OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine is an international peer-reviewed Open Access journal published quarterly online by LIDSEN Publishing Inc. It covers all evidence-based scientific studies on integrative, alternative and complementary approaches to improving health and wellness.

Topics contain but are not limited to:

  • Acupuncture
  • Acupressure
  • Acupotomy
  • Bioelectromagnetics applications
  • Pharmacological and biological treatments including their efficacy and safety
  • Diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes
  • Herbal medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Manual healing methods (e.g., massage, physical therapy)
  • Kinesiology
  • Mind/body interventions
  • Preventive medicine
  • Research in integrative medicine
  • Education in integrative medicine
  • Related policies

It publishes a variety of article types: Original Research, Review, Communication, Opinion, Comment, Conference Report, Technical Note, Book Review, etc.

There is no restriction on paper length, provided that the text is concise and comprehensive. Authors should present their results in as much detail as possible, as reviewers are encouraged to emphasize scientific rigor and reproducibility.

Indexing: DOAJ-Directory of Open Access Journals.

Publication Speed (median values for papers published in 2023): Submission to First Decision: 5.9 weeks; Submission to Acceptance: 14.7 weeks; Acceptance to Publication: 8 days (1-2 days of FREE language polishing included)

Open Access Original Research

A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study to Identify Facilitators Leading to Sustained Mindfulness Practice across the Perinatal Period

Jessica Walls 1,†, Charlotte V. Farewell 1,†,*, Kara Traikoff 1,†, Haley Burns 1,†, Joanne Whalen 2,†, Meredith Shefferman 2,†, Jenn A. Leiferman 1,†

  1. Department of Community and Behavioral Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045, United States

  2. Integrative Medicine Center, UC Health, Denver, Colorado 80238, United States

† These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence: Charlotte V. Farewell

Academic Editor: Gerhard Litscher

Special Issue: Multi-level Approaches to Preventing Perinatal Mood Disorders

Received: May 31, 2022 | Accepted: August 19, 2022 | Published: August 26, 2022

OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine 2022, Volume 7, Issue 3, doi:10.21926/obm.icm.2203038

Recommended citation: Walls J, Farewell CV, Traikoff K, Burns H, Whalen J, Shefferman M, Leiferman JA. A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study to Identify Facilitators Leading to Sustained Mindfulness Practice across the Perinatal Period. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine 2022;7(3):19; doi:10.21926/obm.icm.2203038.

© 2022 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is correctly cited.


Many women experience depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period. Mind-Body Interventions (MBIs) have shown great efficacy in the mitigation of these symptoms; however, there is limited research spanning the postpartum period and exploring long-term sustainability of mindfulness practice. Furthermore, little is known about specific facilitators that contribute to sustainability. The primary objective of this mixed-methods study is to use the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) framework to inform multi-level factors associated with the sustainability of mindfulness practices and associated mental health outcomes in the postpartum period after participating in a prenatal MBI to inform and improve future interventions. Measures of mental health including depression, anxiety, and perceived stress were evaluated via quantitative assessments at three time points (n = 24) across the prenatal and postpartum periods prior to and following the prenatal MBI. Interviews were conducted post-intervention (n = 10) and 5-12-months postpartum (n = 8) to identify sustainability facilitators. Measures of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress were significantly lower post-intervention than pre-intervention, and decreased levels of depression were sustained over three months postpartum. After participation, all interview participants reported intention to continue practice postpartum. In the postpartum period, 73% of participants reported weekly sustained practice. Qualitative interviews revealed significant facilitators to be informal practice (attitudes and beliefs), family and peer support (social norms), life-integration and self-compassion (perceived control) and benefits to child (intentions/ behaviors). These findings suggest that future interventions should focus on ease of integrating informal practice into daily routines, communication with support systems, self-compassion, and benefits of mindfulness practices for the child to promote sustainability.


Perinatal; mindfulness; mental health

1. Introduction

In the perinatal period (which is defined as pregnancy and 12 months postpartum), 18-20% of women have a depressive disorder, and up to 40% report an anxiety disorder [1,2,3,4,5,6]. Many biological, physical, and psychological factors contribute to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Biological factors including hormone deregulation may cause changes in mood [7]. Physical challenges, such as discomfort caused by body changes, may also disrupt sleep patterns [8]. Finally, psychological factors from increased internal and external stressors, such as shifts in personal identity and family dynamics, may increase the likelihood of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders [9]. When these disorders are left untreated, the risk of long-term detrimental effects on both mother and child is elevated. These include risk of preterm birth and/or low birth weight [10,11,12], birth complications [13], and interruption of maternal-infant bonding [6,14] which may also lead to developmental and cognitive delays [6,15], behavioral problems in childhood [16], and long-term maternal depressive symptoms [17].

Mind-body interventions (MBIs) are non-pharmacological evidence-based interventions that are often used to mitigate perinatal mood disorders [18]. Prenatal MBIs have become progressively more popular as the prevalence of perinatal stress and mood disorders increase [19]. Prenatal MBIs are effective in mitigating symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety, and focus on positive birth outcomes through breathwork and awareness of present surroundings [20,21]. Postnatal MBIs have also shown efficacy in reducing depressive symptoms [22], though to our knowledge there is limited published research that evaluates interventions delivered in the postpartum period only. MBIs are often preferred over psychopharmaceutical treatments due to mothers’ preference and comfort level regarding the conflicting evidence of the safety of medications during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding [23,24,25]. MBIs are typically suggested for women with histories of mental illness as an attempt to prevent pregnancy or postpartum triggered mental illness relapse [26]. Perinatal MBIs may also be used as preventative approaches to decrease the need for treatment of postpartum mood disorders [27,28].

Though mood disorders may present at any time across the perinatal and later postpartum periods, most perinatal MBIs are conducted during pregnancy [25,29,30], and often only assess measures of efficacy at one time point [25]. Childbirth may trigger mood disorders [31], and often women will experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress in the postpartum period even if they did not present in the prenatal period; for example, a longitudinal assessment of women in the prenatal and postpartum period shows a great variation in depressive symptom onset [32]. Therefore, supporting adaptive coping behaviors, such as mindful behavior, across the prenatal and postpartum period may increase an individual’s likelihood of sustaining mindfulness practices after birth and combatting postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

Systematic reviews of perinatal MBIs reveal that while not all interventions assess sustainability data across multiple timepoints [18,19,29], those that do have found mixed results in terms of sustained mindfulness practices and mental health outcomes [19,33]. One qualitative study explored the experiences of postpartum women after participating in a prenatal MBI and found that participants used mindfulness skills to address postpartum challenges and that the perceived benefits of these practices continued for these women into the postpartum year [34]. Another single arm pilot study found that improvements in mental health outcomes were maintained at 3-months postpartum and 55% of participants reported continuing to practice mindfulness [33]. An alternative study followed participants through one-year postpartum and found that 72% of participants reported practicing mindfulness greater than 5 days a week [35]. Though extant literature explores short and long-term benefits of perinatal MBIs into the postpartum period, to our knowledge there is a lack of research that identifies facilitators to sustainability of mindfulness practice into the postpartum period and beyond.

Predictors of sustained mindfulness practices after participating in prenatal MBIs and associations with postpartum mental health outcomes remain unclear. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) [36] predicts a person’s intended behaviors and actual behaviors based on their attitudes and beliefs combined with their perception of control [37]. According to the TPB, intentions and behaviors are determined by three factors: attitudes towards the behavior in question, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control [36]. Attitudes towards a behavior refer to one’s positively or negatively held opinions of the action; attitudes are not necessarily reflective of knowledge [37]. Subjective norms refer to the social pressures influencing whether or not to perform the behavior [38]. Finally, perceived behavioral control relates to self-efficacy, and can be used to predict both intentions and behavior as it relates to the actual degree of control that one has over the behavior [39]. If an individual’s perception of control is inaccurate, perceived behavioral control will be a less precise indicator [37]. The theory posits that intentions are the most important determinant for whether a behavior is performed and, along with perceived behavioral control, drive the execution of behavior [40].

Research shows that using the TPB, MBIs that focus on subjective norms may have the greatest success in establishing a sustained practice after the intervention [41]. The TPB has been used to examine other health behaviors in the perinatal population, including initiation and duration of breastfeeding [42,43,44], smoking and other substance cessation [45], nutrition [46], and physical activity [47,48]. While subjective norms predict behaviors in this population [44,49], intention is also a significant predictor of behavioral outcomes [50]. These factors can be supported by providers’ promotion of sources of support during pregnancy and emphasizing the impact of perinatal mood disorders on the fetus [42,45,50,51].

Longitudinal data collection across the prenatal and postpartum period allows for the exploration of multi-level factors that support the sustainability of mindfulness practices and the potential protective impact on postpartum mental health outcomes. The primary objective of this mixed-methods study is to use the TPB framework to inform multi-level factors that are associated with the sustainability of mindfulness practices and associated mental health outcomes in the postpartum period after participating in a prenatal MBI.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1 Methods

2.1.1 Intervention

The program used for this intervention is an example of a prenatal MBI that is rooted in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) [52] and mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting (MBCP) [53]. The program is based off a prenatal MBCT program focused on the prevention of perinatal depression [26,54] and consists of six 90-minute weekly sessions. The goal of the program is to focus on emotional wellness during pregnancy to decrease the risk for postpartum depression and anxiety for women who may be at higher risk due to high-risk pregnancies, histories of depression and/or anxiety, and current psychosocial stressors during pregnancies. The program is facilitated by two licensed psychologists and covers various topics such as: mindfulness, breathwork, pregnancy-specific worries and stressors, managing anxiety, working with/accepting difficulty, yoga, pain management, and self-care strategies and exercises.

2.1.2 Participants

Participants were recruited for the prenatal MBI intervention via three mechanisms: 1) Prenatal care clinics affiliated with a large health care system in Colorado referred pregnant patients to the two licensed psychologists to screen for eligibility and interest in participating in the prenatal MBI intervention, 2) Advertisements were distributed through university-affiliated email databases and listservs, and 3) Advertisements were distributed through social media sources, such as Facebook and Instagram, including posting advertisements in Facebook groups for new mothers and birth support professionals in the greater Denver metro area. Eligibility criteria included: 1) individuals who were 18 or older and between 12 and 32 weeks pregnant at the start of the program, and 2) individuals living in Colorado. Exclusion criteria included clinically diagnosed major depressive disorder or psychosis, recent history of suicidal ideation, and substance abuse disorder (SUD). The final analytical sample for this study included individuals who participated in the remotely delivered prenatal MBI intervention from September of 2020 through December of 2021 and engaged in three timepoints of data collection (n = 24).

2.1.3 Procedure

Individuals who were interested in participating in the program were screened for eligibility by licensed psychologists. Once individuals were deemed eligible and interested, an electronic link containing the consent and baseline survey was sent via email. All documents (consent, survey) were administered via REDCap [55]. REDCap is a secure, web-based application designed to support data capture for research studies. Once individuals completed the baseline survey, the licensed psychologists emailed information regarding the program and logistics on how to join the group sessions. Survey data was collected at three timepoints, two during pregnancy and one during the postpartum period: T1 (baseline- average gestational age 22.2 weeks), T2 (post-intervention), and T3 (3-months postpartum). Additionally, qualitative data were collected at T2 and between 5-12 months postpartum to explore factors related to the intention and sustainability of mindful behaviors and well-being in the postpartum period. Individuals were recruited for participation in the qualitative data collection using a convenience sampling design. The study team contacted participants via email after completion of the surveys to assess interest in participating in a 45–60-minute zoom interview. Individuals received a $20 electronic Target gift card for all surveys and interviews that they completed. A large university-affiliated institutional review board approved this study (IRB # 20-2138).

