Prenatal Wellness Classes Cuts Mom’s Risk

A new study found that offering soon-to-be mothers wellness classes as a health intervention has substantial outcomes on whether or not the women will experience depression later (up to eight years later).

As BIPOC individuals tend to receive lower levels of medical care and/or may not have as much access to wellness classes as others, 162 BIPOC women were the focus of the study. The study’s senior author noted that the participants were “lower-income, racially and ethnically diverse women who are systemically exposed to factors that put them at risk for depression, such as racism and economic hardship.”

The 162 BIPOC pregnant women were divided into two groups – one group received the wellness intervention classes, and the other group received “standard” care. All the women took a questionnaire to assess their levels of depression at various stages: before the wellness classes, after the wellness classes, and roughly once a year for eight years after the wellness classes.

The wellness classes:

Each class was two hours long, and met once a week for eight weeks. The pregnant woman would practice stress-reducing techniques, mindful movement, breath work, and mindful eating during the classes. The classes spilled into postpartum months, with a follow-up session once their baby was born.

While both groups of women started off with the same amounts of depression after eight years, the different groups had different outcomes: Only 12% of women in the wellness class group had moderate-severe depression, while 25% of women in the standard care group had moderate-severe depression. Researchers attribute less depression to the mindfulness and stress reduction the classes offered, which “can meaningfully affect coping and health.” Additionally, participating in a wellness group gave those women a sense of community and support which may have decreased their depression.

More data is needed to understand how the effects of these wellness classes were so long-lasting, but researchers feel a lot of it has to do with the mothers learning how to cope with stress, establish good eating habits, and exercise. Researchers call these long-standing impacts “remarkable,” considering they held up during the pandemic.

“It’s critical to have interventions that meet the needs of lower-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are especially likely to experience the stress of social inequities.” – Danielle Roubinov, PhD, UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry and first author of the study.

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