The research, published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, involved 30 first-time moms-to-be in their third trimester of pregnancy and their partners. The research volunteers were randomly assigned to participate in either a standard childbirth preparation course without a mind-body focus or an intensive weekend workshop called Mind in Labor: Working with Pain in Childbirth, based on mindfulness meditation techniques developed by researcher Nancy Bardacke, a certified nurse-midwife and senior mindfulness teacher at UCSF. The mindfulness group also was given written and guided audio materials to help them practice mindfulness on their own.
The study team collected medical record data from each woman, and the research volunteers completed assessments about their feelings, including symptoms of depression, before and after taking part in either the standard childbirth education course or the mindfulness course, and after giving birth.
The results of the study revealed the women who participated in the mindfulness group had a reduction in symptoms of depression, and this relief of depression continued at a six week follow-up assessment after they gave birth. On the other hand, depression worsened among the women who had taken the standard childbirth education classes.
Although the moms in the mindfulness group did report pain and, in fact, asked for epidurals about as often as the women who didn’t have mindfulness training, the researchers found a difference in the use other opioid-based pain medication during labor. In all, about 62 percent women without mindfulness training needed narcotic pain relief during labor, compared to only 31 percent in the mindfulness group.
While this is a small study and more research is needed, the researchers are hopeful mindfulness may be a tool for preventing depression and reducing pain and use of opioid drugs during labor.
“A mindfulness approach offers the possibility of decreasing the need for these medications and can reach women who may not know they are at risk for perinatal depression or can’t access mental health services,” said lead author of the study, Larissa Duncan, PhD, UW-Madison professor of human development and family studies.
“Fear of the unknown affects us all, and perhaps none more so than pregnant women. With mindfulness skills, women in our study reported feeling better able to cope with childbirth, and they experienced improved mental well-being critical for healthy mother-infant adjustment in the first year of life.”
Learning how to practice mindfulness isn’t difficult, but takes practice to stay in the moment of life, instead of being on “auto-pilot.” Books, guided mediations, and videos are available, as well as classes at community centers and other locations, to explain and guide you in the meditation technique.
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN