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Anisa Arsenault
Assistant Editor

Fight Prenatal Depression With Prenatal Yoga

Understandably, pregnant women are often reluctant to start taking any new medications. But when faced with depression , are there any alternatives? A small pilot study out of Brown University suggests yoga could help.

"This is really about trying to develop a wider range of options that suit women who are experiencing these kind of symptoms during pregnancy," says study lead author Cynthia Battle. "What we don't want to do is have people fall through the cracks."

Battle says she asked pregnant women who opted out of antidepressants what type of treatment they might like better. A few said yoga — and other small studies suggested this approach — so she decided to stage a 10-week program of prenatal yoga. Professional instructors led the classes, and women were also encouraged to practice techniques at home.

"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 healthcare providers, and potentially helpful to improve mood," Battle says. "We found what we think are very encouraging results."

Researchers recorded data over the course of the 10 weeks, including participation in yoga class, home practice, depressive symptoms and changes in mindfulness. Trained evaluator reviews and the women's self reviews reflected that overall, moods improved from the "moderately depressed" to "mild" range. The study also found a proportional association between yoga and depression: the more yoga women did, the less depressed they became.

Ultimately, this calls for further research. Battle is seeking additional funding for more definitive evidence.

"This is not the definitive study where we can say that this is an efficacious frontline treatment, however it is a study suggesting that we know enough now to warrant the next, larger study," she says. "This is an important first step in trying to understand if this is a potentially viable treatment approach."