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Good news, mamas! A new study shows mindfulness training can improve women’s childbirth experiences and reduce depression symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum.

Researchers compared mainstream childbirth education with a course that included skills and practices like mindful movement, walking meditation and pain coping strategies focused on reducing fear among first-time mothers. Fear of childbirth had been shown in previous studies to be linked to poorer labor-and-delivery outcomes and depression.

“Fear of the unknown affects us all, and perhaps none more so than pregnant women,” said lead author Larissa Duncan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Although standard classes are supposed to help pregnant women and their partners learn strategies to cope with birth and labor pain, Duncan says “sometimes women report that the information in childbirth education actually increases their fear of childbirth.”

Also, while both groups requested epidurals at similar rates, mothers who took the mindfulness training tended to use lower amounts of narcotic pain medications during labor. Plus, depression symptoms lessened in the mindfulness group, while they worsened among the other women.

“With mindfulness skills,” Duncan said, “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.”

Have your tried mindfulness training? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!