Novel Interventions to Reduce Stress and Overeating in Overweight Pregnant Women

February 17, 2018
Cassandra Vieten, PhD

A Feasibility Study

Laraia, B.A., Adler, N.E., Coleman-Phox, K., Vieten, C., et al. (2018) Novel Interventions to Reduce Stress and Overeating in Overweight Pregnant Women: A Feasibility Study. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 22: 670.


Background: High stress and depression during pregnancy are risk factors for worsened health trajectories for both mother and offspring. This is also true for pre-pregnancy obesity and excessive gestational weight gain. Reducing stress and depression may be one path to prevent excessive caloric intake and gestational weight gain.

Study Purpose: We tested the feasibility of two novel interventions aimed at reducing stress and overeating during pregnancy. Reflecting different theoretical underpinnings, the interventions target different mechanisms. Mindful Moms Training (MMT) uses mindfulness to improve awareness and acceptance of experiences and promote conscious rather than automatic behavior choices. Emotional Brain Training (EBT) uses active coping to change perceptions of negative experience and promote positive affective states.

Methods: Forty-six overweight/obese low-income women were assigned to either MMT (n = 24) or EBT (n = 22) for an 8-week feasibility study. Pre-post changes in perceived stress, eating and presumed mechanisms were assessed.

Results: Women reported high levels of stress at baseline. Both interventions were well attended and demonstrated clinically significant pre-post reductions in stress, depressive symptoms, and improved eating behaviors. MMT significantly decreased experiential avoidance, whereas EBT significantly increased positive reappraisal; these changes were marginally significantly different by group.

Conclusions: This feasibility study found that both interventions promoted meaningful reductions in stress and depressive symptoms and improved reported eating behaviors in a high-risk group of pregnant women. Each intervention has a potentially different pathway—acceptance for MMT and reappraisal for EBT. Larger studies are needed to test efficacy on longer term reductions in stress and overeating.

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