2.2 Instruments

2.2.1 Quantitative Data

A 34-item survey including sociodemographic information and validated measures of mindfulness, mental health and wellbeing outcomes was administered at T1, T2, and T3. Questions related to core TPB constructs, and the sustainability of mindfulness practices were also included at T2 and T3. The following validated instruments were administered to assess the primary outcomes: the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) [56], the General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) [57], the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) [58]. The (EPDS) (α = 0.83) [59] is a 10-item tool often used to screen and identify women for depression in the perinatal period [60]. It includes questions pertaining to feelings experienced over the last 7 days such as “I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things” and “The thought of harming myself has occurred to me”. The GAD-7 is the most commonly used diagnostic tool for anxiety in the perinatal period as there has not yet been a widely-used validated tool for specific perinatal anxiety [61]. The GAD-7 (α = 0.89) has good reliability and validity and works well in conjunction with the EPDS. It asks questions pertaining to the past two weeks including “Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge.” The PSS (α = 0.70) [62] is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one’s life are appraised as stressful. The questions in the PSS ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, respondents are asked how often they felt a certain way. It includes questions such as, “In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” Examples of questions related to the sustainability of mindfulness practices included, “How likely do you think you are to sustain the habits you learned in the program after giving birth?” (T2) and “On average, how regularly are you practicing?” (T3).

Demographic information collected included marital status (married, single and never married, divorced or separated), ethnicity (Hispanic or Non-Hispanic), race (Caucasian, African American, Asian or Pacific Islander, or Other), employment status (employed full time, employed part time, working without pay, unemployed, or student), total yearly household income (less than \$50,000, \$50,000-\$99,999, \$100,000-\$149,999, and \$150,000 or greater), insurance coverage (full coverage or Medicaid), age (continuous), and gestational age (continuous).

2.2.2 Qualitative Data

The post-intervention (T2) and 5–12-month postpartum semi-structured interview guides were comprised of questions about sustainability regarding mindful behaviors and mental health and well-being in the postpartum period. Intention to sustain mindfulness practices after participating in the prenatal MBI intervention during pregnancy (T2) and actual behaviors postpartum were captured with interview questions such as, “How likely do you think you are to sustain the habits you learned in the program after giving birth?” (T2), “Since completing the program and after the birth of your child, how have you continued to use the techniques that were taught in the program?”, and “What resources or facilitators have helped you sustain some of these habits into the postpartum period?”.

3. Data Analysis

To investigate changes in the primary outcomes (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress) across three timepoints (T1, T2 and T3), we ran frequency and descriptive statistics. Next, we ran repeated measures ANOVAs to further investigate the significance of these changes across the perinatal period. Finally, post hoc comparisons were run to further explore changes in each of the outcome variables between each timepoint. Alpha (α) was set at 0.05. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 26.0 (SPSS) [63] software was used for statistical analysis. To explore perceptions surrounding sustainability of mindfulness practices across the perinatal period, we ran univariate statistics and integrated these data with the qualitative findings.

Qualitative data analysis was conducted by a research assistant and followed best practice methods, including an inductive, data-driven approach [64,65]. Inductive coding was also used to allow for discovery of unique themes related to the intention to sustain mindfulness practices and actual sustainability of mindfulness practices in the postpartum period including associated barriers and facilitators. The research assistant reviewed the data with the study team iteratively. If dis-concordance on the meaning of the codes and themes were present, a discussion occurred between team members to reach consensus on the coding structure. NVIVO software [66] was used for all qualitative analyses. The team then applied the TPB framework to integrate the quantitative and qualitative data and identify multi-level factors that were associated with sustainability of mindfulness practices after participating in the prenatal MBI intervention.

4. Results

As shown in Table 1, the full sample (n = 24), 87.5% identified as Caucasian, 4.17% as African American, and 8.33% as Asian, with 96.83% identifying as non-Hispanic and 4.17% as Hispanic. Approximately 8.33% of participants had completed some college, 37.5% had a college degree, and 54.17% had an advanced degree. More than ¾ of the sample (79.16%) were employed full-time, 4.17% part-time, 4.17% were working without pay, 4.17% had full-time student status, and 8.33% were unemployed. Most participants were married (79.16%), 16.67% were single, and 4.17% were divorced or separated. The breakdown of annual household income was as follows: Less than \$50,000 (8.33%), \$50,000-\$99,999 (29.17%), \$100,000-\$149,000 (29.17%) $150,000 or greater (33.33%). Almost all participants had full insurance coverage (95.83%) and 4.17% were covered by Medicaid. The average age of participants was 32 years, and the average gestation was 22.2 weeks at baseline.

Table 1 Participant Demographics.

4.1 Quantitative Findings Related to Sustainability of Mental Health Outcomes

Estimated marginal means of each of the primary outcomes at each timepoint are displayed in Figure 1. A repeated measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction for depression based on Mauchly’s test of sphericity (χ2 (2) = 7.05, p = 0.03) determined that mean depression (F(1.53, 30.53 = 12.65, p < 0.01), mean anxiety (F(2, 33.62) = 6.80, p < 0.01), and mean perceived stress (F(2, 38.14) = 10.91, p < 0.01) scores differed statistically significantly between all three time points (T1, T2, and T3). Post hoc analysis with a Bonferroni adjustment revealed that depression scores statistically significantly decreased from T1 to T2 (-3.48 (95% CI, -5.99 to -0.97), p < 0.01), and from T1 to T3 (-3.95 (95% CI, -6.51 to -1.39), p < 0.01). Anxiety scores statistically significantly decreased from T1 to T2 (-3.29 (95% CI, -5.44 to -1.14), p < 0.05). Perceived stress scores statistically significantly decreased from T1 to T2 (-3.43 (95% CI, -6.26 to -0.59), p = 0.02), and from T1 to T3 (-4.43 (95% CI, -7.03 to -1.83), p < 0.01).

