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Yoga Reduces Depression in Pregnant Women, Boosts Maternal Bonding

Update Date: Aug 08, 2012 12:11 PM EDT

It is estimated that about one in five pregnant women experience major depression, and now new research has suggested that yoga may be beneficial for pregnant women. 

Researchers  say that the study is the first to provide evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression.

The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

Women who showed signs of depression and who were between 12-26 weeks pregnant participated in 10-week 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions that focused on poses for the pregnant body, as well as support in the awareness of how their bodies were changing to help their babies grow.

Researchers found that the women who participated saw mentionable reduction in depressive symptoms and a stronger attachment to their babies in the womb. 

During pregnancy, hormones rage and depression and anxiety have become a serious health concern. A variety of factors contribute to women experiencing persistent irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed and inability to cope with stress.

If the aforementioned symptoms are left untreated to, health risks, for both the mom and baby, can include poor weight gain, preeclampsia, premature labor and trouble bonding with the new baby.

Lead author Maria Muzik said developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical. 

"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," Muzik said. 

Previous studies show that many pregnant women are reluctant to take antidepressants, although proven to effectively treat these mood disorders, out of concern for their infant's safety.

Evidence suggests women are more comfortable with nontraditional treatments, including herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work.

Yoga continues to grow in popularity but in the United States, many classes concentrate on yoga as "exercise," omitting the practice of being fully present in the moment and aware, authors say.

Meanwhile, mindfulness yoga - which combines meditative focus with physical poses - has proven to be a powerful method to fight stress and boost energy.

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