New Study Highlights Benefits of Yoga for Prenatal Care

Prenatal yoga is increasing in popularity, in part because it is thought to help prepare a woman for child birth, and speed up recovery after birth. Now a new study highlights some of the specific changes that take place with a prenatal yoga practice.

The study followed forty six Korean women, who had received in-vitro fertilization. The women were divided evenly into a group practicing yoga and one that did not. The women were then followed for eight months during their prenatal care and labor.

Results showed that practicing yoga during pregnancy can help increase the self-confidence of pregnant women and decrease stress, anxiety, as well as the pain experienced during labor. Other studies of the physical effects of yoga show reduced discomfort during pregnancy.

A clue to yoga’s effectiveness during pregnancy may be found in the fact that yoga increases relaxation and peacefulness as well as facilitating greater mind-body awareness. Yoga also increases blood circulation, helping mothers-to-be to stay flexible and fit, while also promoting the baby's health.

The Mayo clinic recommends yoga asanas, meditation and breath work for pregnant women, noting that benefits include better sleep, less back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath.  Yoga also improves the strength, flexibility and endurance of the muscles involved in childbirth, and attention to breathing and relaxation during the prenatal period is good practice for the demands of labor.

Because yoga asanas are low impact stretching exercises, pregnant women may perform them safely, but it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines: 

  • Join a prenatal yoga class or find an instructor familiar with yoga for prenatal practice. A trained prenatal instructor will know, for instance, which asanas are useful for which issues, which yoga postures should be avoided or modified, and how to make balancing exercises safer for the expectant mother.

  • Never strain.  Going at one’s own pace and staying tuned in to what the body can do and not is important in any yoga practice, However, for pregnant women this is of particular importance.