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Fetal responses to induced maternal relaxation during pregnancy.

29 Nov

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found significant fetal responses to guided imagery designed to induce maternal relaxation during the 32nd week of pregnancy, including slower fetal heart rate, increased fetal heart rate variability.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University measured fetal responses generated from a guided imagery intervention designed to induce maternal relaxation during the 32nd week of pregnancy. Fetal responses were recorded in 100 maternal-fetal pairs, using a digitized data collection system.

The 18-min guided imagery intervention generated significant changes in maternal heart rate, skin conductance, respiration period, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Significant alterations in fetal neurobehavior were observed, including decreased fetal heart rate (FHR), increased FHR variability, suppression of fetal motor activity (FM), and increased FM-FHR coupling.

Attribution of the two fetal cardiac responses to the guided imagery procedure itself, as opposed to simple rest, was tempered by the observed pattern of response. Significant associations were found between maternal autonomic measures and fetal cardiac patterns, lower umbilical and uterine artery resistance and increased FHR variability, and declining salivary cortisol and FM activity.

Citation: Dipietro JA, Costigan KA, Nelson P, Gurewitsch ED, Laudenslager ML. Fetal responses to induced maternal relaxation during pregnancy. Biological Psychology. 2007 Aug 31; [Epub ahead of print]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award