Like many significant life events, pregnancy, childbirth and the subsequent early stages of parenthood all impact individuals differently. In many ways, how these events turn out have a lot to do with how well someone is, or isn’t, mentally and emotionally prepared.
In research led by Dr. Larissa Duncan, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was shown that women who participate in “mindfulness training” ahead of giving birth, “can alleviate symptoms of both chronic and acute pain and improve psychological adjustment.”
To reach this theory, Dr. Duncan’s Prenatal Education About Reducing Labor Stress (PEARLS) study gathered 30 first-time mothers late in their third trimester of pregnancy and randomly divided them into two groups. One would participate in a 2.5 day “mindfulness-based childbirth preparation course” called Mind in Labour (MIL): Working with Pain in Childbirth. The second collection of mothers attended a traditional childbirth preparation course “with no mind-body focus.”
From there, these mothers-to-be documented their experiences through self-reported assessments related to pre-intervention, post-intervention, and post-birth. For further insight, patient medical record data was also collected.
The following results were subsequently yielded:
“This small RCT [randomized controlled trial] demonstrated mindfulness-based childbirth education improved women’s childbirth-related appraisals and psychological functioning in comparison to standard childbirth education,” reads the study.
It continued: “MIL program participants showed greater childbirth self-efficacy and mindful body awareness (but no changes in dispositional mindfulness), lower post-course depression symptoms that were maintained through postpartum follow-up, and a trend toward a lower rate of opioid analgesia use in labor. They did not, however, retrospectively report lower perceived labor pain or use epidural less frequently than controls.”
Based on these results, Dr. Duncan and her team came to the conclusion that mindfulness training – when done carefully – can “address fear and pain of childbirth.”
That said, the study noted that a larger scale RCT to document “real-time pain perceptions during labour and length of labour” and how mindfulness training impacts that, should be conducted in the future.
Talk about the power of positive thinking.