prenatal yoga benefits

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Nobody doubts anymore that yoga is not only a powerful way to stay fit, but also a modality proven to calm down our stressed brain (and body) and support emotional and psychological balance. Prenatal yoga is considered a mild way of exercise, perfectly suitable for expectant mothers. But it is in fact a lot more than that.

I personally started practicing yoga during my third month of pregnancy, as a reasonable alternative for the interval training I was doing before getting pregnant. Out of curiosity, I tried to find out if there are any evidence-based health benefits for mothers and their babies and I was pleasantly surprised…

There is extensive scientific research showing that prenatal yoga offers mother and baby essential and holistic support in the physical, psychological and emotional layers that no conventional approach can offer at the moment. In many ways, prenatal yoga is my new best pregnancy friend and I am really happy I started practicing it!

What science says

One of the most important findings is that prenatal yoga can significantly lower the risk for pregnancy complications, even in high-risk pregnancies. In a pilot randomized study, published in the journal “Preventive Medicine”, it is shown that women who practice prenatal yoga have less complications like gestational diabetes and others related to pregnancy hypertension, such as preeclampsia [1]. The beneficial effects of these positive effects make a remarkable difference for the growing baby as well. The infants of women who practice prenatal yoga during pregnancy are less likely to be born prematurely and weigh more for their gestational age, which indicates a reduction in intrauterine growth restriction, a common result of complications throughout pregnancy [2].

An even bolder scientific finding suggests that prenatal yoga can in fact support proper placental development through successful rearrangement of uterus / placental arteries [3]. The remodeling of blood vessels is a fundamental step for the placenta to attach adequately in the inner parts of the uterus and provide sufficient nutrients to the growing fetus. Unsurprisingly, inadequate placenta development is associated with pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia and low birth weight, most of which are a lot less reported in women who practice prenatal yoga.

Without a doubt, a major piece of this puzzle is the well known ability of yoga to restore emotional/psychological balance, alleviating stress, anxiety and depression rates. Such beneficial effects are also confirmed for pregnant women, who practice prenatal yoga [4]. Prenatal depression is one of the factors consistently associated with pregnancy complications and restricted fetal development [5], while prenatal yoga seems to resolve this negative situation and promote a healthier pregnancy and baby.

Finally, prenatal yoga improves the quality of life of pregnant women in different ways. For example, expectant mothers who practiced yoga sleep better, wake up less times during the night and stay awake for less time [6]. For some reason, this is true only for women who start practicing yoga during their second trimester, but not if they start in the third trimester of pregnancy. Also, prenatal yoga relieves significantly the lower back pain and discomfort that many women experience during pregnancy [7]. Mothers who practice prenatal yoga also experience more comfort during the initial stages of labor and postpartum, while the total duration of the birth is shorter [8].

Seriously, what more can you ask for?

The verdict

In a nutshell: if you are pregnant, you will do your baby and your body a favor if you did prenatal yoga.

Our body is a remarkable, complex, multi-leveled system, where the physical, emotional and psychological intersect and ideally unite. This couldn’t be more true during pregnancy. Through gentle body movements and appropriate breathing, yoga supports holistic health and reestablishes the mind-body connection that most of us lose in the midst of the fast-paced modern life. We, pregnant women need more than anyone the boost in physical, emotional and psychological health that comes with yoga practice. The available research uniformly points towards multiple beneficial effects of yoga for both mother and baby that no other modality or treatment can achieve so effortlessly and holistically. This is why prenatal yoga should be seriously considered to be part of standard prenatal care recommendations.

If there is no yoga studio in your area offering specialised prenatal yoga sessions, welcome to the club! I do my yoga exclusively at home with youtube videos. Below, you will find two of my favorite prenatal yoga videos that I do every week.

My favorite prenatal yoga videos

This is one of the best prenatal yoga videos I have found online. Tamy is a great yoga instructor and really knows what she is talking about. This training is excellent for pelvic stability which is fundamental for alleviating back pain.

This is a lighter prenatal yoga session, for the days you feel heavier and not really up to any kind of physical exercise (although you know you should do it!). It does have essential movements for stability and stretching that do make a difference.

References

[1] The effects of yoga in prevention of pregnancy complications in high-risk pregnancies: a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med. 2012 Oct;55(4):333-40.

[2] Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome.J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):237-44.

[3] Effects of yoga on utero-fetal-placental circulation in high-risk pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Adv Prev Med. 2015;2015:373041.

[4] A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015 Aug;21(3):166-72.

[5] Depression and Anxiety in Early Pregnancy and Risk for Preeclampsia. Obstetrics & Gynecology. April 2000 – Volume 95 – Issue 4 – p 487–490.

[6] Effects of Mindful Yoga on Sleep in Pregnant Women: A Pilot Study. Biol Res Nurs April 2010 vol. 11 no. 4 363-370.

[7] Yoga during pregnancy: A review. Am J Perinatol 2012;29:459–464.

[8] Yoga during pregnancy: effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008 May;14(2):105-15.