The lived experiences of prenatal stress and mind-body exercises: Reflections of post-partum women



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Prenatal stress experienced by pregnant women has been linked to risky and unfavorable birth outcomes. The majority of quantitative research reports found in the literature consistently make the point that elevated prenatal maternal stress levels are strongly and positively related to pre-term deliveries, low birth weights, and adverse health events that may affect the life of the child forever. While there is substantial quantifiable evidence regarding links between prenatal stress and unfavorable birth outcomes, few qualitative studies have been conducted to explore and describe what pregnant women’s views are about prenatal stress, its effects on birth outcomes, and the women’s preferences for and experiences with stress-reducing techniques. In the absence of risk-free medicinal interventions that can safely mediate prenatal stress levels, clinicians and researchers must focus on gaining post-partum women’s subjective perspectives about what constitutes and defines prenatal stress, what they choose to do about it, and how they determine if what they did effectively lowered their levels of stress.\r\nTo address this gap in knowledge, a descriptive phenomenological approach guided by Giorgi (1985) and Husserl (1964) was used to answer the following research questions: 1) What are the lived experiences of prenatal stress among post-partum women who learned and practiced mind-body exercise (MBE) as a stress-reducing technique during their pregnancies?, and 2) How do post-partum women with previous MBE training describe their lived experiences using this stress-reducing technique during and after their pregnancies?\r\nTen participants’ stories gathered during intensive interviews were analyzed using the Giorgi’s (1985) four-step procedure. The study group’s conscious awareness of prenatal stress as a threat to the health of their unborn babies was the primary source of psychological and cognitive meanings that legitimized the use of MBE during pregnancy and reduced its use post-partum. Situated Structure Statements, General Structure Statements, and General Essential Meanings of Prenatal Stress and MBE are the theoretical findings of this study. Scientific rigor was evaluated using criteria set forth by Burns and Grove (2005). Findings add important and valuable knowledge for clinicians and researchers to use to develop and test alternative and complementary prenatal stress-reducing interventions. \r\n



prenatal support groups, prenatal stress, mind-body exercise