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Parental mindfulness and stress response in mother-infant pairs

Posted 01.25.2017 | by AMRA

Dispositional mindfulness is the generalized tendency to be mindful in daily life, but mindfulness levels can also be situational. Parenting-specific mindfulness, for example, is mindfulness occurring within the context of parenting. It’s the tendency to be nonjudgmental, accepting and emotionally aware of and compassionate toward oneself and one’s child, and to be able to listen to one’s child with full attention. Parenting-specific mindfulness may benefit the parent-child relationship by helping parents and children cope with stress within the family relationship.

Laurent et al. [Developmental Psychology] tested this hypothesis by measuring the impact of both maternal dispositional mindfulness and parenting-specific mindfulness on maternal and infant stress hormone (cortisol) levels during and after exposure to a stressor.

The researchers recruited 73 low-income mother-infant pairs (77% Caucasian; average maternal age = 27; 51% married; median income=$10,000-$19,000) who were part of a larger longitudinal study. At 3 months postpartum, the mothers completed self-report measures of dispositional mindfulness (the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire), parenting-specific mindfulness (Interpersonal Mindfulness in Parenting-Infant Version) and the degree of life stress during the prior three months.

At 6 months postpartum, the mother-infant pairs participated in a “still face” task in which the mother maintained an unwavering neutral facial expression while face-to-face with her infant for two full minutes. The mother’s failure to react to the infant’s attention-getting bids during this task is stressful for the infant, who striving to regain the mother’s attention and failing to do so, may start to whine or cry in response to not receiving attention.

Samples of maternal and infant saliva were obtained prior to, immediately after, and 15 and 45 minutes after the still face task. The saliva was assayed […]

January 25th, 2017|News|

Fertility treatment supported by mindfulness program

Posted 01.08.2015 | by AMRA

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Infertility is a heartbreaking condition affecting approximately 6% of American married women. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a voluntary fertility treatment that involves combining a sperm and egg outside of a woman’s body and implanting the resulting embryo in her uterus. IVF success rates vary widely depending on multiple factors including a woman’s age, general health status, and the specific IVF method used.

IVF can be emotionally and physically taxing due to the demands of the procedure and the uncertainty of success. There is currently a need to improve the quality of life of women undergoing this procedure. Li et al. [Behaviour Research and Therapy] investigated whether a mindfulness-based intervention can improve both the quality of life and pregnancy rates of women undergoing first-time IVF treatment.

The researchers assigned 108 women (average age = 30 years) seeking IVF at a Chinese medical center to either IVF plus a mindfulness-based intervention or IVF alone. Assignment was not random, but based on patient convenience in terms of time constraints and travel distance to the medical center.

The six-week mindfulness program was a group-based intervention that was specifically tailored to IVF and infertility concerns and contained elements of MBSR, MBCT, Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Participants completed self-report measures of mindfulness (the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire), self-compassion, fertility quality of life, difficulties in emotional regulation, and infertility coping styles both at baseline and post-intervention. Mindfulness and control participants did not differ in any of these self-report measures at baseline. Pregnancy status was assessed at six-months post-intervention.

Mindfulness participants showed significantly greater increases in self-reported levels of mindfulness (partial η2=.10), self-compassion (partial η2=.08), and quality of life […]

January 8th, 2016|News|

Mothers’ mindfulness and infant brain development

Posted: 07.11.2014 | by AMRA

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Previous studies have shown that expectant mothers’ anxiety and stress can adversely affect their children’s brain development. If this is so, is it possible that expectant mothers’ levels of mindfulness can have a positive, protective effect on their children’s brain development?

van den Heuvel et al. [Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience] tested this possibility by assessing mindfulness (using a short form of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory) and anxiety (using a symptom checklist) in 78 expectant mothers during the second trimester of pregnancy. Nine months after their infants were born, the research team assessed the infants’ auditory processing by measuring their brain’s electrical responsiveness to sounds, or “auditory evoked event related potentials” (ERPs) using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure this responsiveness.

