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Keywords:

  • antihypertensive therapy;
  • anxiety;
  • blood pressure;
  • guided imagery;
  • hypertension;
  • pregnancy;
  • psychophysiology;
  • randomized controlled trial;
  • relaxation

Abstract:  Background:  Hypertension occurs in nearly 10 percent of pregnancies, and is associated with higher risk of infant and maternal morbidity and mortality than in normal pregnancies. Previous studies have suggested that relaxation therapies reduce blood pressure in nonpregnant adults. The objectives of this pilot randomized trial were to provide preliminary evidence of whether relaxation by means of guided imagery would reduce blood pressure in hypertensive pregnant women, and to assess the feasibility of a larger trial.

Methods:  A total of 69 pregnant women with hypertension were randomized to periods of guided imagery or of quiet rest, twice daily for 4 weeks or until delivery, whichever came first. Daytime ambulatory mean arterial pressure, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and anxiety were measured weekly for up to 4 weeks.

Results:  Women allocated to guided imagery had lower mean arterial pressure elevations over time than those allocated to quiet rest (guided imagery: M = 1.58 mmHg, SD = 7.63; quiet rest: M = 5.93 mmHg, SD = 6.55; t = 2.36, p = 0.02). However, when adjusted for baseline mean arterial pressure and gestation, the effect was not significant (p = 0.14). Numbers of women prescribed antihypertensive medication postrandomization were similar (guided imagery: n = 16; quiet rest: n = 13, χ= 0.74, p = 0.46). There was also no evidence of an effect on women’s anxiety. Nearly 90 percent (n = 26) of the guided imagery group indicated that they would use it again.

Conclusions:  Further rigorous study is warranted to determine effects of guided imagery on maternal blood pressure and perinatal health outcomes. (BIRTH 37:4 December 2010)