Over the past decade, the clinical literature has published many studies documenting the psychosocial and health benefits of various mind-body interventions.  Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to reduce stress, to improve coping skills, and to promote feelings of well-being.  Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a new psychotherapeutic treatment which has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms and to reduce the risk of depressive relapse.

At the core of mindfulness training is learning to change the way one thinks and feels about one’s experiences, especially stressful ones. By focusing on thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, mindfulness-based training teaches the individual to be more aware of his or her own experiences and better able to manage them.

Previous studies have demonstrated that mindfulness yoga – an intervention which blends elements of yoga with mindfulness-based stress reduction – was effective in improving sleep and also in reducing both pain and anxiety during pregnancy.  A pilot study from theUniversityofMichigansuggests that mindfulness yoga may also be helpful for relieving depressive symptoms in this setting.

The study included 18 primiparous women, who were12–26 weeks pregnant and had elevated scores (>9) on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen (EPDS).  This study found that mindfulness-based yoga was feasible and well accepted in this setting and led to a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and improved maternal-fetal attachment.

While this study is preliminary and focused on women with milder depressive symptoms, it is important in that it suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may show promise in the management of depression during pregnancy.  While there is data to support the use of various antidepressants during pregnancy, many pregnant women are reluctant to take these medications during pregnancy and would much prefer an effective non-pharmacologic strategy for managing their symptoms.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Muzik M, Hamilton SE, Rosenblum KL, et al. Mindfulness yoga during pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk women: Preliminary results from a pilot feasibility study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 2012.

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