How Meditation during Pregnancy Affects Newborns

In newborns or neonates—infants up to four weeks of age—there are three states of wakefulness; they are called active alert, crying, and quiet alert. The quiet alert state is characterized by bright eyes and the infant being visibly content and free from distress. Previous research has suggested that infants are most receptive to learning during this state. According to Marshall and Phyllis Klaus, authors of Your Amazing Newborn, newborns in the quiet alert state can “follow a red ball, gaze at a face, turn to a voice and even begin imitating facial expressions.” The infant, though appearing restful, is actually busy learning about the world.

A paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Young Children in Anaheim, California on November of 1988 disclosed the results of a study by Mary Jo Doan. The purpose of her research was to evaluate the effect the Transcendental Meditation technique and an advanced practice called the TM-Sidhi program, when used by pregnant mothers, had on the subsequent frequency and duration of quiet alert periods in their newborn infants.

The experimental group of 15 neonates born to the meditating mothers was matched with a control group of 15 neonates born to non-meditating mothers on 25 relevant demographic variables included life-style habits of the mother, and the gender, birth-order, and diet of the newborns.

In each of the four weeks of the infants’ lives, the quiet alert period was more than twice as long in the TM group than In the control group. The longest duration of a single period of quiet alert was three times as long in the TM group than was in the control group. Another interesting finding was that the meditating-mom-group neonates’ quiet alert periods increased in both duration and frequency throughout the four weeks they were observed.

This study on pregnancy and neonates give us a provocative concept and data that hopefully will stimulate more studies that explore the uniquely unified physiological interdependencies of mother and newborn. This thesis, extrapolated to its extreme, might demonstrate the “it takes a village to raise a child” concept—that the consciousness of the mother is the most direct link to the infant’s consciousness, but that also, the consciousness of one affects the consciousness of all.

Other research done on the benefits of doing the TM technique during pregnancy showed such benefits as easier birthing and longer sleep patterns in babies.

As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I have found that the reduction of stress and deep relaxation during TM practice benefits all women, including pregnant women who are juggling the physical demands of pregnancy and patients in labor who benefit from the increased stamina and greater cardiovascular efficiency. We also see that as these women benefit from their practice of TM, so do their children.

About the Author

Rebecca Douglas, M.D., received her doctorate in medicine from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and completed her residency at Washington Hospital Center in Washington.