Yoga could help pregnant women with significant depression reduce the severity of the mood disorder, a new study has claimed.
Prior research has shown that depressed pregnant women are often reluctant to use medications and some also have difficulty engaging in individual psychotherapy, researchers said.
“This is really about trying to develop a wider range of options that suit women who are experiencing these kind of symptoms during pregnancy,” said lead author Cynthia Battle, from Brown University.
A few small studies have also suggested that yoga and mindfulness-based approaches could help prevent or treat depression during pregnancy.
Battle’s study, published in the journal Women’s Health Issues, is an initial test of whether a 10-week programme of prenatal yoga, structured to be similar to yoga programmes available to pregnant women in many communities, could be feasible, acceptable, safe and effective for mild to moderately depressed women.
“What we feel like we’ve learned from this open pilot trial is that prenatal yoga really does appear to be an approach that is feasible to administer, acceptable to women and their health-care providers, and potentially helpful to improve mood,” Battle said.
“We found what we think are very encouraging results,” said Battle.
In the pilot study, Battle and second author Lisa Uebelacker worked with Rhode Island obstetricians and midwives to recruit 34 pregnant women with elevated depression symptoms.
At regular timepoints during the 10-week study, the researchers measured depressive symptoms in the women, participation in yoga classes, home yoga practice, and changes in mindfulness, using a standardised questionnaire.
Though there was no control group to compare against, the study provides signs that prenatal yoga could be helpful, Battle said.
One was the degree to which depressive symptoms declined during the 10-week programme on two standardised scales, researchers said.
On the “QIDS” scale, in which a trained, objective rater evaluates responses, the women on average dropped from scores consistent with moderate depression (10-15) to scores well into the mild range (5-10).
On the “EPDS” scale, which relies on self-reports, average scores fell similarly, from a level consistent with clinically significant depression (more than 10) to scores significantly under that threshold.
The study data also showed that the more prenatal yoga pregnant women did, the more they benefitted psychologically.