Evaluating the Impact of Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in a Pregnant Population
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Evaluating the Impact of Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in a Pregnant Population


Maternal stress and anxiety levels during pregnancy are highly prevalent and are associated with numerous poor outcomes, the most serious of which are the increased rates of infant mortality, preterm birth, and low birth weight infants. There is evidence that mindfulness training is beneficial in reducing perinatal stress and anxiety. However, traditional mindfulness training entails in-person meetings, which creates barriers, limiting accessibility. The purpose of this study was to determine if a more accessible form of mindfulness meditation (MM) training, specifically, the Headspace app, can help reduce stress and anxiety during pregnancy. To evaluate this, a longitudinal, single-arm pilot study was implemented with 20 pregnant women, who were instructed to practice meditation twice/day during the month-long trial. Validated scales were used to measure study participant’s levels of stress, anxiety, and pregnancy anxiety pre-and post-intervention. Physiological measures reflective of stress (heart rate/heart rate variability [HR/HRV] and sleep) were collected via the Oura Ring, a highly accurate sleep tracking device. Analysis indicated statistically significant reductions in self-report levels of stress (p=0.005), anxiety (p=0.011), and pregnancy anxiety (p=0.0001). Analysis of physiological data on HR/HRV and sleep, using hierarchical linear modeling, yielded a statistically significant decrease in 1 of 6 HR/HRV metrics, the low-frequency (LF) power band of the HRV; which decreased by 13% (p=0.006). LF is reflective of both sympathetic and parasympathetic activities, with lower values indicating relaxation/reduced mental stress. There was a trend towards statistical significance in two other metrics. The first is the ratio of the low frequency/high frequency (LF/HF) band, reflecting parasympathetic dominance/relaxed state, which decreased by 2% (p=0.086). The second is sleep which improved by 2% (p=0.092). In addition, 65% of study participants believed their sleep improved during the trial, and 95% felt that learning mindfulness helped with other aspects of their lives. Finally, retention of participants in the study was 100%, and adherence to the intervention was very good; with 65% of participants completing about two-thirds of the intervention, and 50% competing ≥95%. This study found evidence to support that the Headspace app is an impactful mindfulness meditation intervention to aid in stress and anxiety reduction for the pregnant population.

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