A mindfulness intervention to reduce maternal distress in neonatal intensive care: a mixed methods pilot study

  • Tamar Mendelson
  • Ciara McAfee
  • April Joy Damian
  • Amitoj Brar
  • Pamela Donohue
  • Erica Sibinga
Original Article


Mothers with an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at risk for depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms, with negative implications for maternal-infant bonding, maternal well-being, and infant development. Few interventions to promote NICU mothers’ mental health, however, have been developed or tested. This pre-post pilot study assessed feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of a mindfulness intervention for NICU mothers. Twenty-seven mothers were recruited from a university NICU and offered a mindfulness intervention via introductory video and audio-recorded practices. Participants completed a baseline self-report survey. After 2 weeks of engaging with intervention materials, participants completed a second survey and in-depth interview. Quantitative data were analyzed using paired t tests; qualitative data were analyzed using thematic coding. Twenty-four women (89%) completed the study. Quantitative data indicated significant improvements in depressive, anxiety, and trauma symptoms, negative coping, NICU-related stress, and sleep (p < 0.05). Qualitative data identified themes of perceived improvements in psychological distress and stress symptoms, self-care, and relationships. Findings support the mindfulness intervention’s feasibility, acceptability, and potential promise for reducing maternal distress and promoting well-being. Use of video and audio modalities may facilitate program sustainability and scale up. Further research on the program is merited.


Neonatal intensive care Mindfulness Maternal distress Maternal well-being 



We thank Trish Magyari for her collaboration on the development of the mindfulness intervention content and associated video and audio recordings and the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center NICU social workers for their assistance with study implementation. We also thank the mothers who participated in this study.

Funding Information

This research was supported by a grant from the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamar Mendelson
    • 1
  • Ciara McAfee
    • 2
  • April Joy Damian
    • 1
  • Amitoj Brar
    • 1
  • Pamela Donohue
    • 1
    • 3
  • Erica Sibinga
    • 3
  1. 1.Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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