Why mindfulness for expectant families? Pregnancy, childhood and early parenting years can be a particularly stressful time for both parents and the unborn or newly-born child. It is known that extreme stress in pregnancy affects both the mother and the unborn child; and is a factor in pre-term labor, low birthweight and other adverse conditions. If mindfulness can teach skills to reduce stress, the benefits to the new parents and new child (children) could be significant!
Mindfulness is now a well-recognised skill for dealing with stress reduction and improving mental health well-being. The current “gold standard” MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) and MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) programmes are derived from the pioneering work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. A more recent development has been the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) programme of Nancy Bardacke, which is being promoted in the UK in a collaboration with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.!
Mindfulness programmes (as MBSR or MBCT) use mind-body meditation practices along with didactic sessions to allow a greater understanding of stress, or the territory of depression or anxiety or other targeted vulnerability. MBCP has been developed to address issues that often arise in childbirth and early parenting, such as pain, fear and partner communication!
Previous course participants of this programme have observed that this was “more than just an antenatal/birthing class” as it gave them a “new perspective on life” and taught them a new way to be with their new child (children). Mothers have reported a high use of the techniques for dealing with pain, and healthy attachment behaviour in the first few hours of the newborn’s life. Both new parents report feeling more confidence, and less stress and fear and consequently, more happiness. Qualitative research to support these anecdotal reports is beginning to emerge in the scientific journals!
Ann Wood is a local MBCP teacher who trained with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (for details see her website at http://mindfulbirthingsurrey.vpweb.co.uk. Together with Gill Johnson (a Mindfulness teacher registered with the UK Network of Mindfulness Teachers), she is hoping to run an MBCP course here at the Holistic Centre in the near future. Please do let us know if you are interested. If you are choosing a Mindfulness Teacher, please do make sure that they adhere to the Good Practice Guidelines for UK Teachers and that they have adequate training. There are many different secular mindfulness programmes available now; please make sure that the one you settle on meets your needs.
This article was written as part of the Holistic Centre spring newsletter ‘Pregnancy and Childbirth’. Continue reading: