Effects of Yoga on Postpartum Depression

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Antepartum depression (ADP) and postpartum depression (PPD), disorders characterized by mood changes during pregnancy and after delivery, negatively impact maternal and child physical and mental health (Bershadsky et al., 2014). Triggers of postpartum depression may stem from before the mother was pregnant, while the mother was pregnant, or after birth. Different aspects of the mother’s life pre-pregnancy may lead to her developing depression once the baby is born. These things include but are not limited to poverty, death of a family member, stress at work, or stress with the spouse. While the mother is pregnant, she may experience regret, guilt, sadness, or stress about the baby coming in a few short months. The mother may also experience many happy feelings as well. Post pregnancy she may be diagnosed with postpartum depression disorder if the depression is present after the birth of her child. The symptoms for postpartum disorder include but are not limited to uncontrollable crying, insomnia, depression, anxiety, or feeling hopeless. If a mother is stressed during or after the pregnancy, more than likely their child is going to end up with some type of mental disorder. Postpartum disorder can be very fatal to both the mother and the child.

When dealing with postpartum depression there are many different techniques that can be used to treat postpartum depression such as medication, therapy, psychologists, exercise and yoga. Yoga, a type of mind-body-spirit relaxation exercise has been established as a potentially powerful intervention (Chen et al., 2017). Yoga teaches relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, calming sensations, and different forms of poses to help the body in many different ways. Yoga has many different benefits including weight loss, better flexibility, improving your posture, increases blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and making people happier. There are different types of yoga such as Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigrapha, Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvara Pranirdhara.

These types listed are all composed of different poses and breathing techniques and that is what differentiates them from one another. Yoga is very helpful for people with or without mental disorders. According to the article Yoga and social support reduce prenatal depression, anxiety and cortisol yoga has advantages of being more affordable, being transportable, and can be learned and practiced using a DVD. Several studies have reported positive effects of yoga on depression (Field, T 2012). One is able to buy a DVD and yoga mat of their own and do their yoga practice for the day at the time and place that is most convenient to them. If the mother does not feel like attending yoga classes with other people, she has the power of bringing yoga into her own home. Yoga is also very versatile because the mother can not only pick and choose where and when she wants to do yoga, she can also choose the type of yoga that she wants to do that day. Yoga is one of the best, most functional types of treatment for depression.

Yoga has been proven to be very helpful for women dealing with postpartum depression. The article Efficacy of yoga for depressed postpartum women: A randomized controlled trial tested their hypothesis that the women in the yoga group would improve more with depression and anxiety than the control group. In their research study, they assigned 28 mothers to a control group and 29 mothers to a yoga class. They took assessments of the mothers at pre-treatment/control, two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, and post treatment/control. These assessments consisted of questionnaires that dealt with their current state of depression and symptoms, their diagnosis of depression (if present) and their depression and anxiety symptoms combined.

The mothers who were in the yoga study then went to 16 sessions that were one hour in length over an eight-week period. The results of this study concluded that women in the yoga group improved at a significantly faster rate on measures of depression, anxiety, well-being, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) relative to the WLC group. (Buttner et al., 2015). Although their hypothesis was accurate this study had some limitations. They did not have a large sample size therefor it ended up resulting in a bias within their participants. Most of their participants ended up having the same qualities between one another such as the mothers being white, married, and well educated. The last limitation of the study was that the yoga instructor taught most of the classes but not all of them. Even with these three limitations the experiment was still ran well and they were able to get the results that they were looking for.

The article Immediate stress reduction effects of yoga during pregnancy: One group pre-post test also supports the testament of yoga being useful is reducing stress for pregnant women or for helping those who have developed postpartum depression. The article Immediate stress reduction effects of yoga during pregnancy: one group pre-post test states that there are three components of yoga that reduce stress. First, body muscle tension could be loosened by various poses. Second, it is suggested that slow and deep breathing lead to control the autonomic nervous activity. Third, while meditating, participants were especially conscious of their breathing and mind, allowing greater relaxation (Kusaka et al., 2016). This study consisted of women from Japan going to yoga class twice a month and then doing yoga on their own with a DVD 3 times a week in their home.

