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Mindful mothers get health benefit during and after pregnancy

Posted 12.19.2016 | by AMRA

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Pregnancy profoundly affects women’s bodies. Women’s heart rate, blood pressure, and autonomic nervous system functioning undergo significant changes as pregnancy proceeds, and many women experience degrees of emotional distress. Some of these changes have the potential to deleteriously affect the mother’s long-term health as well as her infant’s social and emotional development.

Braeken et al. [Psychophysiology] conducted a longitudinal study of how differing levels of trait mindfulness are associated with differing levels of cardiovascular and autonomic functioning in pregnant mothers and with their newborn infant’s social and emotional development in the months following birth.

The researcher’s recruited 156 pregnant Dutch women who volunteered for inclusion in the study (average age = 33 years). Repeated measures of maternal cardiovascular function (blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and the length of the time interval between ventricular contraction and blood injection into the aorta known as the “pre-ejection period”) were taken during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, along with a self-report measure of emotional distress.

Trait mindfulness was measured during the second trimester using the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory. Maternal emotional distress was again measured 2-4 months after delivery, and infant social-emotional development was assessed by maternal report the fourth month after delivery using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-Social Emotional (ASQ-SE).

Maternal mindfulness was significantly associated with higher levels of general heart rate variability and high frequency heart rate variability. The more mindful the women were, the less their high frequency heart rate variability declined and the less their pre-ejection period shortened from the first to the third trimester. These results are interpreted as showing that more versus less mindful women have lower decreases in parasympathetic nervous […]

December 19th, 2016|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|