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BackgroundClinically significant psychological distress in pregnancy is common, with epidemiological research suggesting that between 15 and 25 % of pregnant women experience elevated symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Untreated psychological distress in pregnancy is associated with poor obstetrical outcomes, changes in maternal physiology, elevated incidence of child physical and psychological disorders, and is predictive of maternal postpartum mood disorders. Despite the wide-ranging impact of antenatal psychological distress on mothers and their children, there is a gap in our knowledge about the most effective treatments that are available for psychological distress experienced in pregnancy. Additionally, no trials have focused on potential physiological changes that may occur as a result of receiving mindfulness training in pregnancy. The proposed trial will determine the effectiveness of an 8-week modified Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) intervention delivered during pregnancy. Methods A randomized controlled trial (RCT) design with repeated measures will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of MBCT to treat psychological distress in pregnancy. A sample of 60 consenting pregnant women aged 18 years and above will be enrolled and randomized to the experimental (MBCT) or control (treatment as usual) condition. Primary (e.g., symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety), secondary (cortisol, blood pressure (BP), heart rate variability (HRV), and sleep) and other outcome data (e.g., psychological diagnoses) will be collected via a combination of laboratory visits and at-home assessments from both groups at baseline (T1), immediately following the intervention (T2), and at 3 months postpartum (T3). Descriptive statistics will be used to describe sample characteristics. Data will be analyzed using an intention-to-treat approach. Hierarchical linear models will be used to test intervention effects on primary and secondary outcomes. Discussion The trial is expected to improve knowledge about evidence-based treatments for psychological distress experienced in pregnancy and to evaluate the potential impact of mindfulness-based interventions on maternal physiology.

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are at a pivotal point in their future development. Spurred on by an ever-increasing number of studies and breadth of clinical application, the value of such approaches may appear self-evident. We contend, however, that the public health impact of MBIs can be enhanced significantly by situating this work in a broader framework of clinical psychological science. Utilizing the National Institutes of Health stage model (Onken, Carroll, Shoham, Cuthbert, & Riddle, 2014), we map the evidence base for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction as exemplars of MBIs. From this perspective, we suggest that important gaps in the current evidence base become apparent and, furthermore, that generating more of the same types of studies without addressing such gaps will limit the relevance and reach of these interventions. We offer a set of 7 recommendations that promote an integrated approach to core research questions, enhanced methodological quality of individual studies, and increased logical links among stages of clinical translation in order to increase the potential of MBIs to impact positively the mental health needs of individuals and communities.

Objective: We evaluated the comparative effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) versus an active control condition (ACC) for depression relapse prevention, depressive symptom reduction, and improvement in life satisfaction. Method: Ninety-two participants in remission from major depressive disorder with residual depressive symptoms were randomized to either an 8-week MBCT or a validated ACC that is structurally equivalent to MBCT and controls for nonspecific effects (e.g., interaction with a facilitator, perceived social support, treatment outcome expectations). Both interventions were delivered according to their published manuals. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses indicated no differences between MBCT and ACC in depression relapse rates or time to relapse over a 60-week follow-up. Both groups experienced significant and equal reductions in depressive symptoms and improvements in life satisfaction. A significant quadratic interaction (Group × Time) indicated that the pattern of depressive symptom reduction differed between groups. The ACC experienced immediate symptom reduction postintervention and then a gradual increase over the 60-week follow-up. The MBCT group experienced a gradual linear symptom reduction. The pattern for life satisfaction was identical but only marginally significant. Conclusions: MBCT did not differ from an ACC on rates of depression relapse, symptom reduction, or life satisfaction, suggesting that MBCT is no more effective for preventing depression relapse and reducing depressive symptoms than the active components of the ACC. Differences in trajectory of depressive symptom improvement suggest that the intervention-specific skills acquired may be associated with differential rates of therapeutic benefit. This study demonstrates the importance of comparing psychotherapeutic interventions to active control conditions.

We conducted a 26-month follow-up of a previously reported 12-month study that compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to a rigorous active control condition (ACC) for depressive relapse/recurrence prevention and improvements in depressive symptoms and life satisfaction. Participants in remission from major depression were randomized to an 8-week MBCT group (n = 46) or the ACC (n = 46). Outcomes were assessed at baseline; postintervention; and 6, 12, and 26 months. Intention-to-treat analyses indicated no differences between groups for any outcome over the 26-month follow-up. Time to relapse results (MBCT vs. ACC) indicated a hazard ratio = .82, 95% CI [.34, 1.99]. Relapse rates were 47.8% for MBCT and 50.0% for ACC. Piecewise analyses indicated that steeper declines in depressive symptoms in the MBCT vs. the ACC group from postintervention to 12 months were not maintained after 12 months. Both groups experienced a marginally significant rebound of depressive symptoms after 12 months but were still improved at 26 months compared to baseline (b = –4.12, p <= .008). Results for life satisfaction were similar. In sum, over a 26-month follow-up, MBCT was no more effective for preventing depression relapse/recurrence, reducing depressive symptoms, or improving life satisfaction than a rigorous ACC. Based on epidemiological data and evidence from prior depression prevention trials, we discuss the possibility that both MBCT and ACC confer equal therapeutic benefit. Future studies that include treatment as usual (TAU) control conditions are needed to confirm this possibility and to rule out the potential role of time-related effects. Overall findings underscore the importance of comparing MBCT to TAU as well as to ACCs.

Objective: Clinical decision-making regarding the prevention of depression is complex for pregnant women with histories of depression and their health care providers. Pregnant women with histories of depression report preference for nonpharmacological care, but few evidence-based options exist. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has strong evidence in the prevention of depressive relapse/recurrence among general populations and indications of promise as adapted for perinatal depression (MBCT-PD). With a pilot randomized clinical trial, our aim was to evaluate treatment acceptability and efficacy of MBCT-PD relative to treatment as usual (TAU). Method: Pregnant adult women with depression histories were recruited from obstetric clinics at 2 sites and randomized to MBCT-PD (N = 43) or TAU (N = 43). Treatment acceptability was measured by assessing completion of sessions, at-home practice, and satisfaction. Clinical outcomes were interview-based depression relapse/recurrence status and self-reported depressive symptoms through 6 months postpartum. Results: Consistent with predictions, MBCT-PD for at-risk pregnant women was acceptable based on rates of completion of sessions and at-home practice assignments, and satisfaction with services was significantly higher for MBCT-PD than TAU. Moreover, at-risk women randomly assigned to MBCT-PD reported significantly improved depressive outcomes compared with participants receiving TAU, including significantly lower rates of depressive relapse/recurrence and lower depressive symptom severity during the course of the study. Conclusions: MBCT-PD is an acceptable and clinically beneficial program for pregnant women with histories of depression; teaching the skills and practices of mindfulness meditation and cognitive–behavioral therapy during pregnancy may help to reduce the risk of depression during an important transition in many women’s lives.