The benefits of yoga and mindfulness are well known—many people who practice it regularly report improved physical, mental, and mood. A recent study looked at whether yoga and mindfulness practices during pregnancy also help reduce the risk of postpartum depression, with favorable results.
The study was originally published in journal of modern nursing July 2021. According to the review, postpartum depression is often treated with antidepressants. While the risk of infant exposure to the drug through breast milk is very low, researchers say many women remain concerned. For this reason, their goal was to determine whether yoga could be used during pregnancy as a preventive measure against postpartum depression.
To find out, the researchers conducted a systematic review of related papers on yoga published between 2000 and 2020. They identified five eligible studies (271 participants). The subjects ranged in age from 15 to 35 years old, came from a variety of ethnicities, and were mainly between 6 and 24 weeks of gestation.
In their review, the researchers looked at yoga interventions in the form of physical and mindfulness practices. They looked at the mental health scores of the control group in the study and compared it to the group who practiced yoga. They also analyzed the participants’ emotions and behavior during pregnancy. In most studies, researchers found that practicing yoga had positive effects and helped reduce the risk of postpartum depression and other mental health problems, such as anxiety and stress.
For this reason, they argue that yoga should be used as an effective tool to prevent and reduce the risk of postpartum depression in healthy pregnant women. The study suggests that yoga may be a more effective first step than medication and cognitive therapy in treating mild postpartum depression (although, depending on the situation, both may also be helpful).
Of course, systematic reviews have some limitations. The sample size here is relatively small and focuses only on healthy pregnancies. In addition, the women studied were mainly in the first half of their pregnancy. The review notes that more research is needed to determine how yoga affects mood changes during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, postpartum depression is a common condition that many new mothers grapple with—and it can be debilitating. While more research is needed, practicing prenatal or postnatal yoga may only help improve your mental health as long as your doctor allows you to exercise. Remember that everyone’s treatment looks different and that’s okay. For answers and treatment plans that best suit your individual situation, whether yoga, medication, or otherwise, always ask your healthcare provider for help.
Please Note: Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to and do not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult a qualified doctor or health professional regarding your specific situation.