November 19, 2014
Science Daily/University of Colorado at Boulder
Pregnant women with histories of major depression are about 40 percent less likely to relapse into depression if they practice mindfulness techniques -- such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga -- along with cognitive therapy, according to a new study.
About 30 percent of women who have struggled with depression in the past relapse during pregnancy, according to past research. In the new study, published in the journal Archives of Women's Mental Health, the research team found that pregnant women with histories of depression who participated in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy had a relapse rate of just 18 percent.
"It's important for pregnant women who are at high risk of depression to have options for treatment and prevention," said Sona Dimidjian, an associate professor in CU-Boulder's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and lead author of the study. "For some women, antidepressant medication is truly a lifesaver, but others want a non-pharmacological intervention. This program focuses on teaching women skills and practices that are designed to help them stay well and care for themselves and their babies during this important time of life."
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy--which combines mindfulness practice with more traditional cognitive behavioral therapy--has been shown to be effective at preventing recurrent episodes of depression in the general population. But few studies of any kind have looked at the effect of mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapies among pregnant women.
A high percentage of the women who began the courses--86 percent--completed the study, a sign that the women found the sessions valuable, Dimidjian said. The researchers also were struck by the number of pregnant women who expressed interest in participating in a mindfulness program, even though they didn't meet the criteria to participate in this study.
"I was surprised by the level of interest, even among women who didn't have a history of depression," Dimidjian said. "Pregnant women know that the experience of having a child is going to change their lives, and they want to be ready."