May 24 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have found mindfulness training addressing fear and pain during childbirth can reduce depression symptoms.
The study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California, San Francisco showed that mindfulness-based childbirth education classes may improve the childbirth experience and reduce depression symptoms during pregnancy and in the early postpartum period.
"Fear of the unknown affects us all, and perhaps none more so than pregnant women," Larissa Duncan, UW-Madison professor of human development and family studies, said in a press release. "With mindfulness skills, women in our study reported feeling better able to cope with childbirth and they experienced improved mental well-being critical for healthy mother-infant adjustment in the first year of life."
The pilot study compared mainstream childbirth education with childbirth education that emphasizes mindfulness skills to reduce fear in 30 first-time mothers.
"Sometimes women report that the information in childbirth education actually increases their fear of childbirth," Duncan said.
Participants were able to take either a standard childbirth preparation course or an intensive weekend workshop on mindfulness in childbirth.
The study found a reduction in depression symptoms in the group that took the mindfulness course, while depression symptoms worsened for women who took standard childbirth education classes.
Researchers found that pregnant women who practice mindfulness used less opioid-based medication for pain during labor.
The rate of narcotic use during labor was 62 percent in the control group and just 31 percent in the mindfulness group.
The study was published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.