widely accepted as a valuable health enhancement factor, many thousands of women who practice meditation have experienced meditation benefits during pregnancy and delivery. Many women who are pregnant have had substantial experience of meditation from the various available traditions. Some women who have no experience of meditation seek meditation and yoga methods to benefit their pregnancies. Childbirth meditation is an important subject for research and may impact childbirth medicine.
Advanced natural childbirth refers to new childbirth methods in which meditation practices give women empowering new means to adhere to the principles of natural childbirth. In this article we will discuss specific advanced natural childbirth methods. In describing the method of Womb Breathing, we will discuss a new vision of childbirth anatomy that includes energy body anatomy.
GROWTH OF MEDITATION IN THE WEST
The presence of meditation in Western life in the post cold war era has become ubiquitous. "Meditation ... is fast appearing in unexpected places throughout modern American culture. Secretaries are doing it as part of their daily noon yoga classes. Preadolescent teenagers dropped off at the YMCA by their mothers on a Saturday morning are learning it as part of their karate training. Truck drivers and housewives in the Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center are practicing a combination of Hindu yoga and Buddhist insight meditation to control hypertension [and pain]. Star athletes prepare themselves for a demanding basketball game with centering techniques they learned in Zen" (Murphy, M., and Donovan, S., 1999, p. 1).
The increasing use of meditation in all aspects of medicine has been remarkable. Since the start of the landmark research at the Harvard University Medical School in the 1960s, and particularly since the advent of the medicine/meditation program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (UMMC) starting in 1979, meditation has been widely researched and used increasingly in medical applications. It is the sign of a vital shift in the medical paradigm. Until the late 20th century medical science was dominated by deterministic, physical evidence-based criteria (also called mechanical, material or physical medicine). …