Are movement and dance effective methods for improving maternal mental health and wellbeing and emotional availability toward the unborn baby?: a pilot study

Dame, Katelyn Branson, author
Biringen, Zeynep, advisor
Harvey, Ashley, advisor
Harvey, Madeline Jazz, committee member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Fostering an early bond between a mother and her developing fetus is important as it has profound implications for future attachment relationships and long-term child outcomes (Winston & Chicot, 2016). Emotional Availability (EA) and its associated measurement scales have proven a valuable tool for use in long- and short-term interventions that promote the development of a healthy caregiver-child bond across several age groups and caregiver types (Biringen et al., 2014). However, few existing studies focus on the prenatal period, and none focus specifically on the vital nonverbal components of EA. Movement through dance is an internationally accepted, multi-cultural psychotherapeutic technique that utilizes the power of movement to enhance the body-mind connection (Behrends et al., 2012). Dance-movement research in recent years has noted long-term increases in wellbeing and cognitive and interpersonal abilities for participants. Unfortunately, most of these studies have not utilized consistent or reliable evaluation methods and none focus on the prenatal period (Behrends et al., 2012; Doonan & Bräuninger, 2015; Koch et al., 2019). For this study, we examined the connection between EA concepts and dance-movement techniques to address these gaps. This study proposed that creating EA-based dance-movement workshops would improve mothers' connection with their unborn baby, mental health, and overall wellbeing. A total of 22 participants completed one of the two intervention arms: a dance-only intervention (n = 12) or a dance + psychosocial intervention (n = 10). Outcomes were assessed using paired-samples t-tests and regression analyses to analyze the effects between the two intervention groups and to detect increases or decreases in maternal mental health, wellbeing, and relationship quality with the fetus pretest to posttest. Paired samples t-tests revealed significant decreases in anxiety (t(21) = 2.51, p < .05) and increases in self-reported EA with the fetus (t(21) = -3.56, p < .05) from pre- to posttest. Results between participation in the dance-only or dance-+-psychosocial intervention were not significant (t(21) = .06, p = n.s.). These results indicate that participants' anxiety decreased from program involvement while their self-reported EA increased, regardless of intervention arm completed.
2022 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights Access
Embargo Expires: 05/24/2024
Associated Publications