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There are various studies with supporting data on what not to do during pregnancy, with many actions and/or situations that can negatively impact the growing human during pregnancy.

However, I am looking for studies on what to do, for achieving more optimal and positive benefits, on a developing human during pregnancy.

To narrow down this question better for this site's format:

I'm interested to know; what are the effects on a developing human during pregnancy, when the mother performs a routine and daily meditation practice, in addition to a daily and routine aerobic and anaerobic physical exercise practice (say most days of pregnancy, like weekdays).

To add context, this can be contrasted to the differences in pregnancy styles, as asked in this question. Here the mother's priority is stressful work, on most days of pregnancy.

If there are other items that are notable for positive outcomes, please do mention them.

*Note: This is non-religious meditation, with focus on mindfulness, self-awareness, etc.

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    Hrm. I think this is a great question, but in the current form it might be too broad. Also, can you clarify what you mean by anaerobic exercise? I want to make sure you're not confusing high intensity with anaerobic. – JohnP Dec 17 '15 at 18:24
  • The question for any other items makes this too broad, in my opinion. But so far noone agrees with me ;-) – YviDe Dec 18 '15 at 9:11
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    Greg, is it okay that my answer didn't address regimens that combine meditation and exercise? Separate daily plans seem compatible in almost all situations. – HDE 226868 Dec 24 '15 at 13:58
  • @hde-226868: thanks for the answer. I selected it as correct, did you get the bounty? – Greg McNulty Jan 2 '16 at 21:54
  • @GregMcNulty Half of it was auto-awarded. Thanks for the accept; I hope the answer was good enough. – HDE 226868 Jan 2 '16 at 21:56
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+50

I wasn't able to find a study that looked at both meditation and exercise - besides ones about yoga - but I was able to find many that looked at each separately and seemed to indicate that combining the two is simple and effective.

Exercise

  • One of the best sources was a thesis by Nikelle Holbrook Hunsaker entitled "The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy" (pdf here). It is a meta-analysis of other studies in the literature. Some do not fit your criteria (e.g. some looked at exercise three times a week but not daily), but given that most recommendations do not include physical activity seven days a week, I've mentioned some here.

    • Boinpally & Jovanovic (2009) wrote that 30 minutes of physical activity (aerobic or anaerobic) five a days a week before and during pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). GDM directly affects the mother, but can easily lead to side effects in the child. Preventing GDM can reduce the risk of such conditions as macrosomia and congenital diseases. This conclusion agrees with the results of Liu et al. (2008).
    • A similar exercise program can reduce the risk of type II diabetes, according to Kim et al. (2010). This makes sense, because of the similarities between GDM and type II diabetes.
    • In general, exercise can decrease the risk of preeclampsia, which can cause the death of the mother and of the fetus. Sorensen et al. (2008) found that regular recreational exercise reduced the risk of preeclampsia. The greater the intensity of the exercise, the lower the chances of preeclampsia.

    The thesis discussed and/or cited other studies, but most did not match your criteria. Some involved one-time physical activity.

  • Sternfield et al. (1995) divided a group of 388 women up into four levels depending on the amount of exercise they got on a weekly basis (the highest group involved aerobic activity for at least 3 20-minutes+ sessions per week). They found no difference in the effect of exercise on the children, but did notice that the mothers experienced reduced pain and discomfort.
  • May et al. (2015) noted that regular exercise during pregnancy lowered heart rate and reduced symptoms from related disorders. However, they recommended that more research be done on the relation between exercise and certain other conditions.
  • A page from the Hospital for Special Surgery gives a variety of recommendations regarding exercise during pregnancy:
    • Athletes can continue to exercise during the first trimester, with no adverse effects.
    • Aquatic aerobics reduce joint stress and fluid retention.
    • Multiple activities should be used to reduce stress if the mother exercises more than four days per week (this might explain why most studies don't cover daily exercise).

Meditation

  • Babbar et al. (2012) is a meta-analysis of studies from the PubMed database from 1970 to 2011. The results were not entirely conclusive, but the studies found two results:

    • Women who regularly (frequencies varied) performed yoga during pregnancy enjoyed reduced pain/discomfort throughout pregnancy.
    • Babies of women who regularly preformed yoga during pregnancy had a slightly higher birth weight - nothing serious or significant, though.
  • Davis et al. (2015) found that an eight-week yoga intervention greatly reduced depression and anxiety in women with depression, supporting the idea that yoga and meditation reduce anxiety.
  • Oakley & Evans (2014) state that breathing exercises and meditation increase maternal relaxation.

Yoga is perhaps the most studied of all the meditation regimens out there. Indeed, a considerable number of the studies I looked at focused on the meditative component of yoga. This type of exercise should also be compatible with aerobic/anaerobic exercise, even for pregnant women. However, it is clear that during a pregnancy, women should be careful when it comes to exercise.

To summarize the main findings:

  • Exercise can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus, type II diabetes, and preeclampsia, as well as general pain and discomfort from the pregnancy.
  • Meditation/yoga can reduce pain, discomfort, and stress levels.
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