Improve Mental Health During Pregnancy with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health During Pregnancy with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Not only does cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up—benefits that are well-documented among other groups of people—it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.” – Kira Newman


The period of pregnancy is a time of intense physiological and psychological change. Anxiety, depression, and fear are quite common during pregnancy. More than 20 percent of pregnant women have an anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or both during pregnancy. A debilitating childbirth fear has been estimated to affect about 6% or pregnant women and 13% are sufficiently afraid to postpone pregnancy. It is difficult to deal with these emotions under the best of conditions but in combinations with the stresses of pregnancy can turn what could be a joyous experience of creating a human life into a horrible worrisome, torment.


The psychological health of pregnant women has consequences for fetal development, birthing, and consequently, child outcomes. Depression during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. Hence, it is clear that there is a need for methods to treat depression, and anxiety during pregnancy. Since the fetus can be negatively impacted by drugs, it would be preferable to find a treatment that did not require drugs. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve anxiety and depression normally and to relieve maternal anxiety and depression during pregnancy. So, it would make sense to review and summarize the studies of the effects of mindfulness training during pregnancy.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Dhillon and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of 14 published controlled research studies of the effects of mindfulness training on the psychological health of the mother.


They found that the published research reports that mindfulness training during pregnancy produces significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and perceived stress, and increases in mindfulness. Hence, mindfulness training was found to significantly improve the psychological health of the pregnant women. Some studies identified similar trends but not significant differences and so there is some question as to the robustness of the effects. Further research is needed to verify these benefits.


It is well established that mindfulness training reduces anxiety, depression, and perceived stress in a wide array of healthy and ill individuals of a variety of ages. So, it is not surprising that mindfulness training has similar effects on pregnant women. But, that it does, is particularly important during pregnancy due to the consequences for the child and its development.


So, improve mental health during pregnancy with mindfulness.


“Practicing mindfulness during pregnancy and childbirth can bring great benefits, which will extend beyond the birth into the sometimes stressful, always profound and mostly joyful weeks and months of learning to care for our child. Mindfulness can be a source of strength and pleasure in our years as a family.“ – Daniel & Jannette


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Dhillon, A., Sparkes, E., & Duarte, R. V. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 8(6), 1421–1437.



This systematic review aims to assess the effect of mindfulness-based interventions carried out during pregnancy exploring mindfulness and mental health outcomes. A systematic review was conducted to appraise the current literature on the subject area. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were agreed and after reviewing titles, abstracts and full papers, 14 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. The quality of included articles was checked using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies. Pooled results of the randomised controlled trials (RCTs) reporting outcomes on anxiety, depression and perceived stress indicated no differences between the mindfulness intervention group and the control group. Pooled results of the non-RCTs reporting anxiety, depression and perceived stress showed a significant benefit for the mindfulness group. Mindfulness as an outcome was assessed in four RCTs for which the pooled results show a significant difference in favour of the mindfulness intervention when compared to a control group. The pooled results of the four non-RCTs also indicate a significant difference following mindfulness intervention. Results suggest that mindfulness-based interventions can be beneficial for outcomes such as anxiety, depression, perceived stress and levels of mindfulness during the perinatal period. Further research would be useful to explore if such benefits are sustained during the post-natal period.

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