How Does Prenatal Yoga Help Mom?
Pregnant Yoga: Happy Baby, Healthy Baby
Are you expecting? Learn how you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby by completing yoga exercises
Think it’s hard enough to get your forehead on your shins in forward folds without sticking a watermelon in the way? Well, yoga gurus say embracing the obstacle and regularly practicing safe prenatal postures anyway relieves a multitude of pregnancy-related woes and benefits baby to boot. But research validating such claims had been nonexistent—until now.
Scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center joined forces with Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, India, to follow 335 women, ages 18 to 35, who either took an hour-long yoga class or walked an hour each day during their second and third trimesters. The researchers found that the women who did yoga were half as likely to give birth prematurely (14 versus 29 percent) and had lower emergency C-section rates (23 versus 33 percent) than the walkers. The yoga moms also had lower blood pressure and better fetal growth rates, on average.
“The improvement we saw in those who did the stretching, breathing, and meditation exercises could be due to an increase in blood flow to the placenta, a decrease in stress hormones transferred to the fetus, a decline in the early release of hormones that could trigger labor, or all three,” says study coauthor Vivek Narendran, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the center.
Women interested in adding yoga to their prenatal care need to find a safe class, says Nicole DeAvilla Whiting, a registered yoga instructor. Here’s her advice:
Avoid risks: Steer clear of ashtanga, Bikram (hot), and power yoga styles and postures that put pressure on your abdomen or involve jumping, twisting, or lying on your back.
Know what to expect: All classes should be gentle and offer modified standing and seated poses; breathing exercises; and relaxation techniques.