Pregnancy triggers drastic changes in hormonal balance. Women who are subject to depression have an increased chance of relapse during and after their pregnancy. The University of Colorado-Boulder found that women with a history of depression reduced their relapse rates from 30% to 18% when they practiced mindfulness, yoga or other mindful activities as part of a Cognitve Behavioral therapy program.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral therapy is quite successful in the general population for treating depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, pain management, and chronic stress. The program is usually 8 weeks long, and combines breathing, meditation and yoga with thought modification. The participant is taught to focus on feelings and sensations in her body vs. her thoughts. In this way, she learns to separate her sense of self from her thoughts.
The University of Colorado Boulder Study
Pregnant women in this study participated in:
- Prenatal Yoga
- Walking Meditation
- Short Mindfulness practices
- Soothing Exercises that could be done with their baby
- Addressing their worries
- Focussing on kindness towards themselves and their child
What It All Means
Pregnancy is a time for tremendous growth and changes. Hormonal shifts are difficult under normal circumstances, but even more so when your body is busy growing a child, or when you are spending all your energy caring for a newborn. Programs like the one in this study are encouraging and offer an alternative for women who do not want to address their depression with pharmaceutical treatments. Speak with your doctor about the various options available to you if you have suffered from depression in the past and are now contemplating a pregnancy.
This study is a good reminder that having a baby takes planning. It is best to evaluate your health months, if not years, before a pregnancy. You should work with a medical practitioner to analyze your general health, your diet, stress level, sleep hygiene and mental health. Simple changes can make all the difference in the outcome for you and your baby.