Improve the Psychological Health of Obstetrics and Gynecology Patients during Covid-19 with a Mindfulness App
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness meditation might be a viable low-cost intervention to mitigate the psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis and future pandemics.” – Julie Lei Zhu
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. One of the primary effects of mindfulness that may be responsible for many of its benefits is that it improves the physiological and psychological responses to stress. The Covid-19 pandemic is extremely stressful particularly for patients who are pregnant or awaiting surgery. This training has been shown to improve the well-being of a wide variety of individuals. So, it should be helpful with these patients.
The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, apps for smartphones have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. These should be particularly useful during the Covid-19 pandemic as attending in-person therapy sessions may not be safe or practicable. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of these apps in inducing mindfulness and reducing stress and improving psychological well-being in real-world medical patients.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Effects in Obstetric and Gynecology Patients During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8132566/ ) Smith and colleagues recruited adult
obstetrics and gynecology patients who were either pregnant or awaiting gynecological surgery delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were randomly assigned to receive either standard care or to practice mindfulness for 10 minutes per day for 30 days with a commercially available smartphone app “Calm”. They were measured before training, at 14 days into training, and after training for perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the usual care control group, the group that practiced mindfulness with the “Calm” app had significantly lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance at 14 days and 30 days. The mindfulness group also reported lower levels of perceived stress due to Covid-19 and less worry about infections in their families. A high degree of satisfaction with the “Calm” app was reported.
Covid-19 has affected the psychological health of virtually everyone and past research has shown that mindfulness improves their psychological health. The present study demonstrates that this occurs in pregnant women and women awaiting gynecological surgery. An important aspect of the present study was the use of a smartphone app to do the mindfulness training. These apps are particularly useful during the Covid-19 pandemic as attending in-person therapy sessions may not be safe or practicable. This allows for mindfulness training with its benefits for the well-being of the patients to occur even in the midst of a pandemic.
So, improve the psychological health of obstetrics and gynecology patients during covid-19 with a mindfulness app.
“Mindfulness can help us acknowledge this situation, without allowing us to be carried away with strong emotions; it can, in turn, help bring ourselves back to a centered calm. Only then can we see more clearly what it is we have control over and what it is that we do not.“ – Michigan Medicine
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Smith, R. B., Mahnert, N. D., Foote, J., Saunders, K. T., Mourad, J., & Huberty, J. (2021). Mindfulness Effects in Obstetric and Gynecology Patients During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obstetrics and gynecology, 137(6), 1032–1040. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000004316
To assess the effect of a consumer-based mobile meditation application (app) on wellness in outpatient obstetric and gynecology patients during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
We conducted a randomized controlled trial at a university outpatient clinic of obstetric and gynecology patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women were randomly assigned to the intervention group, who was prescribed a mobile meditation app for 30 days, or the control group, which received standard care. The primary outcome was self-reported perceived stress. Secondary outcomes included self-reported depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and satisfaction with the meditation app. A sample size of 80 participants (40 per group) was calculated to achieve 84% power to detect a 3-point difference in the primary outcome.
From April to May 2020, 101 women were randomized in the study—50 in the meditation app group and 51 in the control group. Analysis was by intention-to-treat. Most characteristics were similar between groups. Perceived stress was significantly less in the intervention group at days 14 and 30 (mean difference 4.27, 95% CI 1.30–7.24, P=.005, d=0.69 and mean difference 4.28, 95% CI 1.68–6.88, P=.002, d=0.69, respectively). Self-reported depression and anxiety were significantly less in the intervention group at days 14 and 30 (depression: P=.002 and P=.04; anxiety: P=.01, and P=.04, respectively). Sleep disturbance was significantly less in the intervention group at days 14 and 30 (P=.001 and P=.02, respectively). More than 80% of those in the intervention group reported high satisfaction with the meditation app, and 93% reported that mindfulness meditation improved their stress.
Outpatient obstetric and gynecology patients who used the prescribed consumer-based mobile meditation app during the COVID-19 pandemic had significant reductions in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance compared with standard care.