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Yoga for prenatal depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Research paper by Hong Gong, Chenxu Ni, Xiaoliang Shen, Tengyun Wu, Chunlei Jiang. BMC Psychiatry. 2015;15:14. doi: 10.1186/s12888-015-0393-1


A literature review of previously published studies, this inquiry examined the effectiveness of yoga as an intervention for prenatal depression. The authors selected six randomized, controlled trials of women with prenatal depression for systematic review and meta-analysis, and concluded that yoga can be effective in reducing depressive symptoms in this population.

The six studies reviewed by the investigators comprised 375 pregnant women. Most subjects were between 20 and 40 years of age. Four studies enrolled women diagnosed with depression; two included non-depressed pregnant women. In each study, subjects were randomized to either a yoga group or a comparison (control) group. Comparison treatments (eg, standard prenatal care, social support) varied among the studies, as did the yoga interventions. Three trials used what the investigators described as “exercise-based yoga,” that is, including stretching and yoga postures only. The other three trials reviewed used “integrated yoga,” defined by the investigators as including pranayama, meditation, and deep relaxation along with yoga postures.

Analysis of overall effect in the six studies showed that the yoga interventions lead to statistically significant reduced levels of prenatal depressive symptoms vs controls. However, when the investigators pooled (ie, combined) data to compare effects of the two types of yoga interventions used, analysis showed that depression levels were significantly decreased in the integrated yoga subgroup, but not in the exercise-based yoga subgroup.

The investigators concluded that “prenatal yoga may be helpful to decrease maternal depressive symptoms,” and that “both depressed and non-depressed pregnant women can benefit from yoga.” They added that “compared with exercise-based yoga . . . integrated yoga may be a better choice for pregnant women.”

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