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Study: Yoga and Mindfulness Can Help Prevent Postpartum Depression

Researchers say yoga might be a powerful tool in improving mental health for new moms.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Published April 21, 2022
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Image: diignat/Shutterstock

The benefits of yoga and mindfulness are well-known—many who practice regularly often report improved physical health, mental health and mood. One recent study looked at whether or not yoga and mindfulness practices during pregnancy could also help reduce the risk of postpartum depression, with favorable results.

The study was initially published in Modern Care Journal in July 2021. According to the review, postpartum depression is commonly managed with antidepressants. While the risk of baby’s exposure to the medication through breastmilk is very low, researchers say many women still worry about it. For this reason, they aimed to find whether yoga could be used as a preventive measure during pregnancy against postpartum depression.

To find their answer, researchers conducted a systematic review of relevant papers published on yoga between 2000 and 2020. They identified five studies (for a total of 271 subjects) that were eligible for their review. The subjects ranged from 15 to 35 years old, were of various ethnicities and largely ranged between 6 and 24 weeks pregnant.

For their review, researchers looked at yoga interventions in the form of physical and mindfulness exercises. They looked at mental health scores from control groups within the studies and compared them to those of the groups that practiced yoga. They also analyzed participants’ mood and behavior during pregnancy. In most of the studies, researchers found practicing yoga had positive results and helped reduce the risk of postpartum depression and other mental health issues, such as anxiety and stress.

For this reason, they believe yoga should be used as an effective tool to prevent and reduce the risk of postpartum depression in healthy pregnant women. The study believes yoga might be a more effective first step in treating mild postpartum depression than medication and cognitive therapies (though both of those can also be helpful depending on the circumstance).

Of course, there are some limitations to the systematic review. The sample size here was relatively small and only looked at healthy pregnancies. Plus, the women studied were primarily in their first half of pregnancy. The review states more research is needed to determine how yoga might affect mood changes during pregnancy itself.

Postpartum depression is an unfortunately common condition many new moms struggle with—and it can be debilitating. While more research is needed, as long as your doctor clears you for exercise, practicing pre- or postnatal yoga will likely only help improve your mental health. Remember, treatment will look different for everyone and that’s okay. For answers and treatment plans that best suit your individual circumstances, whether it’s yoga, medication or something else, always reach out to your health care provider for help.

Please note: The 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 with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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