Prenatal depression affects 10%-20% of pregnant women in the United States. In Korea, 8%-12% of pregnant women suffer with major depressive disorder, and about 20% have clinically significant symptoms of depression. In some other countries, the percentages can be even higher. In spite of this prevalence, prenatal depression has been studied much less than postnatal depression.

Medical professionals are interested in identifying methods to help these women without drug use. A review of randomized controlled research trials found that an integrated yoga program offered women some relief from depressive symptoms. In contrast, a physical-exercise-ÔÇ¿based prenatal yoga program did not seem to provide relief.

Researchers from the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai reviewed six trials with a total of 345 pregnant participants, mostly aged 20-40. The three integrated yoga programs included the following activities in addition to yoga postures: breathing exercises and relaxation; ÔÇ¿tai chi exercises; and closed eyes and meditation.

Study authors concluded that prenatal yoga can benefit both depressed and nondepressed pregnant women. The authors recommended that further research be conducted using a standardized yoga program to make it easier to identify the best ways to prevent and treat prenatal depression.

The review study appeared in BMC Psychiatry (2015, 15 [14], 1-8) and is open to everyone at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4323231/.