Mindful

The Center for Mindfulness held its seventh annual International Scientific Conference for Clinicians, Researchers, and Educators in March, and recently issued a call for papers and presentations for next year’s conference, April 7-11, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Nancy Bardacke, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Education Program, was among the many presenters at this year’s conference. She and Larissa Duncan—from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, where Bardacke’s program is now presented—reported on preliminary evidence that suggests mindfulness practice improves mothers’ ability to cope with a crying baby, fatigue and interrupted sleep, breastfeeding, a baby’s admission to neonatal intensive care, and challenges in the changing relationship with a partner. Bardacke is working on a book, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, to be published by HarperCollins in winter 2011.

“Pregnancy, birth, and early parenting is the most transformative period in the adult life cycle,” Bardacke said when I talked to her about the significance of her work. “The experiences that emerge during this time can be some of the most stressful of people’s lives. Nothing really prepares you for it. Mindfulness skills help everyone involved navigate this transition, and are a foundation not only for the uncertainties of the birth itself but also for the new life of parenthood that follows.”

Mindfulness skills help everyone involved navigate this transition, and are a foundation not only for the uncertainties of the birth itself but also for the new life of parenthood that follows.

Bardacke was a nurse–midwife with a background in yoga and meditation when she took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course for health professionals in 1994, and decided it was time to develop a comparable program for childbirth. She “kept the essential elements and morphed it into something that would work for expectant couples. Whereas MBSR addresses an individual’s health, in our program two, really three, people are involved.” She began Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) in 1998 and has taught it continuously since then. It includes an introductory session, nine weekly classes before birth, an all-day practice session, and a reunion class following birth. She also offers one-day and weekend courses for parents and health professionals.

Bardacke feels confident that longitudinal studies of mindfulness applied to the childbirth process will show a range of benefits to the mother, the child, and the couple. She feels it is time for this methodology to become more widespread, and has started a professional development and training program for MBCP. “Most people having children take childbirth education,” Bardacke says. “What a wonderful opportunity to teach skills that can last a lifetime. This is bigger than just focusing on mindful birth. Through practice, we can interrupt intergenerational patterns of dysfunction. This is violence prevention, shaken-baby prevention, family-breakup prevention. It’s another means of helping create a more peaceful society.”

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