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Helping Expectant Mothers With Depression And Anxiety

Mindful Moms Researchers
Kevin Morley
Susan Bodnar-Deren in VCU's College of Humanities and Sciences, left, and Patricia Kinser in VCU's School of Nursing will lead the clinical trial.

Mindfulness often involves breathing exercises and yoga – physical activities that help calm the body and the mind. Virginia Commonwealth University Nursing Professor Patricia Kinser figured it could help women struggling with depression during and after pregnancy. “Again and again we were hearing, ‘I want something I can control. I want something that is not a pill, that doesn’t depend on me getting to an appointment. I want something that I can do for myself.'”

After pilot studies, she found women were less depressed, even after a year, and she recalls one patient in particular. “She had a toddler at home and a four or five month old, and everybody was screaming and she wanted to be screaming too," Kinser explained. "And she said, ‘I know it sounds crazy, but I stood in a corner and did tree pose, and my toddler stopped his screaming and looked at me and started doing it with me.”

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Her research partner, sociologist Susan Bodnar-Deren, says it’s important for women to have tools for coping – easy, low cost methods of controlling the way they feel, and those tools could be useful for a lifetime. “Life is stressful with a three-month old, but it’s stressful with an 18-year-old,” she notes.

With grants from the federal government, they’re now launching a study that could involve women all over the state – taking yoga classes in real time, online. Bodnar-Deren says hosting those sessions live is important for pregnant women in need of social support. “There’s such a change in terms of your work schedule, who you are socializing with and so any opportunity that can enhance an individual’s connection to other people in the same space doing the same thing at the same time is just going to be positive across the board.”

Click here for more about the Mindful Moms program

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.