Practice Yoga to Relieve Anxiety and Depression during Pregnancy


“The effort to separate the physical experience of childbirth from the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of this event has served to disempower and violate women.” ~Mary Rucklos Hampton


Depression is quiet common during pregnancy. More than 20 percent of pregnant women have an anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or both during pregnancy. The psychological health of pregnant women has consequences for fetal development, and consequently, child outcomes. Depression during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. It is also associated with higher levels of stress hormone in the mother and in the newborns, which can make them more stress reactive, temperamentally difficult, and more challenging to care for and soothe. Long-term there’s some evidence that the children have more social and emotional problems, including aggression and conduct problems and possibly child IQ and language. But, while gestational diabetes is far less common than depression during pregnancy, women are routinely screened for this disorder, but not for depression, any psychiatric illness, nor even experiences of life stress.


It is clear that there is a need for methods to treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Since the fetus can be negatively impacted by drugs, it would be preferable to find a treatment that did not require drugs. Moderate exercise is also beneficial during pregnancy. Yoga has antidepressive and anti-stress properties and it is a moderate exercise, so, it would appear to be a good candidate to treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy.


In today’s Research News article “A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety”

Goodman and colleagues examine whether yoga practice during pregnancy is effective for depression and anxiety. They found that in comparison to treatment as usual, and 8-week program of yoga practice significantly reduced depression and negative emotions. Anxiety levels decreased in both the yoga and the treatment as usual groups.


It is not known if the efficacy of yoga for depression is due to its exercise value or to an intrinsic property specific to yoga. Both study groups had high levels of exercise before, during and after the treatment. As such, the additional exercise contributed by yoga would not make a significant difference in the fitness of the women. This speculation suggests that there may be other aspects of yoga practice that relieve depression. One obvious candidate is the social nature of the yoga classes, particularly since they were with other pregnant women. The camaraderie and sharing could be responsible for the antidepressive effects. It is also possible that the stress relieving properties of yoga are responsible for the psychological improvements.


Regardless, practice yoga during pregnancy to prevent or treat depression and anxiety.


“Yoga practice can make us more and more sensitive to subtler and subtler sensations in the body. Paying attention to and staying with finer and finer sensations within the body is one of the surest ways to steady the wandering mind.” ― Ravi Ravindra,


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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