Click to view original image

Figure 1 Changes in Mental Health and Well-being Outcomes after participating in the prenatal mind-body intervention across the Perinatal Period (n = 24). EDPS: Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; GAD: General Anxiety Disorder Scale; PSS: Perceived Stress Scale.

4.2 Qualitative Themes

Table 2 describes the key themes identified in qualitative interviews and alignment with the four constructs of the TPB: behavioral beliefs/attitudes, subjective norms, behavioral control, and intention/behavior. Among participants, beliefs and attitudes related to informal practice, time management, prioritizing being present, and having been referred to the intervention by their health care provider were all identified as facilitators that supported mindfulness practice. As an example, a participant responded that feeling like she could “take just a couple of moments to breathe and get back to neutral” (informal practice) facilitated her ability to practice informal mindfulness. Subjective norms including work, family, and peer support, were commonly mentioned by participants as themes that bolstered their ability to engage with, and sustain, mindfulness practices. As one participant said, “It was really helpful for me to have a network of other moms that were going through the same things I was” (peer support). Intentional focus and acknowledging the ease of integrating mindfulness practices into daily routines as well as one’s ability to practice self-compassion contributed to a sense of participant behavioral control. A participant pointed out, “I can control my perspective” (intentional focus), and increased social support gave participants a higher feeling of perceived control over stressful situations. Finally, the intention of behavior, which is the product of beliefs, attitudes, social norms, and perceived control, was often motivated by perceived benefits for the child, as well as their own continued wellbeing, and was a powerful factor in implementing and sustaining a mindfulness practice across the perinatal period. A participant said, “remembering that I have to be my best self in order to be present with my baby” was integral to her intention to sustain mindfulness practices.

Table 2 Themes derived using the Theory of Planned Behavior.

4.3 Mixed-Methods Analysis

Figure 2 displays the integration of the qualitative and quantitative findings and highlights the facilitators associated with sustainability of mindfulness practices into the postpartum period after participating in the program based on the TPB model. After participation in the intervention (T2), 88% of participants believed mindfulness to be important (behavioral beliefs and attitudes), 75% reported having access to social support resources, such as partner support (subjective norms), approximately half (53%) felt that they often or very often were in control of irritations or stressors in their lives (behavioral control/control beliefs), and 100% of participants reported that they were likely to sustain mindfulness practices into the postpartum period (intention). At three months postpartum (T3), 73% reported that they had been able to sustain a weekly mindfulness practice at least one time per week (behavior).

Click to view original image

Figure 2 Mixed-methods results as applied to components of the Theory of Planned Behavior.

5. Discussion

This mixed-methods study examined prenatal and postpartum changes in depression, stress, and anxiety among individuals who participated in a remotely delivered, 6-week prenatal MBI. The TPB framework was applied to identify facilitators that contributed to beliefs and attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and intentions to sustain mindfulness practices during the prenatal period, and how these translated to actual sustainability of mindfulness practices in the postpartum period. We found significant changes in depression, anxiety, and stress after participating in the intervention; additionally, decreases in depression and stress were sustained into the postpartum period. On average, based on clinical cut-offs for the EPDS and GAD-7, depression and anxiety scores decreased from mild to minimal levels after participating in the MBI. Mitigating mild prenatal mood disorders before they progress to moderate or severe levels may be an effective strategy for preventing clinically-relevant depression and/or anxiety diagnoses through the postpartum period. Though anxiety slightly increased in the postpartum period, this was not a statistically significant change.

Trends in perinatal mood disorders suggest that in general, mental health worsens across the perinatal and postpartum period. A 2021 study of over 150 women found that levels of anxiety and depression increased from 24 weeks gestation to postpartum [67]. A prospective cohort study found a slight decrease in stress from the first to the third trimester but an increase in the postpartum period [68]. Finally, a longitudinal review found that 39% of women who experienced depression in pregnancy continued to have elevated depressive symptoms into the postpartum period [69]. These trends further support the preliminary efficacy of this prenatal MBI since mood disorders decreased over time in our sample. Our findings are generally consistent with current literature on perinatal MBIs. Two recent meta-analyses highlight decreased depressive and anxiety symptoms in intervention participants following MBIs in pregnancy as compared to the control group [18,19]. These studies, however, do not explore beyond the post-intervention timepoint. The current study is novel because it examines the effects of prenatal MBIs across the trajectory of the perinatal period including sustained impacts into the postpartum period.

Themes related to behavioral beliefs and attitudes included the benefit of informal practice, which has been found to contribute to sustainability of mindfulness practices [68,69]. Though some participants reported that they had less time for themselves in the postpartum period, many shared that having limited time motivated them to incorporate brief informal practices into their daily routine. Participants reported that their ability to be present was a powerful contributor to their mindfulness practice; many similar perinatal interventions focus on promoting awareness and presence during the prenatal period [19,25]. These positive beliefs and attitudes surrounding mindfulness practices among pregnant women are reflective of the growing number of prenatal MBIs and increased focus on mindfulness in the United States. Additionally, participants reported that provider referrals encouraged them to participate which is supportive of past literature that highlights the importance of health care providers promoting MBIs as feasible and efficacious options for enhancing perinatal wellbeing [18,19,70,71,72].

Our findings suggest that work, family, and peer support contributed to positive subjective norms which helped participants’ ability to sustain mindfulness practices into the postpartum period. Many participants reported an established practice and/or shared how mindfulness practices are positively perceived in their social networks. In our sample, the majority (75%) reported that their partners and family support their ability to integrate mindfulness practices into their daily routines. These positive subjective norms reflect the trend in mindfulness practices in the United States, often through the vehicles of meditation and yoga, which are often considered to now be “mainstream” [73,74]. A scoping review of facilitators and barriers to yoga participation in the general population found social influence to be a major contributing facilitator [75].

Intervention participants reported high levels of perceived control with the anticipation of support systems facilitating integration of mindfulness practices into routines across the perinatal period. They also acknowledged that some things may be out of their control, which calls for intentional focus on their thoughts and perspectives. A past study suggested that new parents who report partner and peer support perceive more control over health behaviors because of these reciprocal supports [76]. Higher perceived control in the general population is consistently correlated with decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, which may be a result of mechanistic pathways related to adaptive coping behaviors, such as mindfulness [77,78,79,80]. MBIs are designed to integrate intention and awareness into everyday life [81,82,83]. The perinatal period is an opportune time for this integration, as mindfulness can lead to protective behaviors that contribute to maternal wellbeing during this transition and throughout the postpartum period [18,54,84]. A wide variety of tools exist aimed at integrating mindfulness into daily life including podcasts, guided meditations [85], and smartphone apps. For example, a recent systematic review identified over 600 smartphone apps designed to integrate mindfulness into daily life showcasing the link between daily integration and sustained mindfulness practice [86]. Self-compassion was also identified as key theme related to behavioral control; participants in this sample acknowledged that giving themselves grace translated to more positive perceptions of control. Many MBIs in the perinatal period promote self-compassion [83], which may support sustained practice and has been inversely correlated with depression and anxiety in the perinatal period [87,88,89].

Finally, intention to sustain mindfulness practices into the postpartum period was motivated by participants’ desire to support their wellbeing for the benefit of their babies. After participating in Mindful-Moms-to-Be, all participants responded that they were likely to sustain mindfulness in the postpartum period. These intentions are a key component of behavior change. A recent meta-analysis examining health behaviors of new parents found that advance planning mediates the intention-behavior relationship [90], and many women who have experienced depression and/or anxiety have engaged in MBIs as a preventative measure to avoid poor mental health in the postpartum period [26].

6. Limitations

Limitations of this analysis include a small sample size. Though our findings suggested significant improvements in mental health and wellbeing measures over time, a lack of a control group limits the interpretation of these findings. Additionally, qualitative interviews were conducted with participants who were between 5 and 12 months postpartum and there may be significant variation in mindfulness practices at different timepoints across the postpartum period. The research team acknowledges that the demographics of participants were representative of demographics found in many similar studies, including a systematic review of 45 U.S. based interventions that employed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and MBCT, which found most participants to be Caucasian and have relatively high annual household incomes [91]. When applied to lower-resourced populations, qualitative research shows the need for judgement-free and welcoming atmospheres [92]. Recent research also highlights the need for culturally responsive MBIs, particularly for women of color [93], suggesting that the program may require further adaptations to recruitment approaches to reach a more diverse audience. The next iteration of this work includes replication with a larger and more diverse sample and control group. If findings show consistent and significant results particularly for low income/women of color, additional adaptations will be explored to expand the availability of culturally diverse MBI programs for the perinatal population.

7. Conclusions-Implications and Recommendations

Though our findings are based on a pilot study with a small sample size, our results suggest that mindfulness practices learned in the prenatal MBI were often sustained into the postpartum period, which may have translated to sustainable improvements in postpartum depression and stress. There are several factors will help support the sustainability of mindfulness practices into the postpartum period. Focus should be on informal practices and simple breath techniques, support from partners, work, and other pregnant peers, emphasizing opportunities for integration of mindfulness practices into daily living, focusing on self-compassion, and reminding participants about the importance of being their best selves for the sake of their babies. Future research should continue to evaluate the sustainability and benefits of mindfulness over the course of pregnancy and through 12 months postpartum (perinatal period) on a larger scale and with control groups to further determine long-term impacts on mental health and wellbeing outcomes across these critical periods.


The authors would like to acknowledge the participants for their time and insights.

Author Contributions

The authors assume responsibility for the complete development of this manuscript, including its initial conception, design, analysis, and writing (Dr. Farewell and Ms. Walls), development and delivery of the curriculum (Dr. Whalen and Dr. Shefferman), collection and interpretation of the data (all authors), and reviewing of the manuscript (all authors).

