Yoga and meditation can help fight depression during pregnancy, latest research shows.
The University of Colorado Boulder study found that an intervention program called mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) -- that combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga and breathing exercises -- was highly effective in lowering the risk of depression in pregnant women, who had a history of the mental condition.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a psychological therapy based on another intervention program called mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). MBSR, which combines mindfulness meditation with yoga, was developed by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the US.
Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale are the three people who have been credited with developing the MBCT program that aims to help people who suffer from recurrent episodes of major depression or chronic unhappiness.
Mindfulness meditation is a method based on an old Buddhist practice known as vipassana or insight meditation. Performing mindfulness meditation is known to help improve focus, patience, compassion and ability to accept.
Data shows that risk of depression is high during reproductive years. The risk will be higher if the woman had already suffered from the condition earlier. Nearly 30 percent of the cured cases relapse during pregnancy, according to the authors.
Genetic predisposition, social factors and hormonal changes are some of the major factors behind this occurrence. Treating the mental condition early is crucial as a prolonged depression can lead to poor weight gain, preeclampsia, premature labour and trouble in bonding with the new-born.
Though antidepressants are available to manage this condition, many women prefer to keep away from them for their baby's safety. Several studies in the past have linked antidepressants in pregnancy to obesity, diabetes, cardiac problems, autism or low birth weight in babies.
"It's important for pregnant women who are at high risk of depression to have options for treatment and prevention," lead author of the study Sona Dimidjian, an associate professor in CU-Boulder's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, said in a news release. "For some women, anti-depressant medication is truly a lifesaver, but for others, concerns about side effects and possible impacts to fetal development may cause them to prefer a non-pharmacological intervention."
During the study, 42 pregnant women, with previous episodes of depression, were placed on an eight-session class of MBCT. The therapy included prenatal yoga, walking meditation exercises and some shorter practices. The program concentrated more on eradicating worry, and promoted expression of emotions like love and kindness.
The women were also trained to improve certain mindfulness skills.
Researchers monitored the participants during pregnancy and six months after giving birth.
Results showed that mindfulness techniques lowered relapse rate by 18 percent. Women in the MBCT group achieved 40 percent reduced risk of having a relapse than others.
The study has been reported in the journal Archives of Women's Mental Health.