The infants were presented with series of sounds: a frequently presented tone with a base frequency of 500 vibrations per second interspersed with less frequently presented sounds such as the sound of a door slamming or a dog barking. The researchers analyzed two waveform components of the infants’ brain responses to sounds: a “P150” component (an electrically positive component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 150 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) reflecting selective attention to a particular stimulus together with suppression of attention to other stimuli, and an “N250” component (an electrically negative component of an EEG wave occurring at approximately 250 milliseconds after the presentation of a sound) tied to turning one’s attention to a novel stimulus.

Mothers’ mindfulness during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant P150 wave amplitudes and significantly smaller infant N250 wave amplitudes. Maternal anxiety during pregnancy was associated with significantly larger infant N250 wave amplitudes. […]

July 11th, 2014|News|

Mindfulness Makes Men Feel More Connected

Posted: 02.10.2014 | by AMRA

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Up to 90% of couples report a decline in relationship quality after becoming parents. Gambrel and Piercy [Journal of Marital and Family Therapy] developed a 4-week relationship enhancement intervention called the Mindful Transition to Parenthood Program (MTPP) for couples expecting their first child. MTPP offers skill-based relationship education within an abbreviated MBSR format to develop attunement, presence, perspective taking, and empathic responsiveness in couples.

To assess its effectiveness, 33 couples were randomly assigned to either MTPP or a wait-list control. MTPP men reported significant increases in mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ) and relationship satisfaction, and a significant decrease in negative affect when compared with wait-list controls. Female partners showed no significant differences. Couples in this study reported unusually high baseline marital satisfaction, with the average couple reporting greater baseline satisfaction than even the happiest couples in prior research using the Couples Satisfaction Index. This limited the degree to which satisfaction could increase on the quantitative measures, and limits the ability to generalize the results to couples with lower marital satisfaction.

In an accompanying article, the same authors also performed a qualitative analysis of the themes that emerged in a post-intervention interview held with participants. MTPP women reported appreciating their partner’s participation and increased understanding of their pregnancy and connection to their baby. As they felt amply supported by female friends and family, they didn’t especially feel the need for MTPP group support. Men felt more connected to their baby, more identified with being fathers, and more understanding of their partners due to being in the program. As they felt little support or recognition from friends and family regarding impending fatherhood, they valued connecting […]

February 9th, 2014|News|

CALM Pregnancy Program Targets Perinatal Anxiety

Posted: 02.07.2014 | by AMRA

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Between 10-40% of women develop significant anxiety during pregnancy, an unsurprising fact given the associated physiological, hormonal, and lifestyle changes, and concerns about the impending responsibilities of parenthood. Perinatal anxiety is a risk factor for obstetrical complications and postpartum depression, and pharmacologic interventions are often contra-indicated. This underscores the need for effective behavioral treatments. Goodman et al. [Archives of Women’s Mental Health] designed an MBCT-derived intervention called CALM (Coping with Anxiety through Living Mindfully) Pregnancy to treat perinatal anxiety. A sample of 24 pregnant women with either generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or significant GAD symptoms (as assessed through structured clinical interview) were enrolled in the program. Attendance and compliance were good, with 23 women (96%) successfully completing the 8-week group-based program.

Participants reported large and significant reductions in anxiety, worry and depression, and large and significant increases in self-compassion and dispositional mindfulness (as measured by the MAAS). Of the 16 participants who met the full diagnostic criteria for GAD at baseline, only 1 met the criteria at program completion. Similarly, the two women who met the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder at baseline no longer met the criteria at program completion. In an open-ended interview about what they had found most helpful, participants mentioned skill building, connection, universality, acceptance and self-kindness, decreased reactivity, cognitive changes, and insight.

This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility, acceptability, and potential effectiveness of the CALM Pregnancy program, at least for a population of mostly Caucasian, middle class, well-educated women. Future studies using randomly assigned controls will be needed to confirm the early promise of these findings in this and more diverse groups of women.

Reference:

Goodman, J. H., Guarino, A., […]

February 7th, 2014|News|