Updated: Jun 17
Written by our intern Isabel Leonard
During pregnancy, it’s normal to experience symptoms such as fatigue, swelling, back pain, anxiety and more. While symptoms of pregnancy are not really avoidable, there are ways to ease the discomfort. But how?
So, what exactly is prenatal yoga? According to the American Pregnancy Association, prenatal yoga is a style of yoga that places emphasis on maintaining a healthy mind and body during pregnancy. Focusing on poses specifically for pregnant women, the goal is to build strength and flexibility, along with learning breathing and relaxation techniques that can potentially make labor more comfortable. Keep reading to see why yoga is an amazing, low-impact fitness option for everyone but especially pregnant women!
Back pain relief
As your baby and belly grow bigger, your posture can suffer in the process. Poor posture can cause back pain, place stress on the hips and knees, and even make your muscles can tense up. With the practice of prenatal yoga, your posture can improve and in turn change the way you move during pregnancy.
Lack of sleep during pregnancy can have negative effects on both mother and child, therefore it is important to have restful and consistent sleep each night. In a research study conducted by Harvard University, 20 people who suffered from chronic insomnia practiced yoga for 8 weeks and were instructed to keep sleep diaries. By the end of the study, they found the participants were sleeping better, longer, and it took less time for them to fall asleep.
Reduced anxiety and depression
While the fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy is normal, it’s not fun by any means. It can bring on severe mood swings and anxiety, and for those already suffering from anxiety, you may be asked to stop taking anxiety medication during pregnancy.
In a study done by the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 52 women went to only 12 sessions of hatha yoga and symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety were significantly decreased. This is only one of many studies that show yoga is incredible, natural option for those looking to relieve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
More comfortable labor
I know you’re reading this and thinking really? A more comfortable labor?
In a study published by the International Journal of Yoga and Allied Sciences in 2017, subjects were divided into two groups. One group was instructed to only walk in the morning for 10 minutes while the other participated in yoga practices such as asana, pranayama, om chanting and yoga nidra. By the end of the study, research concluded that yoga practices such as asana, pranayama, om chanting and yoga nidra are incredibly useful in decreasing pain during labor along with a reduced duration of labor pain.
Often times pregnancy can feel lonely. It can feel like no one around you understands what you’re going through except, well… you. It’s so important to have a supportive and encouraging group of people around you during this time, which is why prenatal yoga is the perfect option.
Joining a prenatal yoga class gives you the opportunity to meet other people who truly understand this mental and physical journey of becoming a mother. They show you that you’re not alone. You have a safe space to ask questions, learn some tips, and most importantly make new friends!
Lower risk of heart disease
According to the UC Irvine Health Sciences, heart disease is now recognized as the leading cause of maternal deaths relating to pregnancy. This is another reason why movement is so important during pregnancy – because it helps your heart and your baby’s too!
Prenatal yoga is incredibly beneficial in lowering the risk of heart disease due to the combination of breathing, movement and mindful meditation. All of these techniques being performed simultaneously can work to lower blood pressure, control blood sugar and calm the nervous system.
In a study conducted by UCI health, UCI physicians were able to identify four pregnant women with heart issues out of a total of 319 women that were screened. The study notes that these women with heart problems likely would have continued on with their pregnancy unaware of these problems and not received medical help.
Pelvic floor strength
Because the pelvic floor carries such a heavy load throughout pregnancy, it’s so important to have strength in this area. And since it weakens due to pregnancy and childbirth, yoga is beneficial due to many of the exercises used that require lifting the pelvic floor muscles. Along with this, this increased strength encourages a more comfortable pregnancy and can even lead to a quicker recovery from childbirth!
Overall body strength
While yoga is great for our mental health, it also benefits our body. The practice of prenatal yoga can aid in building strong muscles to prepare you for giving birth to your baby! Prenatal yoga can build strength in the spine, hips, core, and lower back – all of which carry the heaviest load during pregnancy. While strengthening these muscles, you will in turn strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are important during delivery as you are pushing your baby out.
Along with this, prenatal yoga may decrease the duration of labor. According to a study done in Thailand, the effects of yoga during pregnancy were examined testing for changes in comfort, pain during labor, and birth outcomes. Women were split into two groups, one practicing six sessions of yoga leading up to birth and the other group continuing on with normal routine. By the end of the study, they found the group that engaged in prenatal yoga had higher levels of comfort during and after labor, and significantly less pain during labor than the group that did not engage in yoga. Along with this, they had an overall decreased duration of labor.