Pregnancy yoga uses poses that contribute to a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and provides health benefits for a pregnant mother and her baby during these physically demanding months. Prenatal yoga, another term used for pregnancy yoga, involves light stretching into poses that help increase flexibility, reduce tension, and relieve pain. It also strengthens muscles used for delivery and may lead to a better night’s sleep. Prenatal yoga is simple to practice in the comfort of your own home, and is a safe, low-impact method of exercise.
Stress can be detrimental to the health of a developing fetus. The body produces hormones in response to stress. These hormones, such as cortisol, may reach the brain of a fetus and alter neurotransmitter activity. Researchers have found that this may increase the risk of attention deficit disorder, personality problems, and depression.
Exercise has been shown to help reduce stress, both during and after pregnancy. Practicing prenatal yoga for exercise during pregnancy offers the added benefit of focusing on the breath while quieting the mind. This promotes relaxation, relieves stress, and has been proven to effectively reduce blood pressure.
A California study found that women in their second trimester who begin a mindfulness-based yoga program–one that incorporates meditation with yoga poses–experience fewer awakenings during the night. Also, researchers in India found that after three months of prenatal yoga practice, pregnant women have elevated levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control sleep cycles and improve feelings of well-being.
Prenatal Yoga has been shown to contribute to a healthy birth weight. According to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, it may also help to avoid delayed fetal growth. A study at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences found that regular yoga practice can improve a baby’s heart health.
Exercise increases circulation, which delivers more oxygen to internal organs. For a pregnant woman, this means her baby is getting more oxygen, too.
A study that was published in the journal Midwifery found that women who participated in a prenatal yoga program reported fewer aches and pains than those who did not participate. Yoga also seemed to help them handle the pains of labor and delivery more effectively.
Many of the postures performed in prenatal yoga gently loosen the pelvic muscles in preparation for birth. This also helps relieve the tension and soreness that occurs as a result of weight gain and added pressure to the pelvic area.