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Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy

Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy
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Women experienced less pain in labor, higher comfort, and their total time of labor was less
Yoga may help ease the pain and discomfort of childbirth according to a new study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, which found that pregnant women who practiced yoga for ten weeks had less pain and more comfort during labor.

Yoga eases labor

This study explored the impact of yoga on labor pain and on a woman's ability to calm and comfort herself during labor, which can relieve pain, help labor progress, and reduce the need for medication.

In this study, 74 pregnant women were randomly assigned to participate in a total of six 1-hour yoga classes over 10 to 12 weeks during their last trimester of pregnancy or receive standard care alone. Yoga sessions included education about yoga, yoga postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. Women in the yoga group were also asked to practice yoga at least three times a week at home. Participants filled out questionnaires about pain, anxiety, and comfort levels before and after the intervention.

Results showed that women in the yoga group experienced less pain in labor and higher comfort than the control group, and their total time of labor was less compared with the control group.

As the study authors commented, childbirth is a time of significant stress and yoga may be one good option to help women relieve pain and increase comfort, as "women who perceive they have successfully coped with the pain and stress of labor have been able to transcend pain and experience psychological and spiritual comfort."

Optimizing your pregnancy experience

  • Talk with a doctor about your options. Talk with a knowledgeable doctor about the risks and benefits of engaging in complementary therapies such as yoga during your pregnancy. Find a teacher who is experienced in working with pregnant women. For instance, there are certain yoga postures and breathing techniques that pregnant women should avoid during pregnancy.
  • Seek support. Working with a midwife and/or doula may help ease the stress and pain of labor. Studies have shown that women who use midwives are more likely to have a vaginal birth, have fewer complications, and require less anesthesia compared with women who do not use such services.
  • Take a class. Educating yourself about what to expect during pregnancy and about the birth process will help you prepare for the big day. Such classes can benefit spouses and other supports as well. Check with your doctor about pregnancy classes that are available in your area.

(Complement Ther Clin Pract 2008;14:105-15)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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