Study shows benefits of mindfulness in pregnancy

Mindfulness training during pregnancy can reduce postnatal depression and the fear of labour, a recent study has revealed.

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.

Participants in the study were assigned to either mindfulness training or traditional childbirth classes. The results suggest that incorporating mindfulness into antenatal education can help mums to cope better with their fears.

The results also show that mindfulness can help decrease the symptoms of prenatal and postnatal depression.

The study’s mindfulness training was set up by midwife and mindfulness teacher, Nancy Bardarke, and included modules on mindfulness meditation, awareness of breathing and the body. Mums-to-be were taught to keep their minds focused on the present moment, rather than worrying about the next contraction or thinking about the previous one.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment and being aware of any thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise without judging them or trying to change them. This type of moment-to-moment awareness can counteract our tendency to live life on autopilot.

In pregnancy, it can also help you bond and connect with your unborn baby.

Is it normal to be so worried about giving birth?

The thought of giving birth can be scary, especially if other women have been telling you about what it was like for them or you’ve been reading gory stories.

If you’re stressed and tense going into labour, your contractions may feel more painful and become less effective. An earlier study has shown that women with a fear of childbirth had a longer labour - 47 minutes longer on average - compared with women who weren’t fearful.

For hundreds of years, women in different parts of the world have used relaxation, breathing and self-hypnosis as a way of coping with pain during labour and birth.

Being able to relax rather than tense up during a contraction helps your body manage labour better. Many antenatal classes cover relaxation and breathing techniques and it's good to find out about these, whatever you decide to do when you go into labour.

Read about the 5 positive ways to prepare for labour.

Our midwife Sophie says,

"We at Tommy’s know that there will always be an element of anxiety or nerves in the run up to a woman’s labour and birth. Yes, we don’t know exactly how things will go, but what is important to remember is that our bodies are designed to birth our babies and midwives are well-trained in facilitating that process. Keeping an open mind about what type of pain relief you want or about the path that your labour and birth may take you on, will help you to remain calm, trust in your body’s ability and allow nature to take its course. Oxytocin, the love drug which helps your body to produce effective contractions, can be inhibited by fear, so the best thing is to try to remain calm, let your partner and midwife support you in whatever way you wish for and look forward to meeting your beautiful baby."

If you’re interested in trying mindfulness during your pregnancy, you could ask your GP for a recommendation or search for qualified teachers online. There are also many books, websites and apps that can be used to get you started with mindfulness.

Read more about mindfulness on the NHS website