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Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Updated: Jan 12

Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most significant, exciting and scary experiences that a woman will experience in her lifetime. The experiences and mental health of the woman during pregnancy and throughout the post-pregnancy period are of utmost importance for the well-being of both the mother and her child. Depression or anxiety in pregnancy has been associated with an increase in obstetric complications including stillbirth, low birth weight infants, postnatal specialist care for the infant and susceptibility to more adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes including behavioural, emotional and cognitive problems (Bonari et al. 2004; Glover 2011; Talge et al. 2007). Anxiety and stress during pregnancy have been linked with premature delivery, low birth weight, and neonatal morbidity and mortality (Dole 2003; Maina et al. 2008).

While some women welcome the challenges of childbirth, others may feel a significant amount of anxiety and concern (Escott et al. 2004; Huizink et al. 2004). Anxiety and stress in pregnancy have been found to be associated with gestational length, with increases in stress and anxiety leading to preterm delivery and declines in stress and anxiety resulting in delivery at term (Glynn et al. 2008; Schetter and Tanner 2012). Preterm birth has adverse implications for foetal neurodevelopment and child outcomes and is the leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity (Schetter and Tanner 2012; Wadhwa et al. 2011). The management of anxiety in pregnant women is therefore of importance to prevent poor outcomes for both the mother and child.

Evidence suggests that up to 20% of women are affected by depression during pregnancy, and during the post-partum period, which indicates a need to support women from pregnancy to post-partum (Evans et al. 2001; Liberto 2012; Rich-Edwards et al. 2006). Untreated maternal depression can lead to illness persistence and an increase in symptom severity (Robertson et al. 2003).

Pregnancy is a key time to be caring for the mothers’ mind and mental attitude (Donegan 2015). One way in which this can be supported is through mindfulness, known to promote emotional positivity and stability. Kabat-Zinn (1994) described mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (p. 4). The process of accepting things as they are and approaching situations with an open mind reduces tension and fear and increases trust. Mindfulness can offer support to a mother both during the perinatal period and beyond (Cohen 2010; Fisher et al. 2012). Mindfulness-based interventions show promise in addressing a number of adverse outcomes, such as antenatal depression and anxiety, providing pregnant women with more empowerment and satisfaction with labour (Fisher et al. 2012). While planning for birth can be a positive experience and has its advantages, this should be flexible because if a birth plan does not come together, it could cause distress and strain on the body (Sparkes 2015). It is therefore important to focus on moment-to-moment changes, allowing some trust in the body.

Mindfulness-based interventions allow the development of abilities that are important for pregnant women and new mothers (Hall et al. 2015). These interventions encourage practice of awareness and acceptance of one’s thoughts, emotions and body sensations, building stress tolerance, reducing reactivity and avoidance of uncomfortable experiences. The seven-attitudinal factors covered in mindfulness-based interventions include non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go (Kabat-Zinn 1990).

Pregnant women may require support through their pregnancies with mindfulness-based interventions having been suggested as potentially beneficial to support these women. The aim of this systematic review is therefore to appraise the current available literature and assess the effect of mindfulness-based interventions carried out during pregnancy in mindfulness levels and mental health-related outcomes (i.e. anxiety, stress and depression)....Read more about this article at this link

Credit: National Library of Medicine

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