Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Sona Dimidjian

Second Advisor

Joanna Arch

Third Advisor

Theresa D. Hernandez

Fourth Advisor

Matt Jones

Fifth Advisor

Cindy H. White

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The antenatal period is a sensitive time for both mother and the developing fetus. Antenatal depression affects approximately 15% of women and anxiety affects approximately 30%; moreover, the two are frequently comorbid, and studies suggest that they, singly and in combination, can have deleterious consequences for a woman as well as her family and infant. Although psychosocial and alternative treatments for antenatal depression and anxiety have not been studied extensively, they may provide a safe, acceptable, and efficacious option for antenatal women. Yoga interventions may be particularly well suited for depressed and anxious pregnant women given benefits associated with meditation and physical activity, two central components of yoga, and growing interest in yoga across the United States. METHODS: A randomized controlled clinical trial compared an eight-week yoga intervention to treatment as usual (TAU) among 46 pregnant women with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety recruited through health care providers and community advertisement. Participants were randomly assigned to the yoga or TAU condition and completed brief assessments weekly during the eight-week intervention and at post-intervention. RESULTS: Participants in the intervention group found yoga to be an acceptable intervention for anxiety and depression and reported high levels of satisfaction with the intervention. Pregnant women's reports of negative affect suggested significantly greater reductions among women who received yoga compared with TAU. Pregnant women receiving the yoga intervention also reported significantly lower anxiety and depression over time, but such changes were not significantly greater than those reported by women who received TAU. Analyses of secondary outcome measures suggest that prenatal yoga may increase self-efficacy and factors associated with positive self-regulation skills. CONCLUSION: Prenatal yoga was found to be a feasible and acceptable intervention for pregnant women with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Future research would benefit from more rigorous control conditions and larger sample sizes to gain a greater understanding of how yoga may affect antenatal depression and anxiety.

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