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Yoga Alleviates Postpartum Depression

Monday, February 09, 2009 by: Nanditha Ram
Tags: yoga, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Recently a study (conducted at the University of California, Irvine) suggesting that postpartum depression is the result of hormonal imbalances has made news. Postpartum depression is a common condition affecting women in the days after childbirth. It has also been suggested that Yoga potentially holds the key to alleviating this condition. Here is why.

Stress induced hormone release is considered normal when the brain discharges minute amounts of Corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH, to help the body cope with the stress. During pregnancy, however, the brain could potentially release copious quantities of CRH to help the mother during labor and thereafter drastically reduce the production of this hormone by contrast. This sudden rise and fall of hormonal levels can cause the endocrine system to behave abnormally and create havoc for the mother, during the postnatal phase.

It is also a fact that the levels of this hormone can be detected at around 25 weeks of pregnancy, exposing the mother's propensity towards postpartum depression. Naturally, therefore, if levels are high it can be concluded that the risk of postpartum depression is also proportionately high.

CRH is known to trigger a surge of activity in the pituitary and adrenal glands, resulting in an unusually high output of the stress hormone, cortisol. Abnormal levels of stress hormones produced by an endocrine system out of balance can lead to conditions such as depression. According to studies, the brains of suicide victims, upon examination, revealed elevated levels of stress hormones.

The rate of postpartum depression can be as high as 1 in every 5 women within four to 6 weeks after childbirth and 7 percent of new mothers as well suffer severe depression.

Scientists say that women who are prone to depression have had previous bouts of depression, or those with a poor self-image, weak social and emotional ties, combined with a stressful pregnancy are the ones most likely to go through postpartum depression.

This study, which is also the first of its kind to associate CRH with postpartum depression, recommends that a routine blood test be performed around the 25th week of pregnancy in order to assess the risk of developing this condition.

If detected early enough (through screening tests) preventive measures can be put in place. This is where yoga can prove to be invaluable. Different aspects of yoga such as asana and pranayama have indispensable applications in the treatment of depression. For example, specific postures (or asana as they are called in yogic parlance) are said to have a regulating effect on the endocrine system. There is evidence (from preliminary studies) to show that the regular practice of yoga reduces the production of stress hormones when exposed to stressful situations. The medulla oblongata in the brain controls respiration and the production of certain stress hormones. During stress, when the breathing becomes rapid, signals are sent to that part of the medulla oblongata to secrete stress hormones. However, with the regular practice of yoga, the breath remains steady even when confronted with stress and consequently, this reduces the brain's impulse to secrete stress hormones.

Therefore, yoga brings about hormonal balance and stabilizes the endocrine system. The practice of relaxation techniques based in yoga (or any type of relaxation techniques that deliver what they promise) balances cortical activities and the nervous and endocrine systems, thus reducing the body`s predisposition to react to stress. As a result, the body produces less adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, all stress hormones, and a state of harmony is achieved.

Sources: Reuters Health News
Yoga Point

About the author

Nanditha is a freelance journalist and writer with more than just a passing interest in heath and wellness, food safety and environmental impacts on children's health. She is a yoga and wellness coach, recently relocated to New Zealand. She has published a book on yoga for pregnancy titled "Blissful Mom, Blissful Baby". Please visit http://www.bindumandala.com for more information.
Her blogs can be seen at http://www.bindumandalayoga.blogspot.com

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