(Reuters Health) – When birthing classes include mindfulness-based education instead of focusing only on the biology of having a baby, women may have an easier time coping with labor pain and a lower risk of postpartum depression, a small experiment suggests.
Fear of childbirth is linked with lower tolerance for labor pain and higher odds of postpartum depression, researchers note in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. For the current study, they randomly assigned 30 mothers to receive either traditional or mindfulness-based birth classes during their last trimester of pregnancy.
There wasn’t a meaningful difference between the groups in perceived labor pain or use of epidurals, the study found. But women who went through the mindfulness-based birthing classes appeared to have greater body awareness during labor and lower odds of depression after their babies arrived.
“In the mindfulness-based childbirth classes, the emphasis is on purposefully cultivating the life skill of mindfulness – the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose and non-judgmentally to whatever is arising moment by moment – whether it’s the stress of a job, a fearful thought about the future, the physical pain of labor, or a crying baby,” said senior study author Nancy Bardacke, a certified nurse-midwife at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.
“It is also a skill that helps expectant parents manage the reality that the future – whether it is childbirth or life – is both unknown and unpredictable,” Bardacke said by email.
All of the women in the study were first-time mothers. Half of them were assigned to a standard childbirth preparation class that reviewed factual information about birth like the stages of labor and what to expect after the baby arrives.
The other women attended an intensive weekend workshop that included standard childbirth preparation topics but…