This study was conducted from the time the mother was 20 weeks pregnant until she had given birth to the child. The experimenters were unique in the way that they gathered their data compared to other studies. They decided to take a five-cm straw and run it under the mother’s tongue to conduct their sample for cortisol. Once the salvia was collected they froze it at 80 degrees Celsius. The reason that they were testing cortisol is because the further along in the pregnancy the mother gets, the higher levels of cortisol that is being produced. They were looking to compare the effects of yoga to the cortisol levels throughout the pregnancy. Their findings resulted in a decrease in cortisol levels due to the presence of yoga. The limitations in this study include things such as there only being one group who completed the experiment, it was done at one hospital, and they could not completely hide the purpose of this study from the participants in the study. Even though this study also had limitations, it proved that their hypothesis was also correct.

The article A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety had a hypothesis that yoga would be feasible to provide for depressed and anxious pregnant women and that it would be associated with significantly decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and negative affect as compared to TAU (treatment as usual) (Davis et al., 2015). There were 46 participants in this study who had symptoms of depression and anxiety that are higher than “normal.” The yoga classes consisted of going into class once a week for eight sessions that lasted 75 minutes each. The classes in this study consisted of breathing techniques, sitting and standing poses and a cool down. Along with just doing yoga, the researchers had the participants complete various forms of questionnaires. While they were in the study they also had to complete a yoga diary and tracking sheet.

The diary and tracking sheet were to try and hold the mothers accountable for getting up and going to yoga and doing yoga on their own time as well. At the end of their study, they ran an analysis to compare the control group to the treatment group. Their results indicated that the treatment group did not have a significantly higher decrease than the control group. The study says that both groups had a steady decline in depression and depression like symptoms after the study was completed. There were not very many limitations in this study. The researchers said that they need to find a more diverse and inclusive group of people to bring in if they were to run the experiment again. In order to have accurate data the study must include those of different backgrounds, cultures, race, income etc. Even though they did not have a lot of limitations in the study they were only partially correct with their hypothesis but were still able to get the data they needed.

The last article I choose to go over is Effects of prenatal yoga on women’s stress and immune function across pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial hypothesized that pregnant women practicing yoga would have lower salivary cortisol and higher salivary IgA levels than pregnant women receiving routine prenatal care (Chen et al., 2017). The control group consisted of going in to the doctor for routine prenatal checkups while the treatment group got both, the prenatal checkups and attended yoga. The mothers who attended yoga had their salvia taken before and after yoga to compare their cortisol levels. The salvia was collected on weeks 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, and 36.

The yoga classes consisted of six classes for 70 minutes each for 20 weeks. The results showed that immediately after practicing yoga pregnant women’s salivary cortisol levels decreased and their salivary IgA levels increased (Chen et al., 2017). In this study yoga, did reduce stress and depression from those mothers. They also found that the mothers who practiced yoga had babies who weighed more than the mothers who were in the control group. The limitations in this study include not measuring the long-term effects of yoga, the amount of yoga may not have had a long-lasting effect on cortisol levels and they got banished the mother’s results who were unable to make it to more than 85 percent of the yoga sessions. Even with these limitations they were still able to support their hypothesis and conclude that yoga reduces stress and depression in pregnant women.

Postpartum depression and depression during the pregnancy is nothing to joke about. If the mother is depressed during the pregnancy it can affect both her and the child especially once the child is born. Once the child is born the mother’s lingering depression can have a lasting effect on the child. Yoga has been proven to be very effective to mothers that are battling depression, anxiety, and postpartum depression. Yoga has many different benefits for those with or without mental disorders. Yoga can decrease the levels of cortisol that is being produced from the pregnant mother and in result lower the mother’s anxiety and depression symptoms. Yoga can help the mother lose weight after giving birth, helps her relieve some of the stress that comes after giving birth, helps get the mother’s posture back to normal after carrying around all that extra weight, lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow throughout the body. Yoga is a great way to help everybody deal with their depression, postpartum depression or just day to day life. 

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Effects of Yoga on Postpartum Depression. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved June 19, 2024 , from

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