Prenatal Depression and a Yoga Intervention

Project: Research project

Project Details


Prenatal depression has been associated with prematurity. In our path analysis study on
prenatally depressed women, prenatal cortisol was the strongest predictor of prematurity. In our
pregnancy massage study with prenatally depressed women, massage was associated with reduced
prenatal cortisol and prematurity. Inasmuch as yoga, like massage, stimulates pressure receptors, it
might be expected to have effects and underlying mechanisms that are similar to those of massage
therapy. In the proposed study we would test the effects of yoga, expecting that yoga (potentially via
stimulation of pressure receptors) would reduce depression, enhance vagal activity, reduce cortisol
and increase gestational age (reduce premature deliveries) in depressed women. The novel aspect of
this study would be an assessment of yoga as an inexpensive form of self-massage for prenatally
depressed women. Depressed pregnant women and a non-depressed pregnant women control group
would be recruited at their first prenatal ultrasound visit (at approximately 20 weeks gestation). The
depressed women would be randomly assigned to a yoga or a parenting education/attention control
group. Following an estimated 25% attrition, we would expect to have 60 women in each group. The
yoga group would attend our yoga classes twice weekly for 12 weeks, and the parenting classes
would meet on the same schedule. The women would be screened for depression on the CES-D at
their first prenatal ultrasound visit (M=20 weeks) and given a diagnostic (the SCID) at a longer
prenatal session within one week. At the early gestation (M=21 weeks) and later gestation (M=33
weeks) visits and again at the neonatal period (within 24 hours of birth) and at one month post-birth
the women would be given self-report measures of depression (CES-D, EPDS) and anxiety (STAI)
and an assessment of vagal activity and cortisol. Their infants would be assessed on the primary
outcome measure of gestational age and the secondary measures of vagal activity, cortisol, and
performance on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale both at the neonatal period and
at the one month post-birth. We would expect that yoga would decrease depression, increase vagal
activity, decrease cortisol and increase gestational age (decrease prematurity).
Effective start/end date8/1/097/31/12


  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $344,250.00
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $344,250.00


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