Deciding to have a child and becoming pregnant can bring on feelings of joy and excitement. At the same time, it can be a time of high anxiety and stress. NYC therapist and certified neurofeedback trainer, Heather Coleman, LCSW, gives her top holistic pregnancy tips for soon-to-be-mothers and women trying to get pregnant. She explains why neurofeedback therapy should be at the top of the list for a healthy pregnancy regimen.
4 tips for a healthy pregnancy
Even though for most women becoming a mom is a welcome and exciting decision, it also comes with many tensions. Couples can feel stressed starting from the first planning conversations. Then, there are the stress factors associated with attempting to get pregnant, such as the educational process, all the decisions surrounding how to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and the surprising - or not so surprising - extended family dynamics that can emerge. If that wasn't enough, there are may also be concerns about employment and financial planning. The education, planning, and decision making adds up to even the sanest person feeling stressed during pre-pregnancy and pregnancy.
Taking steps to promote positivity and relaxation help women feel empowered and enable them to enjoy their pregnancy. Below are the top recommendations I give women during the planning stage and during pregnancy to stay healthy and in the best state for their journey to motherhood.
1. Create Calm
There are countless reasons to feel worried or protective of your unborn child. Much of this is a biological response preparing you to be alert to danger and ready to care for your child. However, most of the time, we are mistaking neutral and benign information about our pregnancy as being threatening and unsafe. What if my test results come back and there is something wrong? What if she isn't kicking enough? What if I don't know the first thing about raising a child or changing a diaper? What if the nursery isn't fully ready by the time they arrive? The concerns can seem endless.
Things can and do go wrong during pregnancy, but there are healthy ways to deal with these fears that won't put undue stress you or your baby. The amount of energy spent worrying about what could go wrong doesn't help us respond and make decisions when we actually need to, and it takes away from the joy of being pregnant. We need to be able to relax and be present in order to enjoy the wonder of carrying a child!
2. Be present
Being present is helpful preparation for good parenting and meeting the needs of your child. By training the nervous system to be in a more relaxed and present state, we are better able to tune in with our baby and make better decisions regarding our own health, as well as that of our child. Reducing worry and anxiety frees up energy to truly respond to your child's needs. Rather than being anxious about what you may or may not be doing correctly, focus on what is needed in the moment and respond accordingly.
Calm you, calm baby
Your nervous system is a "tuning fork" for that of your baby. When you have a parent-child relationship, there are two nervous systems interacting with one another: the Alpha's (mom) and the Beta's (child). "Betas" look to "Alphas" for guidance about how they should respond to their environment. If an Alpha's nervous system is constantly activated and nervous, the baby's nervous system learns to resonate on that frequency as well, and begins to send sensory signals that the environment is threatening or unsafe even when it is not. The opposite is also true: if the mom's nervous system is regulated, the baby receives a signal that all is well and safe in the environment. For this reason, the key to having calm and happy children is to lead by example.
3. Decrease Stress Hormones
The stress response has a great impact on pregnancy, more so than most “threats.” At your first OB appointment, your doctor may educate you about the foods that you can and cannot eat during pregnancy. One of the best pieces of advice a doctor can give you is that stress and stress hormones aren't good for growing fetuses.
A healthy and regulated nervous system will stop stress response enough to take any undue stress off the forming baby. Some studies are beginning to show that high levels of stress hormones passed through the placenta can negatively impact the developing fetus. A stressed fetus may be more susceptible to low birth weight and preterm birth, as well as affecting neurobiological development and temperament (to read more about this, read WebMD's article- "Fetus to Mom: You're Stressing Me Out!")
4. Practice Self-Care
A healthy mom is essential for providing all the attention, energy, and care that will be going into this child. Take care of yourself before your child's arrival, so that you already have a system in place once you begin child-rearing. Self-care isn’t always easy to do and maintain, so it's essential to have routines in place. Neurofeedback training helps to get us into the habit of de-stressing, and the most successful way to brain train is to develop a schedule. When we make it a habit to re-charge and make sure we feel refresh and renewed, we are able to take care of others much more efficiently.
5. Neurofeedback Training For pregnancy
Neurofeedback is a safe and non-invasive way to de-stress during pregnancy. It works on the core of the problem: the brain and its habitual stress patterns. I felt good about using it during my pregnancy because it doesn't add anything to my system and is purely a feedback system for alerting me to the habits that need to be reset.
Clients may notice the following after a set of sessions:
Increased mental clarity and focus
Dropping away of fears
More appropriate responses to situations
Feeling lighter and more at ease
Increased motivation and ability to accomplish tasks
How Does Neurofeedback Work and Is It Safe?
Neurofeedback works by training the brain to use the present moment to decide what to do next, rather than old, maladaptive patterns. It does this by triggering what is called the orienting response, which is the brain’s ability to sense changes in the environment and take in new information about changes. Here at our Manhattan office, we use the Advanced NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback System, which trains your entire central nervous system to perform optimally. It gives you feedback on your system and its maladaptive patterns, then your brain uses that information to improve its overall functioning. Nothing is added to your brain - the neurofeedback simply trains the brain to respond more efficiently to the present moment. Watch this video to learn what happens in a session.
Yes, NeurOptimal neurofeedback is safe. It is a brain training tool for wellness and not a treatment. Unlike other neurofeedback systems, NeurOptimal does not train states of consciousness. Indeed, it does not do anything to influence any outcome. Instead it is up to your brain to use the mathematical information it receives, or not — as it will. For this reason NeurOptimal is an extraordinarily safe tool for self-optimization. In November, 2018, "FDA found NeurOptimal® to be a General Wellness Product and present no risk to the safety of users and other persons".