The effect of positive psychological interventions on psychological and physical well-being during pregnancy

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O'Leary, Karen
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University College Cork
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Prenatal well-being can have significant effects on the mother and developing foetus. Positive psychological interventions, including gratitude and mindfulness, consistently demonstrate benefits for well-being in diverse populations. No research has been conducted on gratitude during pregnancy; the few studies of prenatal mindfulness interventions have demonstrated well-being benefits. The current study examined the effects of gratitude and mindfulness interventions on prenatal maternal well-being, cortisol and birth outcomes. Five studies were conducted. Study 1 was a systematic review of mindfulness intervention effects on cortisol; this highlighted potential benefits of mindfulness but the need for rigorous protocols in future research. In Study 2 a gratitude and a mindfulness intervention were developed and evaluated; findings indicate usefulness of two 3 week interventions. Study 3 examined the effects of these interventions in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of non-pregnant women, before examining a pregnant group. No significant intervention effects were found in this study, potentially due to insufficient power and poor protocol adherence. Changes in expected directions were observed for most outcomes and the potential utility of a combined gratitude and mindfulness intervention was noted. In Study 4 a gratitude during pregnancy (GDP) scale was developed and the reliability of an existing mindfulness measure (MAAS) was examined in a pregnant group. Both scales were found to be suitable and reliable measures in pregnancy. Study 5 incorporated the findings of the previous four studies to examine of the effect of a combined mindfulness and gratitude intervention with a group of pregnant women. Forty-six participants took part in a 5-week RCT that examined intervention effects on prenatal gratitude, mindfulness, happiness, satisfaction with life, social support, prenatal stress, depression and sleep. Findings indicated that the intervention improved sleep quality and that effects for prenatal distress were approaching significance. Issues of attrition and non-compliance to study protocols were problematic and are discussed. In summary, the current thesis highlights the need for robust measurement, and intervention and cortisol sampling protocols in future research, particularly with pregnant groups. Findings also demonstrate tentative benefits of a gratitude and mindfulness intervention during pregnancy.
Pregnancy , Cortisol , Well-being , Intervention , Positive psychology
O'Leary, K. 2015. The effect of positive psychological interventions on psychological and physical well-being during pregnancy. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.