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Yoga Can Fight Depression During Pregnancy

Although many pregnant women experience hormonal mood swings, in some expectant mothers it is much more serious; one in five pregnant women experiences a major depression. A study featured in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reveals pregnant women with major depression may benefit from an old recommended stress reliever, i.e. yoga.

Researchers of the University of Michigan Health System pilot feasibility study assessed psychiatrically high-risk pregnant women who were between 12 to 26 weeks pregnant and who participated in 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions over a 10-week period, which concentrated on postures for pregnant women as well as raising awareness of how the body changes as the baby grows. At the end of the study the team discovered considerable reductions in depressive symptoms, whilst the mothers reported of also having a stronger attachment to their babies in the womb.

Lead author Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development said:

"We hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress but there's no data on how effective this method is. 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."

Mental health disorders during pregnancy, such as anxiety and depression are a serious health concern. Some pregnant women feel persistent irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed and inability to cope with stress, which is brought on by hormonal changes, genetic predisposition and social factors. If these symptoms remain untreated, they will present mother and baby with major health risks, such as preeclampsia, premature labor, poor weight gain and problems in bonding with the new baby.

Muzik states that even though antidepressants are evidently effective in treating these mood disorders, earlier research demonstrated that many expectant mothers are reluctant to take these drugs because they are concerned about their child's safety.

Muzik continues:

"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."

According to evidence, women feel safer with non-traditional treatments, such as herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work. Even though yoga is continuing to become more increasingly popular in the U.S., the researchers say that many classes treat yoga as 'exercise' rather than the practice of being fully present in the moment and conscious. Mindfulness yoga, a combination of meditation and physical postures, has demonstrated to be a powerful approach in boosting energy and combating stress.

Muzik concludes: "Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging. This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy."

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