Competing Interests

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


  1. Hahn-Holbrook J, Cornwell-Hinrichs T, Anaya I. Economic and health predictors of national postpartum depression prevalence: A systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression of 291 studies from 56 countries. Front Psychiatry. 2017; 8: 248. [CrossRef]
  2. Shorey S, Chee CYI, Ng ED, Chan YH, San Tam WW, Chong YS. Prevalence and incidence of postpartum depression among healthy mothers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Psychiatr Res. 2018; 104: 235-248. [CrossRef]
  3. Goodman JH, Watson GR, Stubbs B. Anxiety disorders in postpartum women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2016; 203: 292-331. [CrossRef]
  4. Yin X, Sun N, Jiang N, Xu X, Gan Y, Zhang J, et al. Prevalence and associated factors of antenatal depression: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Clin Psychol Rev. 2020; 83: 101932. [CrossRef]
  5. Dennis CL, Falah-Hassani K, Shiri R. Prevalence of antenatal and postnatal anxiety: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2017; 210: 315-323. [CrossRef]
  6. Rollè L, Giordano M, Santoniccolo F, Trombetta T. Prenatal attachment and perinatal depression: A systematic review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020; 17: 2644. [CrossRef]
  7. Li H, Bowen A, Bowen R, Balbuena L, Feng C, Bally J, et al. Mood instability during pregnancy and postpartum: A systematic review. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2020; 23: 29-41. [CrossRef]
  8. Yang Z, Zhu Z, Wang C, Zhang F, Zeng H. Association between adverse perinatal outcomes and sleep disturbances during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2022; 35: 166-174. [CrossRef]
  9. Holopainen A, Hakulinen-Viitanen T. New parents' experiences of postpartum depression-a systematic review of qualitative evidence. JBI Evid Synth. 2012; 10: 1-10. [CrossRef]
  10. Grigoriadis S, Graves L, Peer M, Mamisashvili L, Tomlinson G, Vigod SN, et al. Maternal anxiety during pregnancy and the association with adverse perinatal outcomes: Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018; 79: 5. [CrossRef]
  11. Ding XX, Wu YL, Xu SJ, Zhu RP, Jia XM, Zhang SF, et al. Maternal anxiety during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Affect Disord. 2014; 159: 103-110. [CrossRef]
  12. Accortt EE, Cheadle AC, Schetter CD. Prenatal depression and adverse birth outcomes: An updated systematic review. Matern Child Health J. 2015; 19: 1306-1337. [CrossRef]
  13. Zhou X, Li L. Prenatal anxiety and its influence on delivery outcome. Zhong Nan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2011; 36: 803-808.
  14. Dubber S, Reck C, Müller M, Gawlik S. Postpartum bonding: The role of perinatal depression, anxiety and maternal–fetal bonding during pregnancy. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2015; 18: 187-195. [CrossRef]
  15. Netsi E, Pearson RM, Murray L, Cooper P, Craske MG, Stein A. Association of persistent and severe postnatal depression with child outcomes. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018; 75: 247-253. [CrossRef]
  16. Howard LM, Khalifeh H. Perinatal mental health: A review of progress and challenges. World Psychiatry. 2020; 19: 313-327. [CrossRef]
  17. Hutchens BF, Kearney J. Risk factors for postpartum depression: An umbrella review. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2020; 65: 96-108. [CrossRef]
  18. Corbally L, Wilkinson M. The effect of mindfulness-based interventions on stress, depression and anxiety during the perinatal period in women without pre-existing stress, depressive or anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. Mindfulness. 2021; 12: 2357-2370. [CrossRef]
  19. Dhillon A, Sparkes E, Duarte RV. Mindfulness-based interventions during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Mindfulness. 2017; 8: 1421-1437. [CrossRef]
  20. Kuyken W, Watkins E, Holden E, White K, Taylor RS, Byford S, et al. How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work? Behav Res Ther. 2010; 48: 1105-1112. [CrossRef]
  21. Matvienko-Sikar K, Lee L, Murphy G, Murphy L. The effects of mindfulness interventions on prenatal well-being: A systematic review. Psychol Health. 2016; 31: 1415-1434. [CrossRef]
  22. Sheydaei H, Ghasemzadeh A, Lashkari A, Kajani PG. The effectiveness of mindfulness training on reducing the symptoms of postpartum depression. Electron Physician. 2017; 9: 4753-4758. [CrossRef]
  23. Domínguez-Solís E, Lima-Serrano M, Lima-Rodríguez JS. Non-pharmacological interventions to reduce anxiety in pregnancy, labour and postpartum: A systematic review. Midwifery. 2021; 102: 103126. [CrossRef]
  24. Evans K, Spiby H, Morrell JC. Non-pharmacological interventions to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety in pregnant women. A systematic review and narrative synthesis of women’s views on the acceptability of and satisfaction with interventions. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2020; 23: 11-28. [CrossRef]
  25. Badker R, Misri S. Mindfulness-based therapy in the perinatal period: A review of the literature. B C Med J. 2017; 59: 18-21.
  26. Dimidjian S, Goodman SH, Felder JN, Gallop R, Brown AP, Beck A. An open trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the prevention of perinatal depressive relapse/recurrence. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2015; 18: 85-94. [CrossRef]
  27. Dimidjian S, Goodman SH, Felder JN, Gallop R, Brown AP, Beck A. Staying well during pregnancy and the postpartum: A pilot randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the prevention of depressive relapse/recurrence. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2016; 84: 134-145. [CrossRef]
  28. Guo L, Zhang J, Mu L, Ye Z. Preventing postpartum depression with mindful self-compassion intervention: A randomized control study. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2020; 208: 101-107. [CrossRef]
  29. Shi Z, MacBeth A. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on maternal perinatal mental health outcomes: A systematic review. Mindfulness. 2017; 8: 823-847. [CrossRef]
  30. Lever Taylor B, Cavanagh K, Strauss C. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in the perinatal period: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS One. 2016; 11: e0155720. [CrossRef]
  31. Meltzer-Brody S, Stuebe A. The long-term psychiatric and medical prognosis of perinatal mental illness. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2014; 28: 49-60. [CrossRef]
