Reduce Pregnancy-Related Anxiety with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness practice provides an opportunity for the discovery of previously unrecognized inner resources of strength and resilience. By the time the workshop is over, women’s confidence levels increase and their fears begin to dissipate. They realize that even if giving birth is hard, it’s something that they can manage, moment by moment.” Nancy Bardacke
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. These feelings during pregnancy can weigh on the mother’s mind when she contemplates another pregnancy. Hence, there is a need for methods to treat pregnancy-related anxiety in the postnatal period. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve anxiety normally and to relieve maternal anxiety and depression during pregnancy. So, mindfulness training may be helpful for the psychological health of women after having a child to make it more likely to contemplate another pregnancy.
In today’s Research News article “A Shift Toward Childbearing in One-Child Families Through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8346737/ ) and colleagues recruited women who have had one child but did not intend to have another due to pregnancy-related anxiety. They were randomly assigned to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive 2.5 hours, once a week for 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR includes training and practice in meditation, body scan, and yoga and includes group discussion along with home practice. Before and after training they completed measures of pregnancy-related anxiety, including subscales measuring fear of childbirth, fear of giving birth to disabled children, fear of changing in marital relationships, fear of changing in mood and its impact on the child, and self-centered fears.
They found that in comparison to pre-training and the no-treatment control group, the women who received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training had significantly lower levels of pregnancy-related anxiety, including all subscales; fear of childbirth, fear of giving birth to disabled children, fear of changing in marital relationships, fear of changing in mood and its impact on the child, and self-centered fears.
The present study did not include an active control condition or follow up. So, it is not known whether the training had lasting effects and whether the benefits may have been due to confounding factors such as attentional effects, placebo effects, or experimenter bias. Prior controlled research, however, has routinely demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces anxiety. So, it is likely that the mindfulness training in the present study produced the reductions in anxiety. The reductions in pregnancy-related anxiety produced by Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training would tend to make it more likely that the women would be open to another pregnancy. But unfortunately, this was not measured. Future research should include an active comparison condition such as exercise, follow up with the women several weeks later, and measures of the likelihood of a future pregnance.
So, reduce pregnancy-related anxiety with mindfulness.
“Jen . . . who recently had her first child, was put on bed rest and couldn’t even exercise to keep her stress down. “I had so much anxiety,” she recalls. “Meditation really helped me stay calm and sane.” – Kira Newman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Malekpoorafshar, M., Salehinejad, P., Pouya, F., Khezri Moghadam, N., & Shahesmaeili, A. (2021). A Shift Toward Childbearing in One-Child Families Through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of family & reproductive health, 15(1), 19–27. https://doi.org/10.18502/jfrh.v15i1.6070
Objective: Fertility patterns are a key to the estimation of future population size, but they are restricted by serious indecision. One-child families are one of these patterns that is caused by a set of factors and one of these factors is the fear of re-pregnancy. In this regard, this study aimed to use a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program to reduce the fear of women who have been experiencing anxiety after their first pregnancy and delivery.
Materials and methods: This interventional study was conducted on 67 one-child women, who at least 6 years have been passed since the birth of their child and according to the short form of the Pregnancy Related Anxiety Questionnaire (PRAQ-17), have been experienced anxiety. These women were randomly divided into control and intervention groups. For the intervention group, the MBSR program was conducted in 8 sessions, once every week, each session lasting 2.5 hours. At the end of the program, a second PRAQ-17 was completed by both groups.
Results: The findings showed that the MBSR approach in the intervention group significantly decreased the anxiety score in total (p=0.001) and individually in all subcategories.
Conclusion: The MBSR approach can reduce the anxiety of one-child women who have experienced anxiety after their pregnancy and childbirth. Thus, using this method in helping women with pregnancy-related anxiety is recommended to increase the birth rate.