The effect of prenatal Hatha yoga on affect, cortisol and depressive symptoms

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 May;20(2):106-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Jan 24.


Perinatal depression impacts maternal and child health, and little is known about effective interventions. The effects of prenatal Hatha yoga on cortisol, affect and depressive symptoms were investigated in 51 women. Twice during pregnancy, yoga group participants reported on affect and provided a saliva sample before and after a 90-min prenatal Hatha yoga session. Corresponding measures were obtained from yoga and control group participants on days of usual activity. Depressive symptoms were assessed in pregnancy and post partum. Cortisol was lower (p < .01) and positive affect higher (p < .001) on yoga compared to usual activity days. Negative affect and contentment (p < .05) improved more in response to the yoga session. Yoga group participants showed fewer postpartum (p < .05) but not antepartum depressive symptoms than control group participants. Findings indicate that prenatal Hatha yoga may improve current mood and may be effective in reducing postpartum depressive symptoms.

Keywords: Cortisol; Depression; Pregnancy; Stress; Yoga.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Yoga*
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone