A randomized controlled trial of the effects of a stress management programme during pregnancy

Complement Ther Med. 2014 Apr;22(2):203-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.01.006. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


Background: Prenatal maternal stress is associated with adverse birth outcomes. Relaxation techniques might be effective in reducing stress during that period. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of applied relaxation in reducing anxiety and stress in pregnant women in their second trimester, as well as raising their sense of control. Also we expected to see a difference in some lifestyle factors associated with stress. A randomized control trial with a prospective pretest-posttest experimental design was used.

Methods: Sixty primigravida women in their second trimester were assigned randomly to receive a 6-week stress management programme (N=31) (relaxation breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, RB-PMR, twice a day) or not (N=29). Self-reported validated measures were used to evaluate perceived stress, health locus of control and anxiety at baseline and at the end of the 6-weeks follow-up.

Results: The results of the study demonstrated significant benefits from the use of the techniques in the psychological state of the pregnant women. The systematic implementation of the proposed relaxation techniques contributed in the reduction of perceived stress (mean change -3.23, 95% CI: -4.29 to -0.29) and increased the sense of control (mean change 1.99, 95% CI: 0.02-3.7).

Conclusion: The findings suggest beneficial effects of relaxation on reducing perceived stress as well as increment of sense of control in pregnant women. The results of this study support the claim that training in the proposed relaxation techniques may constitute an ideal, non-pharmaceutical, intervention that can promote well-being, at least during pregnancy. Longer studies will be necessary in the future, in order to examine the long-term effects of relaxation techniques.

Keywords: Anxiety; Pregnancy; Relaxation; Stress; Stress management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Breathing Exercises / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires