Ban Anxiety and Find Your Zen During Pregnancy

by Mollee Bauer

Zen PregnancyToday's women have more to handle than pregnant moms in past generations. We might not be plowing the fields or doing laundry by hand, but we're juggling more variables, processing more information and facing increasing demands as our technologically advanced society rapidly changes.

Pregnancy hormones can dampen moods and make you unbelievably tired. Combine the hormones with all the other responsibilities and day-to-day tasks and you've got a toxic mix of worry, anxiety and stress fermenting and bubbling.

Recent studies indicate that too much stress during pregnancy puts your baby at risk for childhood emotional, physical and behavioral problems. These risks could include preterm birth, ADHD, obesity and learning disabilities.

Managing your stress could be as important to your child's health as avoiding smoking and alcohol during pregnancy. How can you control it and put "Zen" back into your pregnancy?

Susan Andrews, author of "Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms," offers a variety of resources to help you deal with stress. Her list includes specific, doable techniques: Breathing exercises, using music, mind-body techniques, exercise routines, biofeedback, and our personal favorite -- allowing yourself to be pampered.

A new study published in "Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice," shows that one answer may come in an age-old recommended stress-buster -- yoga.

Yoga Reduces Depression During Pregnancy

Hormonal changes, genetic predisposition and social factors set the stage for some expectant moms to experience persistent irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed and inability to cope with stress.

While antidepressants have proven to effectively treat these mood disorders, many pregnant women don't want to take these drugs out of concern for their baby's safety.

Would you be more comfortable with nontraditional treatments such as relaxation techniques and mind-body work?

"We hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress," says lead author Maria Muzik, from the University of Michigan's Center for Human Growth and Development. "Our feasibility study provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression. This promotes both mother and baby well-being."

Yoga continues to grow in popularity, but in the United States, many classes concentrate on yoga as exercise, ignoring the practice of being fully present in the moment and aware. Mindfulness yoga combines meditation with physical poses. It's a powerful method to fight stress and boost energy.

The Feasibility Study

Eighteen women who showed signs of depression and who were between 12-26 weeks pregnant participated in 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions. These yoga classes focused on poses for the pregnant body, as well as support in the awareness of how their bodies were changing to help their babies grow.

The pregnant moms saw significant reductions in depressive symptoms, according to the study. Mothers-to-be also reported stronger attachment to their babies in the womb.

"Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging," Muzik says. "This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy."

How do you find your Zen? What helps you relax?

Medical references:
- Muzik, M. et al. July 2012. “Mindfulness yoga during pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk women: Preliminary results from a pilot feasibility study," online,. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, online July, 2012.

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