Most pregnant women without any complications are told to include some physical activity as a part of their daily routine. However, it can be hard to find an exercise program that is the right fit for you.
In addition, finding a program that is tailored to pregnant women can be challenging, as our physical capabilities during pregnancy typically change along with our changing bodies.
Prenatal yoga can be a great option for expecting moms looking for a way to stay physically fit and active.
What is Prenatal Yoga?
Yoga was developed to bring stability and discipline to the mind and body, and to bring an individual to a state of self awareness and relaxation. Prenatal Yoga is a recent innovation. Designed specifically for pregnant women, s focus is placed on Pranayama (breathing techniques), asanas (positions) that target parts of the body such as the pelvic floor, and Hatha Yoga, in which asanas are held for longer periods of time to reduce stress and increase blood flow to the body.
Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
Here are five ways that you will benefit if you choose to practice prenatal yoga:
1. Decreased Risk of Pregnancy Complications
Prenatal Yoga has been found to decrease the risk of many pregnancy discomforts and complications. It has been found to lower blood pressure, manage weight, decrease headaches and nausea, and reduce lower back pain.
Doing some form of exercising during pregnancy has been shown to decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which typically develops after 24 weeks. Regular exercise also helps keep insulin levels within the healthy range.
The practice of pranayama along with prenatal yoga increases the flow of oxygen throughout the body and improves blood circulation. This is extremely beneficial for pregnant women, as the oxygen flows to the baby as well.
2. Lowered Depression and Stress Levels
Most prenatal yoga classes emphasize controlled breathing and specific physical postures, known as asanas. The combination of breathing techniques and yoga poses can help you enter a calm, meditative state.
Taking prenatal yoga classes that focus on breathing and meditation has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and significantly reduce stress experienced in pregnant women.
3. Enhanced Immunity
Our bodies produce antibodies in the bloodstream called Immunoglobulin A (IgA). These antibodies help our bodies fight off sickness, and are usually found in saliva, tears, and breastmilk.
A recent study in 2017 tested the IgA levels of pregnant women after attending a prenatal yoga class and found that they had higher levels of IgA than women who did not do prenatal yoga. This is very beneficial for both Mom and baby, especially for mothers who plan to breastfeed.
4. Reduced Labor Pain
According to a 2016 study, prenatal yoga can even significantly reduce labor pain and discomfort. When asked about their pain intensity, the women who did not practice prenatal yoga reported scores that were twice as high as the women who had done prenatal yoga.
The study also showed that women who consistently attended a prenatal yoga class three days a week were less likely to require to have induced labor or a cesarean section. In addition, many asanas in a prenatal yoga class are specifically designed to target and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This can reduce the risk of vaginal tearing during delivery, and it can also allow for an easier delivery. The study also showed that the women who took prenatal yoga classes throughout their pregnancy were in labor for less time than those in the control group.
5. Connections with Other Expecting Moms
Pregnancy can be an extremely challenging and stressful experience. Having someone to relate to can help relieve any anxiety and worries you may have. Prenatal yoga can be a great way to connect to other women who share your excitement, fear, and uncertainty, and who know what you are going through.
Is Prenatal Yoga Safe?
Many people wonder whether there are safety concerns for pregnant women to practice yoga, or for that matter to do any form of exercise.
One concern regarding prenatal yoga has been raised by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which advises pregnant women to avoid standing still or lying on your back for long periods of time. Staying in certain positions for prolonged periods of time cause problems in blood circulation.
However, a 2015 study concluded that yoga has no adverse affect on mom or baby. The study focused on 26 yoga postures including child’s pose, corpse pose, and downward facing dog. They monitored the mother and baby while doing the posture and found that vital signs and heart rates of both remained at normal levels.
If you are concerned about starting prenatal yoga, it is always best to speak with your healthcare provider first. He/she will be able to advise you on whether or not prenatal Yoga is right for you.
Things to Know Before Signing Up for a Class
In closing, here are a few final tips to keep in mind before you get started with your prenatal yoga practice:
- If you are at risk for any complications during pregnancy, such as preterm labor or heart disease, make sure you are cleared by your doctor or midwife before signing up for a prenatal Yoga class.
- It is always best to take it slow. Our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy, and so are our physical capabilities. Avoid certain postures that can abnormally curve your spine if performed incorrectly. Use modifications and props such as yoga belts, bricks, and walls to make the asanas easier.
- Do NOT sign up for Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga classes during pregnancy. The heated rooms can cause pregnancy complications and may cause overheating. That being said, always bring water and remember to keep drinking fluids throughout any prenatal yoga class to keep from overheating or getting dehydrated.
- Make sure to stop if you experience any bleeding or leaking fluid, dizziness, pain/swelling in your calves, decreased mobility, or increased pain in the abdomen or abnormal contractions, and contact your doctor/midwife right away.