Mindfulness Moderates Depression and Quality of Prenatal Attachment in Expectant Parents

Abstract

The quality of the prenatal caregiving bond with the unborn baby contributes to later parenting and healthy infant behavior and development. Previous research indicates that maternal antenatal depression can disrupt bonding with the fetus and increases risks such as prematurity and low birthweight; less is known about the effects of paternal depression on prenatal bonding. Research suggests that mindfulness may ameliorate depression symptoms in adults. This study hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness would moderate the influence of parental depression symptoms during pregnancy on the quality of prenatal bonding in a sample of expectant mothers and fathers. Self-report measures of dispositional mindfulness, depression symptoms, and quality of prenatal bonding were administered to 82 expectant parents in a metropolitan Midwest city. Higher levels of mindfulness were negatively associated with depression symptoms and positively associated with quality of prenatal bonding. Mindfulness moderated the relationship between depression symptomology and quality of attachment, such that for parents with low and average mindfulness, depression symptoms were significantly and inversely related to quality of bonding; for parents with higher depression symptom levels, mindfulness did not moderate quality of bonding. These findings suggest that trait mindfulness may promote a stronger bond during pregnancy between a parent and the unborn child. Data presented highlight the potential importance of developing higher levels of mindfulness especially in parents at risk for depression or poor prenatal bonding.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to all the families who participated in this study and to the research assistants who helped with the data collection. This study was funded by the Lois and Samuel Silberman Fund Faculty Grant Program.

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LMH: collected study data, formulated the data analytic plan, performed the data analysis, wrote the paper. CJD: designed the larger study from which these data were pulled, collaborated in determining the data analytic plan, and collaborated in the writing of the paper. SB: collaborated in developing the analytic plan, writing and interpreting the analytic results and assisted with editing of the paper. MM: consulted on the development of the study design, collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. HR: collaborated in formulating the analytic plan and interpreting the results and wrote parts of the paper.

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Correspondence to Laurel M. Hicks.

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The research protocol was approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board and deception was not used.

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All human and animal studies have been approved by the Wayne State University Institutional Review Board and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Hicks, L.M., Dayton, C.J., Brown, S. et al. Mindfulness Moderates Depression and Quality of Prenatal Attachment in Expectant Parents. Mindfulness 9, 1604–1614 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0907-2

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Keywords

  • Prenatal bonding
  • Pregnancy
  • Mindfulness
  • Depression
  • Mothers
  • Fathers