Improve Women’s Perception of Childbirth with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“It is inspiring to witness a mother with extreme fear of childbirth cancel an elective caesarian because she now feels confident enough in her own strength to go through the birthing process,” – 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. Women’s perception of the childbirth experience can influence their later psychological health. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve anxiety and depression normally and to relieve maternal anxiety and depression during pregnancy. It is reasonable, then, to hypothesize that women’s mindfulness will be related to their perception of the childbirth experience.
In today’s Research News article “Trait mindfulness during pregnancy and perception of childbirth.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7979659/ ) Hulsbosch and colleagues recruited pregnant women. In their 22nd week of pregnancy and measured them for mindfulness. At 7 to 21 days postpartum they completed measures of their perception of the childbirth experience and depression.
They found that the higher the levels of the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness and non-reactivity during pregnancy the greater the perception of childbirth experience after delivery. This remained the case even after accounting for demographic variables, depression, and physical events during delivery. Non-spontaneous delivery, includes induced labor, instrumental vaginal delivery, and unplanned Caesarean section and reflects a negative childbirth experience. Non-spontaneous delivery was associated with negative perceptions of the childbirth experience except for mothers who were high in the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness and non-judging during pregnancy.
These results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But they suggest that mindfulness enhances the perception of the childbirth experience for the mothers. This is true even in the case where the birth was not a natural spontaneous event. Since negative perceptions of childbirth are associate with later depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, being mindful during pregnancy is important for the psychological health of the mother. This suggests that mindfulness training during pregnancy my help to improve the mother’s perception of childbirth and improve subsequent psychological health.
So, improve women’s perception of childbirth with mindfulness
“Taking part in a mindfulness course during pregnancy has been shown in a recent study to reduce the fear of labour, decrease the use of pain relief and lower the risk of postnatal depression.” – Tommy’s
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Hulsbosch, L. P., Boekhorst, M., Potharst, E. S., Pop, V., & Nyklíček, I. (2021). Trait mindfulness during pregnancy and perception of childbirth. Archives of women’s mental health, 24(2), 281–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-020-01062-8
Women’s subjective childbirth experience is a risk factor for postpartum depression and childbirth-related posttraumatic stress symptoms. Subjective childbirth experience is influenced not only by characteristics of the childbirth itself but also by maternal characteristics. A maternal characteristic that may be associated with a more positive childbirth experience is trait mindfulness. The current study aimed to assess this association and to assess whether trait mindfulness during pregnancy had a moderating role in the possible association between non-spontaneous delivery and perception of childbirth. A subsample of 486 women, participating in a longitudinal prospective cohort study (Holistic Approach to Pregnancy and the first Postpartum Year study), completed the Three Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-Short Form at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Women completed the Childbirth Perception Scale and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale between 7 and 21 days postpartum. The mindfulness facets acting with awareness and non-reacting were significantly associated with a more positive perception of childbirth, after adjusting for covariates. Moderation analyses showed a significant interaction between acting with awareness and non-spontaneous delivery and non-judging and non-spontaneous delivery. Non-spontaneous delivery was associated with a more negative perception of childbirth for low/medium scores of acting with awareness and non-judging, but not for high scores on these mindfulness facets. Trait mindfulness during pregnancy may enhance a positive perception of childbirth. Because this is among the first studies examining the association between maternal dispositional mindfulness and perception of childbirth, future research is needed to confirm the results of the current study.