Mindfulness Based Childbirth Classes Reduce Anxiety, Depression

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Researchers found that mindfulness classes addressing the fear and pain associated with childbirth enhanced women's delivery experience, and reduced symptoms of depression before and after the birth.

“With mindfulness skills, women in our study reported feeling better able to cope with childbirth and they experienced improved mental well-being critical for healthy mother-infant adjustment in the first year of life,” said lead researcher Larissa Duncan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor.

The study compared standard childbirth education with training that incorporates mindfulness skills aimed at reducing anxiety among first-time mothers. Earlier studies indicated fear is correlated with poorer delivery outcomes, and depression. “In fact,” says Duncan “sometimes women report that the information in childbirth education actually increases their fear of childbirth.”

The investigators recruited 30 first-time mothers, and their partners. The couples were offered either mainstream childbirth preparation classes with no mindfulness training, or an intensive weekend workshop patterned after the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course developed by researcher and certified nurse-midwife, Nancy Bardacke.

Those in the mindfulness based course learned skills such as mindful movement, pain coping strategies, and walking meditation. This group also received handouts and guided audio materials for practice at home. All study participants completed self-assessments before and after attending their classes, and after delivery.

Data analysis showed a lessening of depression symptoms in those who had mindfulness training, and this continued through their post delivery follow-up visit at six weeks. Participants who took the standard childbirth prep classes showed worsening depression symptoms over the same period.

“The encouraging results of this small study point to the possibility that mindfulness skills can transform the way expectant parents prepare for this profound life change,” says Bardacke.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison News
Photo credit: Vanessa Porter

 
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