Depression in Pregnancy: A Role for Yoga, a Lifestyle Practice to Complement Nutrition

  • Cynthia L. BattleEmail author
  • Anne E. Fritzson
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)


A substantial proportion of pregnant women experience depression, yet barriers can limit access to traditional mental health care during the perinatal period. Research suggests that many pregnant women are interested in pursuing other strategies for improving mood during pregnancy, including alternative treatment modalities. In recent years, researchers have begun to investigate yoga as a potentially affordable, accessible, non-pharmacologic treatment alternative for improving mood prenatally. Thus far, studies focusing on depression in non-pregnant adults suggest that yoga may be effective in lowering depression; however, only a small number of studies have examined the effects of yoga among depressed pregnant women. Survey results conclude that prenatal yoga is popular among pregnant women and viewed as an activity that is helpful in reducing stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The number of studies examining the efficacy of prenatal yoga has increased considerably in the past decade. This chapter reviews this growing area of research, including rationale for examining yoga as a potential intervention, and emerging empirical findings that provide some preliminary support for the potential use of yoga as a means of reducing depression symptoms during pregnancy. Limitations to the current body of research and future directions are also discussed.


Pregnancy Depression Yoga Prenatal yoga Complementary and alternative medicine Perinatal depression 


  1. 1.
    Gavin NI, Gaynes BN, Lohr KN, Meltzer-Brody S, Gartlehner G, Swinson T. Perinatal depression: a systematic review of prevalence and incidence. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106(5 Pt 1):1071–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Grote NK, Katon WJ, Russo JE, Lohr MJ, Curran M, Galvin E, et al. Collaborative care for perinatal depression in socioeconomically disadvantaged women: a randomized trial. Depress Anxiety. 2015;32(11):821–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hobfoll SE, Ritter C, Lavin J, Hulsizer MR, Cameron RP. Depression prevalence and incidence among inner-city pregnant and postpartum women. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1995;63(3):445–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Palladino CL, Flynn HA, Richardson C, Marcus SM, Johnson TR, Davis MM. Lengthened predelivery stay and antepartum complications in women with depressive symptoms during pregnancy. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011;20(6):953–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Grote NK, Bridge JA, Gavin AR, Melville JL, Iyengar S, Katon WJ. A meta-analysis of depression during pregnancy and the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and intrauterine growth restriction. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(10):1012–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Davalos DB, Yadon CA, Tregellas HC. Untreated prenatal maternal depression and the potential risks to offspring: a review. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2012;15(1):1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    McCall-Hosenfeld JS, Phiri K, Schaefer E, Zhu J, Kjerulff K. Trajectories of depressive symptoms throughout the peri- and postpartum period: results from the First Baby Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016;25(11):1112–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Murray L, Fiori Cowley A, Hooper R, Cooper P. The impact of postnatal depression and associated adversity on early mother-infant interactions and later infant outcomes. Child Dev. 1996;67(5):2512–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Beck CT. The effects of postpartum depression on child development: a meta-analysis. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 1998;12(1):12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Siu AL, Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, Baumann LC, Davidson KW, Ebell M, et al. Screening for depression in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016;315(4):380–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Byatt N, Pbert L, Hosein S, Swartz HA, Weinreb L, Allison J, Ziedonis D. Program In Support of Moms (PRISM): development and beta testing. Psychiatr Serv. 2016;67(8):824–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Spinelli MG, Endicott J. Controlled clinical trial of interpersonal psychotherapy versus parenting education program for depressed pregnant women. Am J Psychiatry. 2003;160(3):555–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dimidjian S, Goodman SH, Felder JN, Gallop R, Brown AP, Beck A. Staying well during pregnancy and the postpartum: a pilot randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the prevention of depressive relapse/recurrence. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2016;84(2):134–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Byatt N, Xiao RS, Dinh KH, Waring ME. Mental health care use in relation to depressive symptoms among pregnant women in the USA. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016;19(1):187–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Sockol LE, Epperson CN, Barber JP. A meta-analysis of treatments for perinatal depression. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011;31(5):839–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dennis CL, Ross LE, Grigoriadis S. Psychosocial and psychological interventions for treating antenatal depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(3):CD006309.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Goodman JH. Women’s attitudes, preferences, and perceived barriers to treatment for perinatal depression. Birth. 2009;36(1):60–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    O’Mahen HA, Flynn HA. Preferences and perceived barriers to treatment for depression during the perinatal period. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008;17(8):1301–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Battle CL, Salisbury AL, Schofield CA, Ortiz-Hernandez S. Perinatal antidepressant use: understanding women’s preferences and concerns. J Psychiatr Pract. 2013;19(6):443–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Deligiannidis KM, Freeman MP. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies for perinatal depression. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2014;28(1):85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Battle CL, Uebelacker LA, Magee SR, Sutton KA, Miller IW. Potential for prenatal yoga to serve as an intervention to treat depression during pregnancy. Womens Health Issues. 2015;25(2):134–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Iyengar BKS. Light on yoga: yoga dipika. New York: Schocken; 1966.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    2016 Yoga in America atudy conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance reveals growth and benefits of the practice. Available at
