ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It’s no secret that pregnancy hormones can dampen
moods, but for some expectant moms, it’s much worse: 1 in 5 experience
Now, new research shows that an age-old recommended stress-buster may actually work for this group of women: yoga.
women who were identified as psychiatrically high risk and who
participated in a 10-week mindfulness yoga intervention saw significant
reductions in depressive symptoms, according to a University of Michigan
Health System pilot feasibility study. Mothers-to-be also reported
stronger attachment to their babies in the womb.
The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress but there’s no
data on how effective this method is,” says lead author Maria Muzik,
M.D., M.S., assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant research
scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development. “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 wellbeing.”
health disorders during pregnancy, including depression and anxiety,
have become a serious health concern. 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.
Untreated, these symptoms bear
major health risks for both the mom and baby, including poor weight
gain, preeclampsia, premature labor and trouble bonding with the new
While antidepressants have proven to effectively treat
these mood disorders, Muzik says, previous studies show that many
pregnant women are reluctant to take these drugs out of concern for
their infant’s 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,” Muzik says. “That’s why developing feasible
alternatives for treatment is critical.”
Evidence suggests women
are more comfortable with nontraditional treatments, including herbal
medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work.
continues to grow in popularity but in the United States, many classes
concentrate on yoga as “exercise,” omitting the practice of being fully
present in the moment and aware, authors say.
mindfulness yoga – which combines meditative focus with physical poses –
has proven to be a powerful method to fight stress and boost energy.
the U-M research study, women who showed signs of depression and who
were between 12-26 weeks pregnant 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
Funding for follow up work on this subject was recently provided by a grant from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but
encouraging,” Muzik says. “This study builds the foundation for further
research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling
This article was first published at www.newswise.com