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Effects Of A Brief Electronic Mindfulness-Based Intervention On Relieving Prenatal Depression And Anxiety In Hospitalized High-Risk Pregnant Women: Exploratory Pilot Study

Maren Goetz, Claudia Schiele, Mitho Müller, Lina M Matthies, Thomas M Deutsch, Claudio Spano, Johanna Graf, Stephan Zipfel, Armin Bauer, Sara Y Brucker, Markus Wallwiener, Stephanie Wallwiener

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Background Peripartum depression and anxiety disorders are highly prevalent and are correlated with adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Antenatal care in Germany does not yet include structured screening and effective low-threshold treatment options for women facing peripartum depression and anxiety disorders. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are increasingly becoming a focus of interest for the management of such patients. Studies have shown a decrease in pregnancy-related stress and anxiety in expectant mothers following mindfulness programs. Objective The aim of this study was to explore the clinical effectiveness of a 1-week electronic course of mindfulness on prenatal depression and anxiety in hospitalized, high-risk pregnant women. We hypothesized that participating in a 1-week electronic MBI (eMBI) could alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety during the hospital stay. Methods A prospective pilot study with an explorative study design was conducted from January to May 2019 in a sample of 68 women hospitalized due to high-risk pregnancies. After enrolling into the study, the participants were given access to an eMBI app on how to deal with stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Psychometric parameters were assessed via electronic questionnaires comprising the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S), and abridged version of the Pregnancy-Related Anxiety Questionnaire (PRAQ-R). Results We observed a high prevalence of peripartum depression and anxiety among hospitalized high-risk pregnant women: 39% (26/67) of the study participants in the first assessment and 41% (16/39) of the participants in the second assessment achieved EPDS scores above the cutoff value for minor/major depression. The number of participants with anxiety levels above the cutoff value (66% [45/68] of the participants in the first assessment and 67% [26/39] of the participants in the second assessment) was significantly more than that of the participants with anxiety levels below the cutoff value, as measured with the STAI-S. After completing the 1-week electronic course on mindfulness, the participants showed a significant reduction in the mean state anxiety levels (P<.03). Regarding pregnancy-related anxiety, participants who completed more than 50% of the 1-week course showed lower scores in PRAQ-R in the second assessment (P<.05). No significant changes in the EPDS scores were found after completing the intervention. Conclusions Peripartum anxiety and depression represent a relevant health issue in hospitalized pregnant patients. Short-term eMBIs could have the potential to reduce anxiety levels and pregnancy-related anxiety. However, we observed that compliance to eMBI seems to be related to lower symptoms of pregnancy-related stress among high-risk patients. eMBIs represent accessible mental health resources at reduced costs and can be adapted for hospitalized patients during pregnancy.