One in 10 pregnant women experience mental health problems which can increase the risk of delivery problems and low birth weight newborns.
New studies show that yoga can benefit pregnant women's emotional health, reduce labor pain and delivery time, and prevent pregnancy complications.
Yoga Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
A 2014 study, published in Depression and Anxiety, reveals yoga can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression in pregnant women.
UK researchers from Manchester and Newcastle Universities assigned 59 pregnant women to yoga practice or conventional prenatal treatment (control group).
The yoga participants participated in a prenatal yoga class a week for eight weeks.
Anxiety and depression questionnaires and stress hormone levels were obtained from the participants.
The researchers found that the yoga group had reduced anxiety scores compared to the control group. Furthermore, anxiety was reduced by 33 percent and stress hormone levels by 14 percent after a single yoga session.
"Antenatal yoga seems to be useful for reducing women's anxieties toward childbirth and preventing increases in depressive symptomatology," the study authors conclude.
Yoga Reduces Pregnancy Complications
A first randomized study, published in Preventive Medicine, found yoga can prevent pregnancy complications in high-risk pregnancies.
Researchers from maternity hospitals in Bengaluru, India administered 68 high-risk pregnant women to standard care plus yoga practice or standard care plus walking (control group).
The yoga participants participated in one hour of prenatal yoga three times a week. Both groups participated in the exercise routines from the 12th to the 28th week of gestation.
The researchers found the yoga group had significantly reduced pregnancy complications including pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes and intrauterine growth restriction. Furthermore, the yoga group had significantly fewer newborns with low birth weight and low APGAR scores.
"This first randomized study of yoga in high-risk pregnancy has shown that yoga can potentially be an effective therapy in reducing hypertensive related complications of pregnancy and improving fetal outcomes," the study authors write.
Yoga Reduces Labor Pain and Delivery Time
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reports yoga can reduce labor pain and delivery time in pregnant women.
Thai researchers assigned 74 pregnant women to yoga practice or conventional treatment (controls).
The yoga participants took six one hour sessions of gentle style yoga classes. Maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes were obtained from the participants.
The researchers found that the yoga group had reduced labor pain and post-labor pain, compared to the control group.
"No differences were found, between the groups, regarding pethidine usage, labor augmentation or newborn Apgar scores at 1 and 5 min," the study authors write. "The experimental group was found to have a shorter duration of the first stage of labor, as well as the total time of labor."
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Elaine Gavalas is co-founder of SimplyCentered.com and an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, yoga therapist, weight management specialist, and healthy recipe developer.
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