Pregnant Women with Depression Benefit from Yoga

Some expectant moms experience persistent irritability, depression, feelings of being overwhelmed and an inability to cope with stress. Depression and anxiety can be triggered by hormonal changes during pregnancy, genetic predisposition and social factors. These mood states can interfere with bonding, both prenatally and after birth, so it’s important to treat mood disorders during pregnancy. Many pregnant women are reluctant to take a pharmacological agent that might affect the fetus, so, as previous studies have shown, they are receptive to complementary therapies like yoga.Breathe of Joy

In a pilot study conducted at the University of Michigan that used mindfulness yoga for psychiatrically at-risk women, researchers found this meditative style of yoga, which pays attention to breath and body sensation was feasible, accepted and effective. Symptoms of depression were significantly reduced, while mindfulness and maternal-fetal attachment significantly increased. The study evaluated 18 women who showed signs of depression and who were between 12-26 weeks pregnant. They participated in 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions that focused on poses for the pregnant body, as well as support in the awareness of how their bodies were changing to help their babies grow.

“Our work,” says the study’s lead author Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., “provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression. This promotes both mother and baby wellbeing.”dvd-level-1-coverdvd-level-2-cover

If you would like to begin a home yoga practice, click here.  If you already have an established practice, and would like to try LifeForce Yoga, click here.

Muzik M, Hamilton SE, Rosenblum K, Waxler E, Hadi L, “Mindfulness yoga during pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk women: Preliminary results from a pilot feasibility study,” Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice. 2012 Nov;18(4):235-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.06.006.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

2 thoughts on “Pregnant Women with Depression Benefit from Yoga”

  1. Frankie Hansen says:

    Prenatal psychopathology may have an adverse impact on mother and baby, but few women receive treatment. We offered a 10-week mindfulness yoga (M-Yoga) intervention to psychiatrically high-risk pregnant women as an alternative to pharmacological treatment. Participants (N = 18) were primiparous, 12–26 weeks pregnant, and had elevated scores (>9) on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen at baseline. In addition to a baseline diagnostic assessment, women completed self-ratings on depression, mindfulness, and maternal-fetal attachment before and after M-Yoga. Findings suggest that M-Yoga was feasible, accepted and effective. Symptoms of depression were significantly reduced (p = 0.025), while mindfulness (p = 0.007) and maternal-fetal attachment (p = 0.000) significantly increased. Overall, this pilot study is the first to demonstrate that M-Yoga may be an effective treatment alternative or augmentation to pharmacotherapy for pregnant women at high risk for psychopathology.

  2. The pregnant women the subject of the study had been identified as psychiatrically high risk women—that is, those who showed signs of depression. They were also between 12-26 weeks pregnant. Those who participated in the 10-week mindfulness yoga intervention (involving 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions with poses for the pregnant body, as well as support in the awareness of how their bodies were changing to help their babies grow) saw significant reductions in depressive symptoms. They also reported stronger attachment to their babies in the womb. The findings have been published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice .

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