  24. 24.
    Bussing A, Ostermann T, Ludtke R, Michalsen A. Effects of yoga interventions on pain and pain-associated disability: a meta-analysis. J Pain. 2012;13(1):1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Field T. Yoga research review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016;24:145–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sherman KJ. Guidelines for developing yoga interventions for randomized trials. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:143271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lipton L. Using yoga to treat disease: an evidence-based review. JAAPA. 2008;21(2):34–6, 38, 41.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Wren AA, Wright MA, Carson JW, Keefe FJ. Yoga for persistent pain: new findings and directions for an ancient practice. Pain. 2011;152(3):477–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Carson JW, Carson KM, Jones KD, Bennett RM, Wright CL, Mist SD. A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia. Pain. 2010;151(2):530–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cramer H, Lauche R, Langhorst J, Dobos G. Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Depress Anxiety. 2013;30(11):1068–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Uebelacker LA, Epstein-Lubow G, Gaudiano BA, Tremont G, Battle CL, Miller IW. Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. J Psychiatr Pract. 2010;16(1):22–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, Rein T, Karri SK, Yakhkind A, et al. Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(11):1145–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Babbar S, Shyken J. Yoga in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2016;59(3):600–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Freedman FB. Yoga for pregnancy, birth and beyond. London: Dorling Kindersley; 2014.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Wang S, DeZinno P, Fermo L, William K, Caldwell-Andrews AA, Bravemen F, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine for low-back pain in pregnancy: a cross-sectional survey. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;11:459–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Adams J, Lui CW, Sibbritt D, Broom A, Wardle J, Homer C. Attitudes and referral practices of maternity care professionals with regard to complementary and alternative medicine: an integrative review. J Adv Nurs. 2011;67(3):472–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Furlow ML, Patel DA, Sen A, Liu JR. Physician and patient attitudes towards complementary and alternative medicine in obstetrics and gynecology. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008;8:35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Curtis K, Weinrib A, Katz J. Systematic review of yoga for pregnant women: current status and future directions. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:715942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Narendran S, Nagarathna R, Narendran V, Gunasheela S, Nagendra HR. Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;11(2):237–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Chuntharapat S, Petpichetchian W, Hatthakit U. Yoga during pregnancy: effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008;14(2):105–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Rakhshani A, Maharana S, Raghuram N, Nagendra HR, Venkatram P. Effects of integrated yoga on quality of life and interpersonal relationship of pregnant women. Qual Life Res. 2010;19(10):1447–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Teasdale JD, Segal ZV, Williams JM, Ridgeway VA, Soulsby JM, Lau MA. Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2000;68(4):615–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Osborne LM, Monk C. Perinatal depression—the fourth inflammatory morbidity of pregnancy? Theory and literature review. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(10):1929–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Muzik M, Hamilton SE, Lisa Rosenblum K, Waxler E, Hadi Z. Mindfulness yoga during pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk women: preliminary results from a pilot feasibility study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2012;18(4):235–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Kinser P, Masho S. “Yoga was my saving grace”: the experience of women who practice prenatal yoga. J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2015;21(5):319–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Battle CL, Uebelacker LA, Howard M, Castaneda M. Prenatal yoga and depression during pregnancy. Birth. 2010;37(4):353–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Sheffield KM, Woods-Giscombe CL. Efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability of perinatal yoga on women’s mental health and well-being: a systematic literature review. J Holist Nurs. 2016;34(1):64–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M, Medina L, Delgado J, Hernandez A. Yoga and massage therapy reduce prenatal depression and prematurity. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012;16(2):204–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Field T, Diego M, Delgado J, Medina L. Yoga and social support reduce prenatal depression, anxiety and cortisol. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2013;17(4):397–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Uebelacker LA, Battle CL, Sutton KA, Magee SR, Miller IW. A pilot randomized controlled trial comparing prenatal yoga to perinatal health education for antenatal depression. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016;19(3):543–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Davis K, Goodman SH, Leiferman J, Taylor M, Dimidjian S. A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015;21(3):166–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ: exercise during pregnancy. Available at
  53. 53.
    Cramer H, Ward L, Saper R, Fishbein D, Dobos G, Lauche R. The safety of yoga: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2015;182(4):281–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Women & Infants’ Hospital of Rhode IslandProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Butler Hospital Psychosocial Research ProgramProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations