Postpartum Depression and Effects of Yoga in its Treatment

What is Postpartum Depression ?

Having a baby is a momentous and joyous occasion – and a huge life change. In addition to the usual stress that accompanies a newborn child, many women suffer from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that begins after childbirth. Women who suffer from postpartum depression often experience crying spells, episodes of anxiety, poor mood and feelings of hopelessness 
Postpartum depression varies in severity and might affect up to 1 in 5 women. Traditional methods for treating postpartum depression include: medication, diet, exercise, and hospitalization in severe cases. Recent studies have shown that yoga is highly beneficial to mothers suffering from postpartum. Mothers with postpartum who have practiced yoga have reported improvements in their overall wellbeing.

How Yoga Helps in Treatment of Postpartum Depression

1. Relaxation

Yoga is excellent for stimulating the para-sympathetic nervous system. This engages the “rest & restore” response (the opposite of “fight or flight”). Movement in combination with breathing exercises and meditation aid in focus and help the practitioner to relax and let go of stress. Stress is known to intensify postpartum effects. By effectively managing their stress though yoga, mothers with postpartum depression can begin to assert control over their emotional wellbeing.

2. Self-Image

Women often feel pressure to quickly lose the weight gained during pregnancy. A new mother struggling to regain her pre-baby body can easily develop a poor self-image. Mothers who suffer from a poor self-image are more likely to experience the effects of postpartum depression. When mothers spend time listening to their bodies & meeting their own physical needs as they do in a yoga class, they have more internal resources to put the pressure to lose weight from outside sources into perspective.

3. Balancing Hormones

Perhaps the most interesting way yoga combats postpartum depression is by supporting the body’s endocrine system and in turn balancing hormones. In a recent study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, it was found that postpartum depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. The endocrine system is responsible for releasing and balancing the body’s hormones. Yoga supports the endocrine system and even prompts it to release endorphins into the body which elevate mood. A properly functioning endocrine system will regulate mood, metabolism, aid in digestion and stress management. For a mother suffering from postpartum depression a functioning endocrine system is vital.
Yoga is a holistic practice, incorporating the mind and body. Those who choose to practice yoga regularly make a commitment to self-awareness and self-care. By becoming more aware of and caring for both body and mind, mothers may ease the effects of postpartum depression or even cure themselves completely.
If you've experienced postpartum depression, what did you do about it? Did you practice yoga during that time, and if so, did it help?
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