Yoga for Pregnant Women Reduces Depression, Increases Maternal Bond
August 9, 2012

Yoga for Pregnant Women Reduces Depression, Increases Maternal Bond

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Slow breathing. Long stretches. These are just a few of the characteristics of yoga. Researchers from the University of Michigan recently revealed that yoga helps pregnant women have less depressive moments and also increases feelings of maternal bonding.

The study, featured in a recent issue of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, is particularly helpful for expectant mothers, many of whom suffer from depression. According to the University of Michigan, one in five expectant mothers report feelings of depression. Yoga can be helpful for this particular group of women to decrease any stress or anxiety they may have.

“We hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress but there´s no data on how effective this method is,” commented lead author Dr. Maria Muzik, assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development, in a prepared statement. “Our work provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression."

In the project, pregnant women who were seen as being psychiatrically high risk participated in a yoga intervention that lasted ten weeks. The intervention included 90-minute mindfulness session that featured poses for the pregnant body and an understanding of how bodies change during pregnancies. The researchers stated that they saw a decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in attachment to the babies in their womb.

“This promotes both mother and baby wellbeing,” noted Muzik in the statement.

Furthermore, over the past few years, health professionals have become increasingly concerned about mental health disorders for women during pregnancy. Some of the disorders include anxiety and depression, genetic predisposing, hormonal changes, and social factors. Expectant mothers often cite feeling overwhelmed, have difficulties dealing with stress, and continuous irritability.

If the symptoms aren´t treated, it can place a toll on both the mother and the child. A few health risks related to this situation includes premature labor, poor weight gain, and difficulty in developing a relationship with the new baby. Other studies done on the topic report those pregnant women are less likely to take antidepressants to treat the mood swings, fearing that the drugs could ham the baby´s health and safety.

“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,” remarked Muzik in the statement. “That´s why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical.”

As such, women tend to be inclined to use nontraditional treatments, such as herbal medicine, mind-body work, and relaxation methods. Yoga, which relates to mind-body work, continues to become more and more popular. In particular, mindfulness yoga has been identified as a way to battle stress and increase energy with its physical poses and meditation technique.

“Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” Muzik concluded in the statement. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”