Alternative Medicine / Psychiatric Medicine / Women's Health

Yoga for Prenatal Depression

June 20, 2016
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By William C. Haas III, MD, MBA

Integrative Medicine Fellow, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

SOURCE: Gong H, et al. Yoga of prenatal depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry 2015;15:14-22.


When compared with other non-pharmacological treatments, yoga therapy lowers levels of prenatal depression, and these therapies are especially effective when incorporating meditation and relaxation techniques as opposed to exercise-only yoga therapy.

A recent systematic review focusing on randomized studies involving pregnant patients evaluates the effect yoga therapy has on prenatal depression. For the review, no limitations were placed on the type of yoga chosen, and it was not confirmed whether all women in the study met the DSM-IV depression criteria.

The meta-analysis targeted six randomized controlled trials, half of which involved only yogic exercise while the remaining three utilized integrated yoga therapy, which coupled exercise with meditation. Four of the studies only sampled women who met DSM-IV depression criteria. The other two also allowed the enrollment of non-depressed women.

The meta-analysis suggests strongly that when compared with control groups, pregnant women that did yoga display fewer symptoms of depression. Not simply limited to clinically depressed pregnant women, these findings also were supported by women who were not clinically depressed. Further analysis indicated that yoga programs that integrated meditation with exercise fared even better in reducing depression levels, while solely yogic exercise failed to significantly demonstrate reduction in depression. As such, this meta-analysis concludes that yoga therapies — especially the types that involve meditation and relaxation — display serious potential as a management method for coping with prenatal depression. As antidepressant therapy holds significant risk during pregnancy, non-pharmological management methods are preferable when dealing with the threat of prenatal depression.