Prenatal Yoga for Prenatal Depression

Prenatal yoga reduces depression in small group of women at risk

(RxWiki News) While most people have heard of postpartum depression, prenatal depression can also affect about one in five women. Yoga might be one method to deal with these emotions.

A recent study, though very small, has revealed that prenatal yoga appears to help some women effectively battle those pre-baby blues.

"Try prenatal yoga for pre-baby depression."

The study was led by Maria Muzik, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and an assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Muzik and her colleagues identified 18 women who were pregnant with their first child and were at high risk for psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The women had scored over a 9 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen, which produces scores between 0 and 30 to rate a woman's level of depressive symptoms. Pregnant women can be especially susceptible to mood disorders because of changes in their hormones.

The women also completed surveys at the start and conclusion of the study that asked questions about depression, mindfulness and their attachment to the baby growing inside them.

The researchers followed the women, all between 12 and 26 weeks pregnant at the start of the study, through a 10-week mindfulness yoga program that involved 90-minute sessions focusing on poses for the pregnant body and awareness of their body's changes.

During the course of the ten weeks, the women displayed far fewer symptoms of depression and reported feeling a deeper connection to their babies by the end of the study. They also found the yoga overall beneficial to their mental health.

One woman wrote, “Yoga helped me to cope with a high-risk pregnancy and my son is the most calm and gentlest of souls. The stress reduction REALLY helps the baby, too."

The women also reported feeling a greater sense of community with the other participants.

“Hearing from the other moms made me feel much less alone,” wrote one woman. Another wrote, “I really benefitted emotionally from sharing with the other articipants and benefitted physically from breathing and relaxation exercises.”

Because the women did not differ significantly in their demographics and it was a very small group, the researchers did not control for demographic differences among the participants.

"Overall, this pilot study is the first to demonstrate that mindfulness yoga may be an effective treatment alternative or augmentation to pharmacotherapy for pregnant women at high risk for psychopathology," the authors wrote.

"Our work provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression," Dr. Muzik said. "This promotes both mother and baby wellbeing."

Past studies have been inconclusive regarding the effects of many psychiatric medications, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, on the baby during pregnancy.

Therefore, some women may want to avoid taking these kinds of medications even if they are suffering from depression or anxiety.

"Unfortunately, few women suffering from perinatal health disorders receive treatment, exposing them and their child to the negative impact of psychiatric illness during one of the most vulnerable times," said Dr. Muzik. "That's why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical."

The study was published August 8 in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. The research was funded by the University of Michigan's Department of Family Medicine.

Review Date: 
August 9, 2012