The Health Benefits of Prenatal Yoga


Science is finding some surprising improvements when studying the health benefits of prenatal yoga.

It is known that the bond between mother and child is considered one of the gifts of life, but is there a way to develop and strengthen this bond during pregnancy?

Clinical research shows that a mother and baby start developing their bond during pregnancy, and that prenatal yoga can help make this bond stronger than ever. Yoga has been practiced in various different forms for many centuries since its primitive origins in India. The yoga practiced today in North America is considerably different than what the ancient yogis would practice in their homes and temples in India, however the concept of inner peace and connectivity remain. And as change remains a constant, the practice of yoga has transformed to bring peace and awareness to people all over the world.

The scientific understandings of the benefits of mindfulness yoga can have only recently been studied after physicians and scientists have started embracing the concept and importance of the mind-body connection.

Yes, exercise, in general, should not be stopped during pregnancy (under careful observation of your physician and of course unless otherwise contraindicated). But what makes prenatal yoga so special is that in addition to maintaining maternal fitness during the 9 months of  pregnancy (where a woman’s body changes entirely!) it has also been shown to have multiple clinical benefits for the baby and mother-fetus and mother-baby  relationship.

Clinical studies have shown that the incidence of maternal depression in the US can be as high as 20% and this number can range from 6-38% worldwide. Not only can this make the physicality of pregnancy difficult, but maternal depression has been linked to low birth weights, prematurity, periods of high stress for the mother and fetus, and possible developmental delays.

Medication is definitely one option for mothers with depression during pregnancy, and there are some mothers that probably cannot function without it, but for cases of mild depression (and after consultation with your physician) mindfulness yoga has been shown to help ease the difficulty of depression endured by many women during pregnancy.

Prenatal yoga can help try to ease and/or eliminate the possibility of certain birthing complications, and it has also been shown to be helpful in managing labor pains. In some cases, it may make it so some women use less anesthesia during the birthing process. In addition, it can help reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality, and help transition the pregnant woman into the role of mother (which can especially be daunting to first time mothers).

Pregnancy is not just 9 months of simply carrying a child in your abdomen, it is 9 months of extensive hormonal changes that affect nearly every organ in your body including your brain!

The months after delivery that constitute the postpartum period don’t get much easier, as now your body has to adjust to even more hormonal changes that are associated with lactation, and the female body tries to return back to its baseline of not being pregnant. And although only recently postpartum depression has received the attention it deserves, not much has been discussed with regards to attempting prevention.

Prenatal yoga has been shown to help decrease, eliminate and/or shorten the period of postpartum depression which then leaves the mother with more energy to focus on the growth and development of her infant without the chains of depression wearing her down.

Clinical research has been able to show that it is not just the movements of yoga that can lead to all these mental and physical benefits in the mother and fetus ultimately leading to beneficial outcomes to mother and infant but that the meditative aspects of yoga combined with the physical is what gives it that extra “oomph” making its outcomes so unique. But even if you’re not sold on the health benefits of prenatal yoga, it is a wonderful, low-stress exercise to help keep you in shape when you’re finding it increasingly difficult to move and be comfortable.

So don’t make excuses to sit around during pregnancy, grab your yoga mat and Namaste!

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About Raheleh Sarbaziha

Raheleh Sarbaziha is a hospitalist at EmCare, California and author of two books about her experiences in medical school and beyond. She's mother to Fred: her 4 year old poodle, and a lover of travel, pilates, yoga, preventative and integrative medicine.

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