You probably have heard that doing yoga can be harmful during pregnancy — especially in the later weeks — as certain poses may reduce circulation to the foetus and spike its heart rate.
But a new study now found that yoga is safe for expectant mothers with low-risk pregnancy, even those in their later stages. In fact, not only is it safe, it is also beneficial to help these women maintain flexibility and muscle tone, and learn breathing techniques that can be handy during labour and delivery.
The study at Jersey Shore University Medical Center was led by Dr Rachel Polis who now works with Kosair Children’s Hospital Gynecology Specialists in Kentucky.
In the study, scientists followed 25 pregnant women as they did 26 yoga poses. Each of the women 35 to 37 weeks pregnant, with no medical conditions or pregnancy complications that stops them from exercising.
Each of them went through a one-on-one yoga session with a certified yoga instructor, during which an obstetrician and medical resident were also present.
Scientists found that the foetal heart rate remained the same through all of the poses. The women also reported no complications such as decreased foetal movement, fluid leakage, vaginal bleeding or contractions in the 24 hours after their yoga session.
Dr Polis told Reuters, “Though this is a preliminary study, I found there were no adverse changes in maternal or foetal wellbeing in the 26 studied poses.”
Yoga poses that are commonly regarded as exceptionally dangerous for pregnant women — like the downward-facing dog, child’s pose, happy baby and corpse pose — were also tested and tolerated well.
The study did, however, avoid fully inverted poses like hand stands or head stands, and those that requires lying on the stomach, due to the size of the baby bumps. The women were also allowed to modify poses by using blocks, chairs and walls for support, to prevent falls or injuries.
It also acknowledged that these sessions the women went through might not match the duration or intensity of a typical yoga class, where there may be more dangerous poses that were not covered in the study sessions.
Reuters also spoke to another researcher who was not part of the study, Kathryn Curtis of York University in Toronto. She said, “I encourage pregnant women to seek out studios that offer specialised prenatal yoga classes that are taught by teachers who have prenatal yoga training.”
Kathryn also advised sticking to hatha based yoga with breath awareness components, rather than heated or strength focused practices.
There is another study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology with a similar premise.
The study followed 52 pregnant women who had never tried yoga. Each of them were randomly assigned to participate in either a one-time, one-hour yoga class, or a one-time, one-hour PowerPoint presentation about exercise, nutrition and obesity in pregnancy.
Just like Dr Polis’ study, researchers in this study also found no significant change in foetal blood flow right after the pregnant women did yoga.
The study concluded that yoga can be recommended for low-risk women to begin during pregnancy.
Be it you are a long-time yogi or someone who never tried yoga before, perhaps these two studies will ease your worries about practising yoga during pregnancy. If you have older kids, why not try getting them involved in yoga too? It will surely be more fun to do such activities together with them.
Will you practise yoga while expecting? Why or why not? Share in the comments below!