Yoga may help women cope with depression during pregnancy, as well as boost maternal bonding, according a new study from the University of Michigan in the US.
One in five pregnant women experience major depression, the researchers noted. "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, assistant professor of psychiatry, in an August 8 university press release.
"Our work provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression," she added. "This promotes both mother and baby well-being."
While antidepressants have proven to effectively treat 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," she noted. "That's why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical."
Evidence suggests that pregant women should opt for non-traditional treatments, such as herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work, including mindfulness yoga, which combines meditative focus with physical poses, the researchers report.
For the study, women who were 12 to 26 weeks pregnant and showed signs of depression participated in 90-minute mindfulness prenatal yoga.
The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.