Better Mental Health During Pregnancy is Associated with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness is a seriously beneficial practice during pregnancy, too? Simply tuning in and being aware can be a powerful tool to lessen stress, calm anxiety, and help you feel more connected during those long nine months.” – Carrie Murphy
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.
In today’s Research News article “An investigation of dispositional mindfulness and mood during pregnancy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6676599/), Krusche and colleagues recruited pregnant women and had them complete measures of mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, pregnancy distress, worries about labor, prenatal distress, pregnancy related discomforts, and pregnancy expectancies.
They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, worries about labor, pregnancy distress, prenatal distress, first and second trimester discomfort, and frequency and intensity of negative pregnancy experiences, and greater frequency and intensity of positive pregnancy experiences.
This study was correlational, so no conclusions can be reached about causation. But the results are striking that mindfulness is associated with better pregnancy related experiences, mood, and mental health. This portends well for the outcome of pregnancy and the health of the child. Future research should attempt to investigate the effects of mindfulness training during pregnancy on the mood, experiences, and mental health of the women.
So, better mental health during pregnancy is associated with mindfulness.
“cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up. . . it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.” – Kira Newman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Krusche, A., Crane, C., & Dymond, M. (2019). An investigation of dispositional mindfulness and mood during pregnancy. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 19(1), 273. doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2416-2
Mindfulness courses are being offered to numerous groups and while a large body of research has investigated links between dispositional mindfulness and mood, few studies have reported this relationship during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to investigate this relationship in pregnant women to offer insight into whether an intervention which may plausibly increase dispositional mindfulness would be beneficial for this population.
A cross-sectional analysis was conducted to explore potential relationships between measures of mindfulness and general and pregnancy-specific mood. A sample of pregnant women (n = 363) was recruited using online advertising and community-based recruitment and asked to complete a number of questionnaires online.
Overall, higher levels of mindfulness were associated with improved levels of general and pregnancy-related mood in pregnant women. Controlling for general stress and anxiety, higher scores for mindfulness in (psychologically) healthy women were associated with lower levels of pregnancy-related depression, distress and labour worry but this relationship was not apparent in those with current mental health problems. In participants without children, higher mindfulness levels were related to lower levels of pregnancy-related distress.
These results suggest a promising relationship between dispositional mindfulness and mood though it varies depending on background and current problems. More research is needed, but this paper represents a first step in examining the potential of mindfulness courses for pregnant women. Increasing mindfulness, and therefore completing mindfulness-based courses, is potentially beneficial for improvements in mood during pregnancy.