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The perinatal period is a high-risk time for mood deterioration among women vulnerable to depression. This study examined feasibility, acceptability, and improvement associated with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in perinatal women with major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar spectrum disorder (BSD). Following a diagnostic evaluation, 39 perinatal women with a lifetime history of MDD (n = 27) or BSD (n = 12) enrolled in an 8-week program of MBCT classes (2 h each) that incorporated meditation, yoga, and mood regulation strategies. Participants were pregnant (n = 12), planning pregnancy (n = 11), or up to 1-year postpartum (n = 16). Participants were self-referred and most had subthreshold mood symptoms. Assessments of depression, (hypo)mania, and anxiety were obtained by interview and self-report at baseline, post-treatment and at 1- and 6-month post-treatment. Women with a history of MDD were more likely to complete the classes than women with BSD. Of 32 women who completed the classes, 7 (21.9 %) had a major depressive episode during the 6-month post-treatment follow-up. On average, participants with MDD reported improvements in depression from pre- to post-treatment. Mood improvement was not observed in the BSD group. In the full sample, improvements in depression symptoms across time points were associated with increasing mindful tendency scores. This study was limited by its uncontrolled design, heterogeneous sample, and questionnaire-based assessment of mindfulness skills. MBCT may be an important component of care for perinatal women with histories of major depression. Its applicability to perinatal women with BSD is unclear.

Background: Increasingly, bipolar disorder is being treated with maintenance combinations of medication and psychotherapy. We examined the feasibility and benefits associated with an 8-week mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) class for bipolar patients who were between episodes. Participants (N = 22; mean age, 40.6 yrs; 14 bipolar I, 8 bipolar II) were existing patients in outpatient clinics at Oxford University (n = 14) or the University of Colorado, Boulder (n = 8), most undergoing pharmacotherapy with mood stabilizers and/or atypical antipsychotic agents. Patients underwent a pretreatment assessment of symptoms and then received the 8-week MBCT in four separate groups, two at each site. MBCT consisted of mindfulness meditation strategies and traditional cognitive-behavioral techniques to address the mode in which negative thoughts and feelings and emerging manic symptoms are processed. We examined within-group changes from pre- to posttreatment in the four aggregated groups. Of the 22 patients, 16 (72.7%) completed the groups. Reductions were observed in depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, and to a lesser extent, manic symptoms and anxiety. A case study illustrating the effects of MBCT is given. In conclusion, MBCT is a promising treatment alternative for bipolar disorder, particularly for managing subsyndromal depressive symptoms. There is a need for larger-scale randomized trials that examine the cost-effectiveness and relapse-prevention potential of this modality.