Yoga for Pregnancy and Childbirth


This is a guest post by Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Prenatal Yoga can be a relaxing, wonderful time of special closeness between mother and child. More than that, devoting the time to practice during the nine months of gestation, and afterwards, can have great benefits for both the mother and child.

A controlled study by the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA – Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation), in 2005, of 335 women, between 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, was conducted in Bangalore, India. The women in the test group, and control group, were matched for age, body weight, and general fetal status. The group, assigned to Yoga, practiced complete physical postures, breathing, and meditation – one hour daily, from the date of entry into the study, until delivery. The control group walked 30 minutes, twice a day, during the study period.

At the end of the study, it was noted that the babies in the Yoga group had a significantly higher birth weight. Pre-term labor was significantly lower, and complications, such as isolated intrauterine growth retardation, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, were also significantly lower in the Yoga group.

Another randomized study in 2008, using the data from 74 Thai women, showed that those who practiced Yoga, six times during pregnancy, experienced higher levels of maternal comfort during labor, and at two hours post-labor, and experienced less perceived labor pain than the control group. The Yoga group was found to have a shorter duration of the first stage of labor, as well as the total time of labor.

Subjectively, many women find that Yoga helps increase stamina, flexibility, and overall comfort, during and after, their pregnancy. Backache, sciatica, swelling, wrist pain, hip discomfort, and even nausea, can be relieved by Yoga. Breathing and focus during Yoga can assist during childbirth, and regular practice helps tone abdominal muscles to speed delivery.

However, some people believe that because Yoga is a low impact exercise, there is no risk during pregnancy. As I have written in the past: an experienced and trained instructor, within a specialized class for pregnant students, must supervise Prenatal Yoga sessions. Some asanas are contraindicated at each stage of pregnancy. As more and more OB/GYNs and midwives encourage women to reap the benefits of Yoga, during pregnancy, it is our responsibility as instructors to be sure that students practice safely. We must help ensure good outcomes for all. If a Yoga teacher does not have prenatal specialist training, he or she should refer pregnant students to a certified prenatal Yoga teacher specialist.

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