  32. Pataky EA, Ehlert U. Longitudinal assessment of symptoms of postpartum mood disorder in women with and without a history of depression. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2020; 23: 391-399. [CrossRef]
  33. Luberto CM, Park ER, Goodman JH. Postpartum outcomes and formal mindfulness practice in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for perinatal women. Mindfulness. 2018; 9: 850-859. [CrossRef]
  34. Kantrowitz‐Gordon I, Abbott S, Hoehn R. Experiences of postpartum women after mindfulness childbirth classes: A qualitative study. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2018; 63: 462-469. [CrossRef]
  35. Roberts LR, Montgomery SB. Mindfulness-based intervention for perinatal grief in rural India: Improved mental health at 12 months follow-up. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2016; 37: 942-951. [CrossRef]
  36. Ajzen I. The theory of planned behavior. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process. 1991; 50: 179-211. [CrossRef]
  37. Ajzen I, Joyce N, Sheikh S, Cote NG. Knowledge and the prediction of behavior: The role of information accuracy in the theory of planned behavior. Basic Appl Soc Psych. 2011; 33: 101-117. [CrossRef]
  38. Banerjee S, Ho SS. Applying the theory of planned behavior: Examining how communication, attitudes, social norms, and perceived behavioral control relate to healthy lifestyle intention in Singapore. Int J Healthc Manag. 2020; 13: 496-503. [CrossRef]
  39. Ajzen I. Perceived behavioral control, self‐efficacy, locus of control, and the theory of planned behavior1. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2002; 32: 665-683. [CrossRef]
  40. Ajzen I, Madden TJ. Prediction of goal-directed behavior: Attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioral control. J Exp Soc Psychol. 1986; 22: 453-474. [CrossRef]
  41. Crandall A, Cheung A, Young A, Hooper AP. Theory-based predictors of mindfulness meditation mobile app usage: A survey and cohort study. JMIR mHealth uHealth. 2019; 7: e10794. [CrossRef]
  42. Lau CY, Lok KY, Tarrant M. Breastfeeding duration and the theory of planned behavior and breastfeeding self-efficacy framework: A systematic review of observational studies. Matern Child Health J. 2018; 22: 327-342. [CrossRef]
  43. Russell PS, Smith DM, Birtel MD, Hart KH, Golding SE. The role of emotions and injunctive norms in breastfeeding: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Psychol Rev. 2021; 16: 257-279. [CrossRef]
  44. Saeedi M, Asadi Shavaki M, Sarikhani M, Rahimzadeh M, Tizvir A. Factors affecting pregnant women's intention for exclusive breastfeeding based on the theory of planned behavior. Health Dev J. 2018; 7: 142-154.
  45. De Wilde K, Maes L, Boudrez H, Tency I, Temmerman M, Clays E. Analysis of smoking cessation beliefs in pregnant smokers and ex-smokers using the theory of planned behavior. J Public Health. 2017; 25: 267-274. [CrossRef]
  46. Whitaker KM, Wilcox S, Liu J, Blair SN, Pate RR. Pregnant women’s perceptions of weight gain, physical activity, and nutrition using theory of planned behavior constructs. J Behav Med. 2016; 39: 41-54. [CrossRef]
  47. Garland M, Wilbur J, Semanik P, Fogg L. Correlates of physical activity during pregnancy: A systematic review with implications for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs. 2019; 16: 310-318. [CrossRef]
  48. Hausenblas HA, Downs DS. Prospective examination of leisure-time exercise behavior during pregnancy. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2005; 17: 240-246. [CrossRef]
  49. Downs DS, Hausenblas HA. Exercising for two: Examining pregnant women's second trimester exercise intention and behavior using the framework of the theory of planned behavior. Womens Health Issues. 2003; 13: 222-228. [CrossRef]
  50. Arshad SM, Khani-jeihooni A, Moradi Z, Kouhpayeh SA, Kashfi SM, Dehghan A. Effect of theory of planned behavior-based educational intervention on breastfeeding behavior in pregnant women in Fasa City, Iran. J Educ Community Health. 2017; 4: 55-63. [CrossRef]
  51. Thompson EL, Vamos CA, Daley EM. Physical activity during pregnancy and the role of theory in promoting positive behavior change: A systematic review. J Sport Health Sci. 2017; 6: 198-206. [CrossRef]
  52. Segal ZV, Teasdale JD, Williams JMG. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theoretical rationale and empirical status. In: Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition. New York: Guilford Press; 2004. pp.45-65. [CrossRef]
  53. Duncan LG, Bardacke N. Mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting education: Promoting family mindfulness during the perinatal period. J Child Fam Stud. 2010; 19: 190-202. [CrossRef]
  54. Miklowitz DJ, Semple RJ, Hauser M, Elkun D, Weintraub MJ, Dimidjian S. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for perinatal women with depression or bipolar spectrum disorder. Cognit Ther Res. 2015; 39: 590-600. [CrossRef]
  55. Harris PA, Taylor R, Thielke R, Payne J, Gonzalez N, Conde JG. Research electronic data capture (REDCap)—A metadata-driven methodology and workflow process for providing translational research informatics support. J Biomed Inform. 2009; 42: 377-381. [CrossRef]
  56. Cox JL, Holden JM, Sagovsky R. Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Br J Psychiatry. 1987; 150: 782-786. [CrossRef]
  57. Spitzer RL, Kroenke K, Williams JB, Löwe B. A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: The GAD-7. Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166: 1092-1097. [CrossRef]
  58. Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. Perceived stress scale. Measuring stress: A guide for health and social scientists. New York: Oxford University Press; 1994.
  59. Bunevicius A, Kusminskas L, Bunevicius R. P02-206 validity of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Eur Psychiatry. 2009; 24: S896. [CrossRef]
  60. Cox J. Thirty years with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale: Voices from the past and recommendations for the future. Br J Psychiatry. 2019; 214: 127-129. [CrossRef]
  61. Meades R, Ayers S. Anxiety measures validated in perinatal populations: A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2011; 133: 1-15. [CrossRef]
  62. Yokokura A, Silva A, Fernandes JKB, Del-Ben CM, Figueiredo FP, Barbieri MA, et al. Perceived Stress Scale: Confirmatory factor analysis of the PSS14 and PSS10 versions in two samples of pregnant women from the BRISA cohort. Cad Saude Publica. 2017; 33: e00184615. [CrossRef]
