New research study conducted by researchers at Brown University finds yoga could help pregnant women suffering from depression reduce its severity.
Lead author Cynthia Battle said she learned in prior research that depressed pregnant women are often reluctant to use medications and some also have difficulty engaging in individual psychotherapy.
"Going by this open pilot trial results, prenatal yoga really does appear to be an approach that is feasible to administer, acceptable to women and their healthcare providers, and potentially helpful to improve mood," said Battle, an associate professor of psychiatry at Brown.
"We found what we think are very encouraging results," she added.
A few small studies have also suggested that yoga and mindfulness-based approaches could help prevent or treat depression during pregnancy.
In the pilot study, Battle and colleagues worked with Rhode Island obstetricians and midwives to recruit 34 pregnant women with elevated depression symptoms.
Women attended a programme of prenatal yoga classes tailored for pregnant women by registered yoga instructors. In addition to practicing yoga and mindfulness during the classes, women were also encouraged to do so at home.
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, again 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.
The study data also showed that the more prenatal yoga pregnant women did, the more they benefited psychologically. The researchers also measured significant changes in some attributes of mindfulness, which many researchers believe is one mechanism by which yoga may reduce depression.
Mindfulness involves directing one's attention to the present moment, noticing thoughts, feelings, or sensations, and avoiding judgment of those experiences.