Yoga may help women cope with depression during pregnancy, as well as boost maternal bonding, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
Researchers note that one in five pregnant women experience major depression. Their study found that “mindfulness” yoga helped reduce those symptoms.
“We hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress but there’s no data on how effective this method is,” said lead author Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of psychiatry.
“Our work 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 well-being.”
Hormonal changes, genetic predisposition and social factors set the stage for some expectant moms to experience persistent irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed and inability to cope with stress, according to the researchers. Untreated, these symptoms could be major health risks for both mother and baby, including poor weight gain, preeclampsia, premature labor, and trouble bonding.
While antidepressants have proven to effectively treat these mood disorders, many pregnant women are reluctant to take these drugs out of concern for their infant’s safety, said Muzik.
“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. That’s why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical.”
Evidence suggests women are more comfortable with non-traditional treatments, including herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work, including mindfulness yoga, which combines meditative focus with physical poses, the researcher notes.
For the research study, women who were 12 to 26 weeks pregnant and showed signs of depression 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.
More research is needed, according to Muzik, who notes that funding for follow-up work on this subject was recently provided by a grant from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
“Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” she said. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”
The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
Source: University of Michigan