  63. Verma J. Data analysis in management with SPSS software. New Delhi: Springer Science & Business Media; 2012. [CrossRef]
  64. Maxwell J, Bickman L, Rog D. The Sage handbook of applied social research methods. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.; 2009. [CrossRef]
  65. Sprague C, Scanlon ML, Pantalone DW. Qualitative research methods to advance research on health inequities among previously incarcerated women living with HIV in Alabama. Health Educ Behav. 2017; 44: 716-727. [CrossRef]
  66. Guizzo BS, de Oliveira DL. The software QSR Nvivo 2.0 in qualitative data analysis: A tool for health and human sciences researches. Rev Gaucha Enferm. 2003; 24: 53-60.
  67. Malis FR, Meyer T, Gross MM. Effects of an antenatal mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting programme on the postpartum experiences of mothers: A qualitative interview study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017; 17: 57. [CrossRef]
  68. Birtwell K, Williams K, Van Marwijk H, Armitage CJ, Sheffield D. An exploration of formal and informal mindfulness practice and associations with wellbeing. Mindfulness. 2019; 10: 89-99. [CrossRef]
  69. Kakoschke N, Hassed C, Chambers R, Lee K. The importance of formal versus informal mindfulness practice for enhancing psychological wellbeing and study engagement in a medical student cohort with a 5-week mindfulness-based lifestyle program. PloS One. 2021; 16: e0258999. [CrossRef]
  70. Kinser PA, Thacker LR, Rider A, Moyer S, Amstadter AB, Mazzeo SE, et al. Feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of “mindful moms”: A mindful physical activity intervention for pregnant women with depression. Nurs Res. 2021; 70: 95-105. [CrossRef]
  71. Calabrese LH. Why mindfulness/meditation is a “no-brainer” for health-care professionals. J Patient Exp. 2019; 6: 21-23. [CrossRef]
  72. Maxwell L, Duff E. Mindfulness: An effective prescription for depression and anxiety. J Nurse Pract. 2016; 12: 403-409. [CrossRef]
  73. Kabat-Zinn J. The Liberative potential of mindfulness. Mindfulness. 2021; 12: 1555-1563. [CrossRef]
  74. Crane RS. Implementing mindfulness in the mainstream: Making the path by walking it. Mindfulness. 2017; 8: 585-594. [CrossRef]
  75. Cagas JY, Biddle SJ, Vergeer I. When an activity is more than just exercise: A scoping review of facilitators and barriers for yoga participation. Int Rev Sport Exerc Psychol. 2020. doi:10.1080/1750984X.2020.1827448. [CrossRef]
  76. Ryon HS, Gleason MEJ. Reciprocal support and daily perceived control: Developing a better understanding of daily support transactions across a major life transition. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018; 115: 1034-1053. [CrossRef]
  77. Myles L, Connolly J, Stanulewicz N. The mediating role of perceived control and desire for control in the relationship between personality and depressive symptomology. 2020. doi:10.6092/2282-1619/mjcp-2589.
  78. Jones K, Methley A, Boyle G, Garcia R, Vseteckova J. A systematic review of the effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy for managing grief experienced by bereaved spouses or partners of adults who had received palliative care. Illn Crises Loss. 2021. doi: 10.1177/10541373211000175. [CrossRef]
  79. Huberty JL, Matthews J, Leiferman J, Hermer J, Cacciatore J. When a baby dies: A systematic review of experimental interventions for women after stillbirth. Reprod Sci. 2017; 24: 967-975. [CrossRef]
  80. Victorson D, Kentor M, Maletich C, Lawton RC, Kaufman VH, Borrero M, et al. Mindfulness meditation to promote wellness and manage chronic disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of mindfulness-based randomized controlled trials relevant to lifestyle medicine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2015; 9: 185-211. [CrossRef]
  81. Creswell JD. Mindfulness interventions. Annu Rev Psychol. 2017; 68: 491-516. [CrossRef]
  82. Brown KW, Kasser T. Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values, mindfulness, and lifestyle. Soc Indic Res. 2005; 74: 349-368. [CrossRef]
  83. Cohen JS. Mindfulness and self-compassion in the transition to motherhood: A prospective study of postnatal mood and attachment. New York: Columbia University; 2010.
  84. Farewell CV, Walls J, Powers J, Whalen J, Shefferman M, Leiferman JA. Feasibility of a perinatal mindfulness-based intervention delivered remotely due to COVID-19. OBM Integr Compliment Med. 2021. doi:10.21926/obm.icm.2103028. [CrossRef]
  85. Biber DD. Integration of a mindfulness meditation lab for university students. Build Healthy Acad Communities J. 2020; 4: 88-95. [CrossRef]
  86. Schultchen D, Terhorst Y, Holderied T, Stach M, Messner EM, Baumeister H, et al. Stay present with your phone: A systematic review and standardized rating of mindfulness apps in european app stores. Int J Behav Med. 2021; 28: 552-560. [CrossRef]
  87. Jefferson FA, Shires A, McAloon J. Parenting self-compassion: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Mindfulness. 2020; 11: 2067-2088. [CrossRef]
  88. Monteiro F, Fonseca A, Pereira M, Alves S, Canavarro MC. What protects at-risk postpartum women from developing depressive and anxiety symptoms? The role of acceptance-focused processes and self-compassion. J Affect Disord. 2019; 246: 522-529. [CrossRef]
  89. Townshend K, Caltabiano N. Self-compassion and mindfulness: Modeling change processes associated with the reduction of perinatal depression. J Child Fam Stud. 2019; 28: 1790-1802. [CrossRef]
  90. Hamilton K, van Dongen A, Hagger MS. An extended theory of planned behavior for parent-for-child health behaviors: A meta-analysis. Health Psychol. 2020; 39: 863-878. [CrossRef]
  91. Waldron EM, Hong S, Moskowitz JT, Burnett-Zeigler I. A systematic review of the demographic characteristics of participants in US-based randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions. Mindfulness. 2018; 9: 1671-1692. [CrossRef]
  92. Sharplin GR, Jones SB, Hancock B, Knott VE, Bowden JA, Whitford HS. Mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy: An efficacious community‐based group intervention for depression and anxiety in a sample of cancer patients. Med J Aust. 2010; 193: S79-S82. [CrossRef]
  93. Klawetter S, McNitt C, Hoffman JA, Glaze K, Sward A, Frankel K. Perinatal depression in low-income women: A literature review and innovative screening approach. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2020; 22: 1. [CrossRef]
Download PDF Download Citation
0 0