The Top Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
The plentiful health benefits bestowed by yoga is only recently being discovered to the full by the world of science. Over the last decade, many surprising findings have been made about yoga, including its ability to promote better outcomes in women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer, to slow down the progression and increase regression of coronary atherosclerosis in patients with severe coronary disease, and to help patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One recent study, published earlier this year, however, indicates that yoga can also help moms-to-be battle anxiety and depression. Psychguides.com reveals that the number of women affected by prenatal depression is more than we might imagine: “Statistics from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that between 14 and 23 per cent of women suffer from some form of depression during pregnancy.” Since this condition can have serious consequences for the health and well being of both mothers and their babies, researchers and medical professionals are constantly on the lookout for effective therapies that are inexpensive and have no negative side-effect. Yoga is one such therapy.
Effects of Antenatal Yoga on Maternal Anxiety and Depression
The above-mentioned study, published in the journal, Depression and Anxiety, involved 59 pregnant women, who filled in questionnaires measuring state, trait and pregnancy-specific anxiety and depression. The women were then either assigned to a yoga, or a standard treatment group, for a period of eight weeks. The results were significantly better for the yoga group; just one yoga session reduce both subjective and physiological levels of state anxiety, leading researchers to conclude that prenatal yoga was useful “ for reducing women's anxieties toward childbirth and preventing increases in depressive symptomatology.” One of the main reasons cited by scientists for yoga’s ability to lower levels of (stress hormone) cortisol, is its focus on breathing and physical control. Pranayamic (or controlled) breathing is a technique that can be very useful when we are giving birth; controlled breathing helps us bring down the heart rate and stress levels, which has wonderful calming effects for our baby as well. Yoga additionally has an important mindfulness component, which involves keeping our thoughts ‘in the here and now’ and stopping anxiety about the future from interfering with our wellbeing.
Additional benefits of yoga for moms-to-be include:
- Yoga reduces stress for moms undergoing high-risk pregnancies: Another important study (published in 2013) specifically looked at the effect of yoga on stress levels in those undergoing high-risk pregnancies. Women in this situation were assigned to either a yoga group or a control group. Results indicated that the women in the yoga group had significantly lower stress levels than the control group. The researchers concluded that “practicing YT during high-risk pregnancy is not only a cost-effective option but also a feasible and safe option. “ In a previous study, scientists had found that yoga can prevent pregnancy complications in high-risk pregnancies. The study, carried out in India, showed that women who did yoga three times weekly for a 16-week period had a lower rate of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction and induced hypertension. These women also had smaller numbers of small babies and babies with low Apgar scores.
- Increased strength and flexibility: Teachers of prenatal yoga often say that if you wouldn’t run a marathon without training beforehand, neither should you approach birth without preparing your body. Yogayoga.com notes that one of the greatest benefits bestowed by yoga is a greater connection with one’s body: the popular practice increases “strength, stamina and flexibility, while helping to reduce fatigue. It… nurtures the mind-body connection so important during labor and delivery while helping decrease the aches and pains that come with pregnancy.”
- Social interaction with other moms-to-be: One of the best ways to curb anxiety about giving birth is to interact with other moms. Prenatal yoga classes provide a chance to expand our social circle and learn from others’ experiences and viewpoints, as well to share information.
- Yoga can help curb pain: Studies have shown that yoga is useful in soothing migraine and chronic lower back pain. The back can be a source of pain when women are pregnant, owing to the greater weight in the belly area. Muscles in the upper back, chest and shoulders can also grow tense during pregnancy. Through the various asanas (poses), yoga helps us stretch and strengthen muscles in this area. Yoga also enhances circulation, which helps curb uncomfortable swelling.