While maternity can be one of the most joyful moments for some women, others find it extremely stressful and depressing. One in five pregnant women suffers from major depression. Although there are different reasons for this, such as unwanted pregnancy, relationship issues, or health problems, the massive hormonal changes that happen inside a woman’s body during pregnancy is one great factor that contributes to maternal depression. Good thing there’s yoga.
Yoga and Pregnancy Depression
In a pilot study, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System looked into the benefits of yoga particularly on pregnant women and found the results to be overwhelming. Some pregnant women who were psychiatrically at high risk of developing major depression went through a 10-week mindfulness intervention. During the study, the women participated in mindfulness yoga sessions that lasted 90 minutes each. These sessions were focused on some maternal poses. It also included educating mums about the physical changes that take place during pregnancy and how such changes help support their baby’s growth.
After the therapy, the participants demonstrated a significant reduction in depression symptoms including stress. Aside from this, mums-to-be who had yoga were found to have stronger attachment to their babies.
Many studies have linked yoga and mindfulness meditation to health and wellbeing. There were also some scientific findings showing its benefits on pregnant women but there were no concrete evidences on how effective it is.
According to the researchers, only a few women receive adequate treatment. Majority bear the burden all the way to childbirth, unconsciously exposing them and their child to the debilitating effects of mental health problems. "That’s why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical." said Muzik
Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression among pregnant women don’t just affect their health but also the babies’. It may lead to premature labour, poor weight gain, and emotional detachment to the baby.
Yoga as an Alternative Treatment for Depression
The study shows a promising evidence, for the very first time, that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to medications prescribed to women who have signs of depression, explained Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., study author, and assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant research scientist at the Centre for Human Growth and Development.
Although some medications were shown to aid depression, a lot of pregnant women are hesitant to take them due to worries concerning the safety of their babies. Research shows that they’re more comfortable taking herbal medications or undergoing complementary treatments such as counselling, yoga and meditation, and social support than taking antidepressants.
More Benefits of Yoga
Other than easing depression and lowering stress levels, yoga is known to address some other pregnancy health issues. For instance, yogic postures can help ease back pain which is a very common source of discomfort among mums-to-be particularly during the last months of pregnancy. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, making childbirth as easy as possible. Yoga also supports weight loss during post-pregnancy.